Ratto: Something amiss in dismissal of Geren

Ratto: Something amiss in dismissal of Geren
June 10, 2011, 2:06 am
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Ray Ratto

As someone who has typically found the conventional wisdom a poor guide for behavior, Billy Beanes explanation for replacing Bob Geren as manager seems odd.

Seems, that is. With the Oaklands, nothing is ever that linear.

Beanes notion that the Athletics collective focus had become Gerens job situation may be true, but the general manager has always been resistant to the demands of convention. Sailing into the prevailing blowhards is how he became the principal subject of a book, and now a movie.

So why would be break with convention and fire a friend and colleague now rather than stand as he has, defending Geren by saying that injuries and a thin roster have hampered his abilities?

And no, the nine-game losing streak is too easy a solution, and public pressure regarding the teams parlous state is no solution at all. Theyve been in more dire straits with less hope and Geren has been safe as houses. He has been criticized by players, media and the customers alike for both tactical and personality shortcomings, and his position has been set in bedrock.

RATTO: Axing Geren a start to fixing woeful A's

Now either Beane has suddenly become a man of whim, which contravenes everything we know about his work mode, or he got pressure to make a change not from below (us) but above (Lew Wolff andor John Fisher).

We wont know because none of the principals would say, but it seems more likely that the teams principal owners, who were just compared to slumlords by Monte Poole of the Bay Area News Group less than a week ago, might have decided that something needed to be done.

And when something needs to be done in this context, a manager is usually packing boxes.

We neednt recite the litany of Gerens shortcomings, because many can be summed up by the fact that he exuded lack of dynamism, either within or without the safety of the ballpark. Players found him undercommunicative, armchair managers found him occasionally baffling, and media found him a tough conversationalist.

Lets eliminate the third one first, because a managers last duty is to entertain the notebooks -- right after make sure the waffle-maker is plugged in. Not important if everything else is in place.

The second one, his tactics, could be second-guessed, because all managers who dont have headlight-sized rings on their fingers get that. Bruce Bochy was a bad manager in many amateur eyes until he became a genius.

The first is troublesome, because after keeping the bullpen straightened out and the lineup cards functional, a managers ability to place his players in the best place to succeed and keeping them believing the managers essential wisdom is the most important thing. Beane may not believe this as much as he should, given his long-held aversion to chemistry, but it was, is, and will always be true. The players believe it to be so, which makes it true enough to be a force worth heeding.

Taken as a unit though, Geren had become the a priori example of the teams general unwatchability. That extended both north and south of Gerens office, to the point where the team had become an inert mass dominated by five-hit days and pitchers on the disabled list.

Oh, and abuse for the owners, both for their perceived lack of stewardship toward the team and for their real estate fixations.

Now many things have changed in sports since they became organized, but one thing has remained a constant throughout, and that is that people do not buy teams so they can be made to look and feel ridiculous. They buy them because they either love the sport, think they can cash in on the sport, can become local heroes for buying into the sport, or just scratching a need for personal fame through the sport.

Being mocked, or worse, being called slumlords, is not part of the plan.

GUTIERREZ: Geren never really had a chance with A's

Thus, we have a postulation for Gerens dismissal beyond his record, his personality, his player issues, or his teams seeming inertia. It might very well be that Wolff called in his 15 percent (or Fisher his 75, though that seems less likely) and said a change had to happen.

Hearing Beanes conference call, one could detect rare irritation in his voice and short, clipped answers in his responses. He may have found the questioning impertinent, or the task painful, or maybe he thought Geren deserved to finish the year. He has never whacked a manager in midseason before; the last Oakland manager to be dismissed after March and before October was Jackie Moore, when Beane was 24 and a Minnesota Twin outfielder.

He has now, and this was the one he was closest to, which would be stressful under the most benign circumstances. If the move was forced upon him not because of circumstances but because of the chain of command, he would be all the more agitated.

Again, we likely will never know because there is no advantage in any of the three men saying thats how Gerens firing occurred. What is more, the absence of proof is not the same as proof of the opposite.

But this version makes more sense than pressure from the media or the fan base or even the record at the time of dismissal. None of those three forces have ever worked on him before, and frankly, it doesnt seem plausible that they did this time.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.