Message To Beane Is Clear: Hire Ron Washington

By Monte Poole
Updated: October 17, 2006

Ron Washington

Ron Washington

OAKLAND — Ken Macha has traveled the world, lived abroad. He has a degree in civil engineering. He has a loving wife and two intelligent children. He should fully comprehend the value of communication.

Yet he lost his job as manager of the A’s because of his inability or unwillingness to communicate in the workplace.

Macha was fired during a brief Monday morning meeting with general manager Billy Beane, who took responsibility for the decision but surely was influenced by the groundswell of displeasure in the clubhouse.

The clubhouse unrest, along with the personal conflicts between Beane and Macha, was enough to justify Billy’s decision to make a change.

“There was a disconnect at a lot of different levels,” was the way Beane put it.

“He didn’t have to give me a reason,” Macha said as he headed to the parking lot. “Sometimes it’s just that people don’t get along.”

There have been gripes about Macha’s distant managerial style throughout most of his tenure, which began in 2003. For the most part, though, the complaints were ascribed to bitterness from disgruntled players.

This season, however, it became a rolling tide of strife. So much so that from week to week, as the team overachieved, the grumbling might bounce off any corner of the clubhouse. “To point the finger at the players would be completely unfair,” Beane said.

Billy is right. The players didn’t demand Macha’s dismissal, they merely made it clear they wanted someone else. Because Macha had so little to say to so many — and next to nothing to some — most had no choice but to label him impersonal and insensitive, if not downright aloof.

“I would say at least 20 of the guys in this clubhouse wouldn’t mind seeing him gone,” one veteran said as the A’s gathered their belongings and prepared to migrate to their off-season homes.

“Guys were walking around wondering what their role was. Guys were waiting to hear something. Anything. And he didn’t give it to them.”

Which brings us to Ron Washington, for whom silence is foreign. Washington’s reputation is of a man who tells people what they need to hear, if not what they want to hear. He doesn’t mince words, yet he exudes concern and support.

Put simply, Washington deserves to be the first man in line for the job. Though others on staff, particularly Bob Geren and Rene Lachemann, must also be considered, “Wash” stands out like a jewel in the sand.

“I hope they look at Wash,” said Frank Thomas, who reiterated his desire to return to Oakland for at least two more years. “The guys really like him. He knows the game. And if Wash needs to get on somebody’s ass, he’ll do it. And they’ll listen.”

During the momentary parting of the ways between the A’s and Macha last October, several players tried to point Beane in the direction of Washington. He has forged a bond with pretty much everyone who takes the field, and many who simply work in the same building.

Though Macha ingratiated himself with some, especially his coaching staff, notably pitching coach Curt Young, the overall view was of a man detached from the reality of his clubhouse. And of a man who, as one non-playing employee recently put it, “just doesn’t know how to treat people.”

If Macha comes across as cerebral, cool and detached, Washington is the antidote, warm and refreshingly genuine. A straight-up, old-school sage.

A team meeting was called last week, before Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. Though Thomas requested the gathering, it probably should have been called by Macha. Wash likely would have called it sooner.

Beane acknowledged Washington would be granted an interview, but the GM also said he would be deliberate in his search for the next A’s manager.

Simple question: What’s left to ask Washington?

Beane and Wash go back more than two decades. Washington has been a member of the A’s coaching staff for 11 seasons. Macha, and Art Howe before him, heartily endorsed Wash as a manager. Any interview between Billy and Wash would seem to serve as a clarification session, if not a formality.

Insofar as Wash was scheduled for an interview Tuesday with the Texas Rangers, it would behoove Billy to move quickly if he intends to promote someone he considers among the most valuable employees in the organization.

If Washington should be hired elsewhere before the A’s make a decision, the field of attractive candidates becomes considerably thinner. There are the two current staff members, and a few outsiders such as Joe Girardi and Bud Black, to name two.

There also is another available candidate: Dusty Baker, referred to by colleague Carl Steward as “Ron Washington with a resume.”

In any case, Billy has obvious options. He shouldn’t sit on this for too long, or he might be tempted to take a chance on someone like Larry Bowa.