Janesville17.1°

It’s Macha

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McClatchy-Tribune
October 31, 2008
— Doug Melvin, who knows what it’s like to be fired in the sometimes unfair world of major-league baseball, saw no reason to hold that against Ken Macha.

“I got let go myself,” said Melvin, the general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, who was dismissed from that same position after a relatively successful run with the Texas Rangers.


“I’m a big believer in second chances.”


With that in mind, Melvin didn’t hesitate to hire Macha as the Brewers’ new manager. Macha, 58, who was introduced Thursday to local reporters at Miller Park, was fired in 2006 after four winning seasons in Oakland, including two playoff berths.


At the end of that tenure, there were accusations by general manager Billy Beane of a “disconnect” between Macha and his players. Melvin looked into that, consulted others familiar with the situation and came to the conclusion that Macha wasn’t solely to blame.


“I believe a lot of people are better the second time around,” said Melvin, who chose Macha over former Arizona manager Bob Brenly and former New York Mets manager Willie Randolph.


Macha was a candidate to be Melvin’s first manager with the Brewers in 2002 but instead was promoted from bench coach to manager in Oakland. Melvin in turn hired Ned Yost, who was fired with 12 games left in the 2008 season.


One of the primary factors Melvin cited in selecting Macha was his background as a “baseball lifer.” Macha has been in baseball for 35 years as a player, coach and manager.


In four years managing the Athletics, Macha compiled a 368-280 record (.568), including AL West crowns in 2003 and 2006.


Melvin liked the fact that in both the minors and majors Macha worked with younger players and developed them into successful big-leaguers, the same formula the Brewers used to finally get to the postseason in 2008. Much as the Brewers must do with a bottom-third payroll, Oakland constantly turned over its roster while staying competitive.


“Our organization is always going to have to turn the roster over, like Oakland has,” Melvin said. “That was part of the decision, too. Their roster turned over quite a bit. We’re going to have to do that here, too.”


Beyond wanting a manager who committed his life to baseball, Melvin was looking for a new perspective of his personnel. Of the three finalists, Macha was the only one who had not managed in the National League.


“I think it’s good to get a different viewpoint,” Melvin said. “We think too highly of our players sometimes. It’s good to get a fresh look.


“Sometimes our players get comfortable with us and our coaching. Maybe Ned got stale or whatever. Maybe there’s something that we’re not seeing or something that needs to be done.”


In that regard, Macha said he decided not to solicit opinions on the current players on the roster. Macha said he would go to spring training and make those judgments first hand.


“I’m going to go down there and not be influenced by anyone’s opinion, and watch these players myself,” said Macha, who has worked in the television booth for the Boston Red Sox since managing in Oakland.


“My job going down there is going to be to watch the club and start to evaluate these players on my own, then sit down with my coaches and try to get their opinions, and see what we can do to make each player better.”


Asked to describe his style of managing, Macha said, “I try to rely on the players. The players are the guys who go out there and win or lose the games for you. The job of the manager and the coach is to get these players as prepared as you possibly can.”


Macha said he also believed in playing “small ball” in the proper situations, including bunting and using the hit-and-run to keep rallies going.


“You’ve got 27 outs,” he said. “You’ve got to protect those outs. If you get into the second inning and you start to give away outs by bunting and playing for one run, you’re doing a favor to that team.


“In the seventh, eighth and ninth inning, when you need that one run, that’s a good time to bunt and hit-and-run.”


Without mentioning Beane by name, Macha made it clear he chafed under what he called “extraneous pressures.”


“One of the things I’m going to enjoy here is the relationship with Doug,” said Macha, who lives in the Pittsburgh area. “He’s been very honest with me, straightforward. He’s more of a ‘delegator.’ He’ll let me go out and do my job as a manager.


“I’m going to be very grateful for that. I’ve been in situations where it makes it difficult for a manager to do his job the way he sees fit without extraneous pressures being put on you. I don’t think that’s going to happen here.”


Macha and Melvin said they expected Dale Sveum, who finished the season as the interim manager, to return to the staff as either bench coach or third-base coach. Bullpen coach Bill Castro and first-base coach Ed Sedar are expected back as well.


Melvin said he hoped to hear today whether pitching coach Mike Maddux will return. Maddux, who has been on the staff since 2003, is being courted by the Texas Rangers.


“I’m pretty confident he’ll be back,” Melvin said. “I’ve got a real good relationship with Mike Maddux, both as a friend and employer.”


Macha and Melvin go all the way back to playing together in Pittsburgh’s minor leagues in the 1970s. In fact, Melvin said the first hitter he pitched to as a professional in spring camp was Macha.


“I said, ‘If I hit this big donkey in the head he’s going to be coming after me. He scared the heck out of me,’ “ Melvin said with a laugh.


“We’re a lot alike. He’s a baseball lifer, just like me. We’re boring people. I’ll have a good relationship with him because our backgrounds are so similar.”


Ken Macha file

Born: Sept. 29, 1950, in Monroeville, Pa.


Hometown: Latrobe, Pa.


Family: Married to Carolyn Macha, with two children, son Eric and daughter Kristin


Managerial record: 368-280 in four seasons with the Oakland Athletics


Professional background: Macha played six seasons in the major leagues with Pittsburgh, Montreal and Toronto after being drafted by the Pirates in the sixth round of the 1972 amateur draft. He also played four years in Japan. Macha managed four seasons with Oakland and has the second-highest winning percentage in franchise history (.568). He won two division titles in 2003 and 2006, and finished second in his other two seasons. He also coached with Montreal and the California Angels. He was a minor-league manager for four seasons and finished 317-249. Macha spent the last two seasons as a Boston Red Sox studio analyst for NESN. He earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and has a black belt in tae kwon do.


Milwaukee managers

Years


Dave Bristol 1970–72


Roy McMillan 1972 (interim)


Del Crandall 1972-75


Alex Grammas 1976–77


George Bamberger 1978–80, 1985-86


Buck Rodgers 1980–82


Harvey Kuenn 1975 (1 game), 1982–83


Rene Lachemann 1984


Tom Trebelhorn 1986–91


Phil Garner 1992–99


Jim Lefebvre 1999 (interim)


Davey Lopes 2000–02


Jerry Royster 2002 (interim)


Ned Yost 2003–2008


Dale Sveum 2008 (interim)



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