Gutierrez: Image A's problem, not communication

Gutierrez: Image A's problem, not communication
May 26, 2011, 5:28 am
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May 25, 2011GUTIERREZ ARCHIVEA'S PAGE A'S VIDEOPaul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.com

ANAHEIM - Bob Geren has more than a purported communication problem on his hands. The A's manager has a massive image problem.It's been there since he replaced Ken Macha following the A's run to the American League Championship Series, on Nov. 17, 2006. From that very first day, because of his close relationship with general manager Billy Beane, Geren has been seen in many corners as Beane's puppet. Real, or imagined."That was a problem at first," Los Angeles Angels starter Dan Haren told me before Wednesday night's game, an eventual 4-1 Angels victory. Haren pitched for the A's in Geren's rookie year as a manager in 2007."There was a feeling like Billy was running the team through Bob. But over time, it disappeared."
RECAP: A's fall 4-1 to Angels, back-to-back HRs
And yet, it's still percolating in the A's clubhouse. It's the kind of damning accusation that turns into condemnation, quickly. There's a lack of respect-factor at work here, and it's been there from Day 1.Beane acknowledged their relationship - Geren stood up in Beane's second wedding, after all - has become fodder for anyone wanting to criticize the hire."It comes with the territory," Beane said. "At some point, you'd think it would become redundant. But it makes for some nice filler."Even A's owner Lew Wolff, in town for the series with the Angels, dismissed the notion that the friendship between his general manager and field manager was a trouble spot."Just the opposite," Wolff said. "Billy delayed Bob's career, because he was worried about things like that, which I thought was silly. Billy's goal is to win ballgames. I don't think (their friendship) has one thing to do with it."And if you thought A's fans who want Geren's head on a platter were upset before, those same fans' heads might explode when they read how Wolff defended Geren."I think Bob's fantastic," Wolff said, when asked his thoughts on Geren as a manager. "Bob's fine, terrific. It's a tough job."Cue the exploding heads.
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Truly, Geren has been seen by his critics as unqualified and undeserving of the gig every day along the way. Especially since Beane puts such little stock in managers.The only way to silence the white noise, then, is to win. And win consistently. But Geren has yet to have a winning season, the 81-81 finish last year his high-water mark in four seasons.True, injuries have to be factored in, and you could say he has not had a real big league roster to work with until this year.But Geren is not going to change how he manages - by the book, with curious bullpen and pinch-hit decisions while agonizing over the daily lineup to the frustration of many A's players. So until the A's start winning on a consistent basis - they have yet to go three games over .500 and have been as low as four games under .500 - Geren will be the green and gold pinata for disgruntled fans and, yes, players.Paging Brian Fuentes and his Monday night soliloquy about Geren's lack of communication skills.
REWIND: A's Fuentes sounds off on Geren
Still"I don't remember it ever being a problem," Haren said. "He always had an open office."In my experience, those things happen almost always when a team isn't playing well or on a long losing streak."The A's were riding a season-long six-game losing streak and Fuentes had lost four straight appearances when the left-hander vented."Fuentes is a veteran player, in his first year with the organization," Haren said. "They're still learning each other."You want communication? Geren called a team meeting Wednesday before batting practice that lasted about 15 minutes. Even if, the day before, he said the matter was closed after a sit-down with Fuentes and said he did not want to involve anyone else.Maybe it was simply to clear the air in the wake of Huston Street absolutely savaging Geren in the San Francisco Chronicle?"I don't think it's my place to comment on somebody on another team," a dour Geren said, when asked his thought's on Street's diatribe in which he said Geren was his "least favorite person I have ever encountered in sports from age 6 to 27."Haren remains good friends with Street, and he was taken aback by the now Colorado Rockies closer's public admission."Bob is a good man," Haren said. "Whether someone hates him or notthere's a lot of people I don't like eitherI'm not going to throw anyone under the bus."Geren's, ahem, goodness is not in question. If he is a good baseball man, though, is and has been for a while now.Said Geren: "I prefer to speak about our own team, not on others."Confused? Well, Wolff said Geren and criticism from players, current or former, is not a concern."No, it really isn't," he said. "It's part of life. I don't like the word 'communication.' But it usually takes two people."It's a new day, every day."Even if your manager has an image problem that is not going away anytime soon.