A's fire Macha as manager

Tuesday, October 17th 2006, 8:55 am
By: News On 6

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ Ken Macha is really out as Oakland's manager.

The Athletics fired Macha only a year after they parted ways with him one week, then rehired him the next.

Now, Billy Beane's decision is final.

``I feel good about what we did here,'' Macha said in a phone interview. ``I went to the ballpark every day with the sole intent of winning a baseball game for the Oakland A's, and we did a lot of that. I have zero regrets.''

He was dismissed two days after the AL West champions were swept out of the playoffs by Detroit. The A's did not announce a replacement, though both bench coach Bob Geren and third-base coach Ron Washington were considered top candidates.

``Not to fault either side, but I felt a disconnect on a lot of levels,'' general manager Billy Beane said. ``Once again, it's not to point the finger at Ken or anything like that. But that disconnect was there and it was something we needed to address as soon as possible.''

Oakland went 368-280 in Macha's four seasons as manager, but the team has frustrated management and fans by failing to reach the World Series.

The A's finally advanced to the AL championship series this season following four straight first-round exits from 2000-03. Detroit eliminated them in four straight games.

In an odd episode last October, the A's parted ways with Macha _ and then the sides talked again and Macha received a new three-year deal.

The A's became the sixth major league team to let its manager go since the final days of the season. Dusty Baker (Chicago Cubs), Joe Girardi (Florida), Felipe Alou (San Francisco), Frank Robinson (Washington) and Buck Showalter (Texas) are not coming back next year.

To manage the A's, taking a back seat to Beane is an understood requirement. In the best-selling book ``Moneyball,'' an in-depth look at Beane's management style and reliance on statistics, the job comes across as practically interchangeable and not worthy of the big dollars that other teams pay their managers.

Macha made $800,000 this year and was still owed $2.025 million. He was due to make $875,000 in 2007 and $1.15 million in '08.

Oakland won the West with a 93-69 record this season and also won the division in Macha's first season of '03. After sweeping Minnesota in three games in the division series this year to reach their first ALCS since 1992, the A's were eliminated by the Tigers.

``I'm really shocked by this,'' said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who managed in Oakland from 1986-95. ``I just look at the season they had. ... Well, they had such a great second half. (If) there was friction, how did they beat Minnesota?''

During Oakland's injury-plagued season, Macha referred to some players with long stints on the disabled list _ such as star right-hander Rich Harden and lefty reliever Joe Kennedy _ as nonentities because they weren't really part of the team at the time.

That didn't always sit well. Macha believed in leaving his players be, staying out of the way and letting them play. Yet that sometimes led to a lack of communication.

``Mach's a good guy,'' Harden said Monday. ``I hope he ends up somewhere and gets a job.''

First baseman Nick Swisher heard the news when he arrived at the Coliseum to clean out his locker. Macha met briefly with Beane on Monday morning and thanked the GM for the opportunity to manage a contender in his first job.

``It happens,'' Swisher said. ``As a team and as players, we move on. You just hope he ends up finding another job somewhere.''

The 56-year-old Macha went through a topsy-turvy time last October, too, during which he briefly was out as manager.

Right after missing the postseason for a second straight season in 2005, the A's failed to reach agreement with Macha on a new contract and Beane announced there would be no further negotiations.

At the time, Macha called it one of the ``massive disappointments'' during his seven years in the organization. The A's interviewed other candidates for the job and Macha talked to Pittsburgh about its managerial vacancy.

Then, shockingly, Macha was back.

Beane said he didn't regret rehiring Macha last year.

``No, I think you can only take a decision out of the context of when it was made,'' Beane said. ``So that was the right decision at that point and we feel this is the right decision at this point.''

Geren interviewed for the manager's job last fall during the period Macha was away from the club and was promoted this season from bullpen coach.

All along, Macha realized he might be working alongside his replacement.

Washington also met with Beane about the job in 2005 and before the A's promoted Macha to manager after the 2002 season. Washington was scheduled to interview with Texas on Tuesday about its managerial job.

``It's a very somber day,'' Washington said. ``I don't know what went on that materialized. He definitely had a successful year. Success of the year probably didn't have to do with it, but stuff that happened behind the scenes. You hate to see it. Macha will land on his feet, though.''