Geren Logical Choice for A's
by Glenn Dickey
Nov 18, 2006

BOB GEREN was always the logical choice as the next A’s manager, as I wrote in the Examiner on Nov. 3 and on this website on Wednesday. Only the clueless Chronicle columnists couldn’t figure it out. One wrote three weeks ago that he couldn’t figure why Billy Beane didn’t just give the job to Ron Washington. Another wrote this week that Angels’ pitching coach Bud Black was Beane’s first choice but he’d been taken by San Diego. Beane knew Black well because the Angels and A’s are in the same division, and Beane has shown repeatedly that he can make quick decisions. If he’d wanted Black, he’d have hired him.

Beane wanted to make a choice within the organization. He didn’t want Washington, so he strung out the interview process long enough to give Washington a chance to get a job elsewhere, as he did with the Texas Rangers.

Why not Washington? Three reasons:

1) Washington was very popular with the players, but when his role changed, he’d have had to make the tough decisions on who gets playing time, which would have changed the whole dynamic. For his own sake, he’s probably better off in Texas, where the players won’t have any preconceptions about being friends with him.

2) The most important aspect of a manager’s job is handling his pitching staff, knowing their strengths and weaknesses – and knowing when to make a change. Washington has never been involved with the pitchers, nor has he ever had to make changes. Geren was a bullpen coach with the A’s and then a bench coach, where he could advise and observe manager Ken Macha.

3) Washington managed in the Mets minor league system for two years, amassing a 123-153 record. Geren managed three seasons in the Red Sox system, four in the A’s system. He had an overall mark of 452-390, including 319-253 in the A’s system. He was manager of the year in the California League n 1999 and led the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats to successive first place finishes in the Southern Division of the Pacific Coast League in 2000 and 2001. Undoubtedly, Geren had better players to manage than Washington, but even so, his managerial resume is much more impressive.

TEAMS MAKE different decisions on managers based on their specific needs. The Giants, for instance, went for Bruce Bochy, and Giants GM Brian Sabean said the primary reason was Bochy’s experience as a major league manager, especially since it came in the same division as the Giants. That showed that the Giants, despite all the talk of a youth movement, will continue to build their team with veteran free agents, though hopefully not quite as old as in the recent past.

The A’s have a much different approach. They build from within, using their farm system to supply players – and sometimes, trading prospects for players. So, it makes sense to hire a manager who is familiar with players from the organization. Geren has that experience, both on the minor and major league level.

The team he is inheriting has already taken one big hit, losing Frank Thomas, and will certainly take another, when Barry Zito signs with another team. Zito’s loss has been long expected but the A’s thought they could re-sign Thomas. Toronto, though, came up with an offer that was, literally, incredible. Thomas will get more than $18 million over two years, including an $8 million signing bonus, though his injury history suggests his career could end at any time.

The A’s faced a similar situation six years ago. John Jaha, who had had the same kind of foot problems that limited Thomas to 108 major league games in the 2004-2005 seasons, had a career year with 35 homers and 111 RBIs, comparable to Thomas’s 39 homers and 114 RBIs in the 2006 season. Like Thomas, Jaha was strictly a DH.

Jaha was given a two-year contract. In those two years, he played in only 45 games, with one homer and 13 RBIs.

With that example in mind, the A’s weren’t about to try to match Toronto’s offer to Thomas. His loss will force them to look at the free agent market, but they won’t sign anybody who will be a budget buster.

Zito’s loss will probably also force them to at least look at the free agent market, though if Rich Harden is healthy next year, he will make the A’s rotation stronger than it was in 2006. Harden is a true No. 1 pitcher. On a good staff, Zito should be No. 3.

Good health is a priority for the A’s, who suffered because Harden missed most of the year, Eric Chavez’s hitting suffered year-long because of injuries and Bobby Crosby again missed a significant part of the season.

Now that they’ve made the managerial decision that was a natural, they should start focusing on their players’ offseason training programs. It’s unnatural that young players should be injured so frequently. There’s no reason to start their new manager off with that kind of handicap.

LETTERS: I’ve updated this section with 13 new posts.


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