Monday, October 04, 2010

Ken Macha Told to Sleep in Someone Else's Dugout From Now On

The Milwaukee Brewers wasted no time doing the obvious after Sunday's season finale, which was -- naturally -- a loss.

They told manager Ken Macha they would not exercise the club's option on his contract for 2011. Macha was only ten games under .500 in two years, but it seemed evident there was friction between him and the players, especially stars Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.

Macha didn't do many of the little things former manager Ned Yost did right.

When an opposing player threw at Braun or Fielder, Yost made sure there was retaliation. Of course, it was sometimes ill-timed, but it was executed, for crying out loud.

Macha? He didn't believe in that, apparently. Instead, he let guys get hit time after time, and continued to let opposing pitchers off the hook until well after the Brewers were out of it. Incensed, the players didn't bother using it as a rallying point.

Yost used Braun's speed. He used Mike Cameron's speed. He would have used Carlos Gomez' speed.

Macha? Doesn't like making outs on the bases. Apparently, he'd prefer we just made them at the plate and eliminated the middle man.

Yost didn't let his guys get jobbed by an umpire. If it happened, he was in the umpire's grill in a matter of seconds. If he got thrown out of the game, dammit, he got thrown out of the game. It was fine, because he was sticking up for his guys. His players felt good when that happened, because they knew he had their backs. It made them want to play for him.

(The best image of this came in June, when the Brewers played a series at Target Field against the Twins. In the first game, Dave Bush was getting barked at by a crappy home-plate umpire who wouldn't give him anything, including the strikes he was throwing. Macha sat on his hands and only left the dugout when it was time to pull Bush from the game.)

Brewers fans liked to joke that Macha was always sleeping in the dugout. At least I think they were joking. I never saw it actually happen, after all ... even though his mannerisms suggested he was slipping away from consciousness once in a while during games.

Anyway, on his way out the door, Macha woke up long enough to talk about his dismissal, or whatever you want to call what the Brewers have done here.

Macha also acknowledged his trying relationships with stars Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder while noting that several other players he had good relationships with thanked him after yesterday’s season finale, including Corey Hart, Casey McGehee and Wolf among plenty of others.

Still, it was those other two players that he never could develop great rapports with despite his efforts.

“If the effort wasn’t reciprocated, then there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. You can’t force guys to do that,” Macha said. “Some guys were open to discussion and some guys weren’t, I guess, but that’s the same with every club.

“I talked a lot to Ryan, almost every day, but he does his own thing. He’s going to do what he wants to do.

“With Prince, I think he had some issues this year to deal with, the contract probably being the main thing, and at times he was hard to talk to. I don’t know if there were any guys on the staff that talked a whole lot to him this year.

“Those are the two guys, but the rest of the guys it was all positive. I opened up to (Braun and Fielder) but you have to have a back and forth. The faces of the franchise, that’s what they are.”

The bottom line is that he didn't get the job done. Making a connection with Braun and Fielder would have been fine, but it would have involved Macha being different than the way he was. His personality just wasn't going to mesh with these two guys.

Yes, Braun and Fielder should have made more of an effort to get along with their on-field boss. But we live in a society now where the coach has to give some, too. It's not 1966 anymore, when "my way or the highway" coaches won games by scaring the hell out of their players.

Macha managed like it was 1966, and while there are some veteran teams that he could be effective with, this is simply not one of them. It's a younger team that needs a high-energy manager who understands matchups and tactics, and he understands how to relate to his star players.

Without that, no coach or manager can last ... not in 2010. Or 2011.

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