Geren the right man for the job

Geren the right man for A's skipper's job

PHOENIX -- From the moment Ken Macha was dismissed as Oakland's manager last fall, and throughout the team's month-long search for his replacement, the prevailing perception was that Bob Geren would get the job.

A longtime friend of A's general manager Billy Beane, Geren was thought to have the upper hand on the many other candidates interviewed in large part because of that friendship.

Beane, the thinking went, simply wanted a "yes man" as his skipper. A puppet. Beane had frequent philosophical clashes with his two previous managers, Macha and Art Howe, and what better way to avoid such clashes than to hire a homeboy?

That perception, Beane says, was not only flat wrong but also extremely unfair to Geren, who was indeed handed the keys to the reigning American League West champs.

"First of all, I don't even know what a 'yes man' is, but I don't think anybody elevates themselves to being a big-league manager by just agreeing with everyone," Beane said Saturday at Papago Park, where A's pitchers and catchers went through their first official workout.

"Bob deserves to be a Major League manager. If he wasn't hired here, believe me, he'd have been hired by someone else pretty soon. I know, because I've gotten calls about him from other clubs."

At the same time, Beane doesn't deny that his relationship with Geren was a factor in the hiring. He makes no apologies about it. But he's careful to note that it was their professional relationship that tipped the scales in Geren's favor rather than the personal bond.

Geren has been a member of the organization since 1999, managing in the Minors for four years before joining the big-league staff as the bullpen coach in 2003. Prior to last season, he was promoted to bench coach.

"Look, call me crazy, but I'm of the mind that when you're building an organization, you build it with an organizational philosophy from top to bottom," Beane said. "It would seem to make sense, then, that you'd want to hire people who understand and embrace that philosophy, right?

"I mean, if you're a football team that runs a pro-set offense, you're not going to bring in a quarterback who wants to run the wishbone."

Sharing the same philosophy, however, doesn't eliminate the possibility of conflict. Geren was quick to point that out on the first day of camp.

"Any time you get two baseball people on a subject, they can disagree," Geren said. "It's going to happen. And that's not a bad thing. I actually like it in a way. I think it's good to go back and forth like that. You can learn from it."

Macha and Howe, both members of the proverbial old school, chafed under Beane's new-school hand. They often insinuated that Beane was something of a meddler, co-managing the team from the front office and undermining their authority.

Geren, who has known Beane since their youth in San Diego and was the best man in Beane's second wedding, witnessed the dysfunctional Beane-Macha dynamic up close. And while he's very careful not to say anything about Macha that might be perceived as criticism, he suggests that "meddling" is too strong a word to describe Beane's management style.

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"Billy's the face of the organization, the guy who builds the team, and look at what his teams have done," Geren said. "So shoot, if he wants to know why the manager did something, I figure that's his right. I won't have any problem with it if he questions something I do. All I can do is give him my answer, and either he likes it or he doesn't. If he doesn't like it, I'm sure we'll talk about it.

"That's all he wants, really. He told me, 'It's your team. Go with it. Do what you want to do, and have a reason for doing it.' That's it. I'm fine with telling the GM why I did something.

"But Billy made it real clear: He wants me to manage my game, and I will."

Throughout the interview process, and after it ended, Beane said he'd have been comfortable giving the job to any of the candidates. Asked Tuesday if there was any one thing that pushed Geren to the fore, he again cited familiarity

"We've got a long history with the guy; we've seen him work," Beane said. "That's a pretty good tiebreaker. And it has nothing to do with us being friends."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.