- Brewers hire Ken Macha:
After the way he was slandered in Moneyball, it’s no surprise that Art Howe was so relentlessly ridiculed when he left the Athletics to manage the Mets. Howe’s on-field results were poor in his two years as Mets manager, but considering Ken Macha’s almost identical results as Howe’s with the A’s, one has to wonder why Macha is considered a good hire for the Brewers. Shouldn’t he be held to the same standard as Howe? And shouldn’t the entire way Billy Beane runs his operation in Oakland (in which he thinks the manager’s contribution to the team is minimal at best) leave Macha’s skills in question?
While Beane may go a bit overboard in his dismissal of a manager’s importance to the point of making it look like a mannequin could sit at the end of the bench and be just as successful as a living, breathing human being (Hey! Maybe the Athletics could hire Bob Brenly!) it doesn’t change the fact that Macha’s record in his four years as the Athletics manager were as follows:
Howe’s record the previous four seasons were:
Is there much of a difference in the results other than the fact that Howe made the playoffs three times and didn’t get out of the first round (through no legitimate fault of his own) and that Macha made it twice and managed to get out of the first round in 2006 (through no credit of his own)? It works both ways. If Howe didn’t receive any of the credit for the success of the Athletics under his watch, then neither should Macha.
Another pair of asterisks next to Macha’s name are that Beane was strangely willing to let Macha walk away from the team after contract negotiations hit a snag in 2005, and then when Macha realized that he wasn’t going to get a better deal anywhere else, returned to the Athletics under Beane’s terms; the next year, the Athletics won a surprising division title, upset the Twins in the ALDS, got swept by the Tigers in the ALCS and Beane fired Macha. Say what you want about Howe, but Beane did him a favor by in essence helping him get the long-term contract and money he desired from the Mets; it’s unlikely that Howe would’ve been fired had he chosen to stay with the Athletics after two 100 victory seasons in 2001 and 2002.
It’s funny how Macha is seen as this solid manager and Howe was seen as a joke and a pushover. Perhaps Howe wasn’t a perfect fit for New York and everything managing there entails (the media, the traffic, a declining team), but he did deserve credit for stewarding the youngsters that the Mets were integrating into the lineup, much as he did with the Athletics and the Astros. Macha is going to have to show the same chops next season with the Brewers and without a true baseball genius like Billy Beane running the show.
Doug Melvin’s a good GM and Mark Attanasio is a committed owner, but they’re not Billy Beane so the question of whether Macha deserved the credit for his successful record with the A’s will be answered quickly next season. The Brewers are going to be a team in just about as much flux as was the Mets team that Howe took charge of in 2003. Despite his protestations to the contrary, C.C. Sabathia is not going to be a member of the Brewers under any circumstances; Ben Sheets has a better chance of returning if no other team wants to take a chance on his oft-injured body, but that too is unlikely; so right there, Macha’s dealing with a team that’s very short in the starting rotation (although I think Yovani Gallardo is going to be a superstar) and has a rotten bullpen.
Then there are the questions of Macha’s relationship with his players. Some players defended him after he was fired by the Athletics, so I think his abrasiveness may have been overblown by players who were used to Howe’s soft touch and didn’t like being disciplined; and Beane may have been mining for some justification of firing a manager who’d just gotten to the ALCS, and the vague excuse “lack of communication” was as good as any; but how is Macha going to get along with a churlish personality like Prince Fielder, who also happens to be the leader in the clubhouse?
This is a risky hire even though Macha has a record of success and is a long time baseball guy. There’s always going to be the question of how a former Billy Beane manager is going to perform elsewhere and with the way the Brewers roster is constituted, things may go downhill and fast.
- Marlins trade Mike Jacobs to Royals for Leo Nunez:
I’ve defended Royals GM Dayton Moore ever since he was hired, but I’m beginning to question him now just as other critics have. When he took over, the way he revamped the entire organization’s scouting staff and the way they did business made it appear as if they were on the right track; his improving the pitching staff with youngsters and the hiring of Trey Hillman led me to believe that there was hope in Kansas City for first time since the early 90s, but now he’s made a strange move in trading a useful relief pitcher in Leo Nunez for a feast or famine first baseman in Mike Jacobs.
nbsp; This isn’t to imply that Nunez is any great loss, but he did have a very good year in 2008, is only 25 and relief pitchers are always hit or miss. That being said, Nunez was one of the worst pitchers in all of baseball in his rookie year of 2005 as he allowed an absurd 45 earned runs in 53 innings (that’s not a misprint). He was better in 2007 and was quite good in 2008.
Jacobs is a guy you can find on the waiver wire or after teams start non-tendering arbitration eligibles. He’s a terrible first baseman who thinks he’s a better hitter than he is and strikes out too much. With that, he might be worth a shot as an everyday player because he’s never really gotten a chance to play every day against righties and lefties and, even though he’s been a far better hitter vs righties, his numbers against lefties aren’t so bad that he shouldn’t ever bat against them under any circumstances. I don’t know how bad a first baseman Billy Butler is, but how much worse can he be than Jacobs? My guess is that Jacobs will be the DH next year and Butler will be playing first base.
This could end up being a positive for the Royals because they might not think they’re going to get much more production from Nunez and saw the opportunity to beef up the offense with Jacobs. If given the chance, Jacobs could end up as a competent bat against lefties. It’s not a terrible decision because there are positives to making it, but the Royals would probably have been better off keeping Nunez and bringing in another available bat like Kevin Millar or Aubrey Huff instead of Jacobs; and one thing that would give me pause in dealing with the Marlins is that the entire organization rarely makes mistakes when evaluating players, so they may see what they had in Jacobs and the potential of Nunez and felt that this was a great deal both on the field and financially. Given their history, I’d trust the Marlins evaluators and their staff to get some major use out of Nunez as early as next year.