The A’s will probably stay within their organization in hiring a new manager. And Ron Washington is clearly the people’s choice. He isn’t Billy Beane’s first choice, though. So Bob Geren is a more likely pick.
Meanwhile, Beane is using the interview process to gain information about other organizations, including division rivals Los Angeles and Texas. Nothing new here. Charlie Finley used to do it with scouts, picking their brains about players in other organizations. Al Davis did it with coaching candidates in a time when coaches actually wanted to come to the Raiders.
It’s possible one of the candidates from outside the organization will impress Beane enough to get hired. Manny Acta and Bud Black have strong recommendations. When Orel Hershiser was with the Giants, I thought he was very knowledgeable and would make a good manager one day.
But the A’s are a tight-knit operation. Beane gets the publicity, but there are several people within the organization who play key roles in decisions.
The A’s have an organization-wide philosophy, one reason they’ve been successful in developing young players. They have a model for the type of player they draft. And they teach the same hitting and pitching styles in the minors as they do at the major league level.
And, with the A’s, the manager’s role is more limited than with other teams.
Beane has a much stronger role in determining the roster and even the style of play than probably any other general manager in baseball. That’s why the list of candidates doesn’t include anybody with prior major league managing experience.
Given these parameters, a choice from within the organization seems the most logical one. So why not Washington, who is wildly popular with both players and fans?
Beane hasn’t said this, but my educated guess is that he’s afraid Washington is too popular. It’s easy for a coach to be popular with the players, especially one like Washington, who has done wonders in improving the defense of the A’s infielders. But a coach doesn’t have to make the difficult decisions on playing time, which is where manager-player conflicts start. Washington can certainly make those tough decisions, but it would probably be easier with another club, where he has no history with the players. It wouldn’t be easy to make that transition with the A’s.
Geren has also been a coach with the A’s but in a much different role, first as a bullpen coach, then the bench coach this year. In each case, his primary responsibility was to the manager, not the players. It’s worth noting that Ken Macha was the bench coach before he became manager.
Geren’s minor league managerial career also gives him an edge. Washington was 123-154 in two seasons in the New York Mets’ system. Geren was 319-253 in four seasons in the A’s system, the last year at Triple-A Sacramento.
Undoubtedly, he had better players to manage than Washington, but most importantly, he is thoroughly groomed in the A’s system.
Washington deserves a chance to manage, and he will get it. Again, my guess is that the interview process will spin out long enough that Washington will get one of the other jobs, perhaps Texas, where he reportedly had a great interview. That will give Beane the chance to hire Geren, the man he really wants.