Bob Geren, Warriors Chances, 49ers Needs
by Glenn Dickey
Apr 25, 2007

THE LONG shadow of Billy Beane has intimidated A’s managers before, Art Howe in particular, but it hasn’t affected their latest manager, Bob Geren.

Geren’s philosophy is in line with Beane’s. “I don’t believe in running into outs,” he said in an interview in his office. But he also says, “I like to put runners in motion,” either stealing bases or with a hit-and-run.

He’s aware of the A’s reputation. In a game early this season, he thought of sending the runner from first. Bench coach Bob Schaefer said, “Do you think they’ll pitch out?” Geren just laughed. “Nobody expects us to run,” he said. “We’ve got a free pass.”

And what does Beane think of this? “Billy and I talk about a lot of things, but we don’t talk about strategy,” Geren said, “except for one time when he said to me, ‘You know what you were doing in spring training, with runners in motion. I kind of like that.’”

Geren has applied the thinking man’s approach to the Beane philosophy, which is not new with the A’s general manager (it really dates back to the Branch Rickey approach with the St. Louis Cardinals of the ‘30s) nor limited to him in this era. As Geren noted, teams like the Red Sox and Yankees, known for their power, also use it; the Red Sox worked the count so successfully in a three-game series against the Angels that they forced Angels relievers to throw more than 200 pitches.

“I’ve read all the books about this,” said Geren, who specifically said he didn’t read much of “Moneyball,” which he accurately described as an economic philosophy, not a baseball one. “I know that your chances of a big inning are better with a runner on first and no outs than a runner on second with one out. I know you have to have a 70 per cent success rate on stolen bases to make it worthwhile.

“But I also know you have to look beyond the statistics at the human element. If I have Mark Ellis on first with two outs and Jason Kendall up, I’m going to think about sending Ellis because I know Kendall is a guy who hits mostly singles. The worst thing that can happen is that Mark gets thrown out, and then Jason leads off the next inning. He’s a guy who will work the count and has a good chance of getting on to start the inning.”

While others expected Beane to promote Ron Washington after Ken Macha was fired, I wrote that Geren would be the next A’s manager. It didn’t seem like a difficult prediction. Beane is very much an organizational man; Geren had been a successful Triple-A manager at Sacramento and knew many of the current players. He had been the bench coach, which has become the path for future managers. Macha, who had taken the same path, referred to Geren as “MIT” for Manager In Training.

Beane wanted Washington to become a manager, but with a different team. I haven’t talked to Beane about this but I’m sure he had the same reservations I had, that Washington’s very close relationship to the A’s players would be a hindrance when he was in the manager’s chair and had to make tough decisions about playing time. Washington got his shot with the Texas Rangers and has a better chance to succeed there because players won’t have the expectation that he’s their friend.

The A’s have an organizational philosophy that is similar to some great teams of the past – Rickey’s teams in St. Louis and Brooklyn, the Baltimore Orioles of the ‘60s and ‘70s – and the Atlanta Braves of today. The same pitching and hitting philosophies are taught throughout the system, so there is no learning process when position players and pitchers are brought up.

This year, for instance, Travis Buck has been plugged into the lineup in right field, and he’s had some key hits. Dallas Braden, who was not even on the radar, was brought up from Double A and pitched six innings and allowed only one run as the A’s beat Baltimore in his major league debut yesterday.

That kind of production from their farm system has allowed the A’s to overcome a serious run of injuries this season and last. They opened the season with centerfielder Mark Kotsay out after back surgery and have had two other hits in the outfield, Milton Bradley, now on the disabled list, and Bobby Kielty; Nick Swisher also came up lame in yesterday’s game. Rich Harden, an overpowering starter who missed most of last season with injuries, will miss at least two more starts now that he’s on the disabled list, and Esteban Loiza has been on the DL since the start of the season.

And still, the A’s keep winning. They’ve been in the postseason five of the last seven years and in contention for it the other two seasons. They haven’t gotten to the World Series in that time, mostly because they’re playing in by far the stronger league, but they’re consistently successful and entertaining.

And, if anything, they’ll be even more entertaining this season because of Geren’s willingness to go against the grain when he thinks it makes sense.

GOLDEN STATE? It’s gone beyond embarrassment that owner Chris Cohan keeps the designation of “Golden State” for the Warriors.

This appellation was adopted by then owner Franklin Mieuli in the early ‘70s when the Warriors played six “home” games in San Diego one year. It has no application now that the Warriors play all their home games in Oakland and practice there as well.

The Warriors are the only team in the area which does not use their city’s name. The Raiders and A’s both use Oakland. The Sharks, who are the only NHL team in the Bay Area, use San Jose. The Giants and 49ers use San Francisco.

It’s past time for Cohan to smarten up and put Oakland in front of the Warriors name.

NELSON AND WALSH: In my Tuesday column in the Examiner, I drew a comparison between the strategic ability of Warriors coach Don Nelson and Bill Walsh, when he coached the 49ers to three Super Bowl victories.

There’s another comparison: Their ability to keep their teams loose. Walsh famously dressed up as a bellman to greet his arriving players before the 1982 Super Bowl, and when a team bus was held up arriving at the stadium because of a motorcade for then Vice President George Herbert Bush, carried on a joking commentary. At yesterday’s workout in Dallas, Nelson joked with the media and his players in what was obviously a light-hearted practice. Meanwhile, the Mavericks and coach Avery Johnson were deadly serious as they went through drills.

Walsh’s approach helped the Niners win their first Super Bowl. It’s unlikely that Nelson’s approach will work that kind of miracle for the Warriors, but it definitely contributed to their win in the opening game of this series and gives them a chance to advance to the second round.

DRAFT HELP: The 49ers may be looking for more offensive linemen in the draft, which is always a good idea, but I have a better one: Move Adam Snyder into the starting lineup as a replacement for Kwame Harris.

Frankly, I don’t know what’s taken them this long. Harris has been a bust from day one because he doesn’t have the quick feet to keep a defensive lineman in front of him when he’s pass blocking. The Niners traded to move up to take Snyder in Mike Nolan’s first draft. It’s past time to get him in the starting lineup.

A-ROD’S CHARGE: Those who hate the idea of Barry Bonds owning the all-time career home run record, which he will at some point this season, should take solace in the fact that it won’t be many years before Alex Rodriguez gets the record.

At 32, Rodriguez already has 478 homers, and he’s hitting them at an even faster pace this season, with an astounding 14 in the Yankees’ first 19 games.

The only caveat with Rodriguez is that he stay healthy; Ken Griffey at one time seemed headed for the record, too, but multiple injuries ended that. But Rodriguez has been healthy throughout his career, so it’s unlikely he’ll be hobbled in that fashion.

SPORTS, CONCERT TICKETS: Tickets for the Warriors and Sharks playoff games, the May 5 Kentucky Derby and the All-Star game at AT&T Park are available on the TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS! link at the bottom of my Home Page. Tickets are also available for The Police concert on May 13 at the Oakland Coliseum, the Jersey Boys, who will be in San Francisco through August, and for hot summer concert tours featuring Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Kenny Chesney, among others. Click on the Bay Area or national links below and the whole list will come up.

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