Brewers name Macha manager

Brewers name Macha manager

MILWAUKEE -- Doug Melvin and Ken Macha go back. Way back.

Not just to 2002, when Brewers general manager Melvin nearly offered then-A's bench coach Macha a job to manage in Milwaukee, but to 1972. Melvin's first professional baseball assignment was to throw batting practice to a slugging Pirates infield prospect.

"There was a big guy gripping a bat in the batter's box and it was [Macha]," Melvin said. "I can remember to this day, looking down to the plate and he's gripping that bat. I was scared to death. ... I said, 'If I hit this big donkey in the head, he's going to be coming after me.'"

On Thursday they met under much less adversarial circumstances. Melvin introduced Macha as the 17th manager in Brewers history.

Melvin referred to Macha, 58, as a "baseball lifer," and noted that they both paid their dues in the Minor Leagues. The men also took an eerily similar path to Milwaukee. Melvin was dismissed by the Rangers in 2001, then spent one year as a Red Sox consultant before the Brewers hired him. Macha was dismissed by the A's two days after the team was swept by the Tigers in the 2006 American League Championship Series, then spent two years as a Red Sox television analyst before getting another shot on Tuesday.

"I got let go myself, so I'm a big believer in second chances," Melvin said.

Macha's second chance comes in the form of a two-year contract with the Brewers after edging former Mets manager Willie Randolph for the job. Former D-backs skipper Bob Brenly also interviewed as Melvin sought an experienced replacement for Dale Sveum, who managed the Brewers for 12 regular-season games and four postseason games after Ned Yost was dismissed in mid-September.

Melvin said that along with experience, he was seeking a new viewpoint from outside the organization. Still, Sveum is expected to return to the coaching staff, which could be announced on Friday.

Macha inherits a Brewers team coming off its first postseason appearance in 26 years that bears some similarities to the Oakland teams that he managed to the fourth-best record in baseball from 2003-2006. Macha pointed in particular to 2005, when the A's had traded away ace pitchers Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, comparing that situation to the uncertain future of Brewers free agents CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets.

Before accepting the Brewers job, Macha sought advice from two friends in the scouting business -- one was Nationals scouting supervisor Jeff Zona -- about Milwaukee's chances over the next few seasons. He liked what he heard.

"I look at the young players on the field and see tremendous upside," Macha said of Milwaukee. "They've already had a great amount of success, and to try to get to their potential will be the challenge for myself and my coaching staff."

Macha has spent 35 seasons in professional baseball including eight seasons as a manager -- four in Boston's Minor League chain and then four in the big leagues with Oakland -- without a losing record. During his eight seasons in Oakland -- four as the team's bench coach before taking over as manager -- the team finished in first or second place every year.

Ken Macha's managerial record
Year
Team
G
W
L
WP
Finish
2003 Oakland 162 96 66 .593
1
2004 Oakland 162 91 71 .562
2
2005 Oakland 162 88 74 .543
2
2006 Oakland 162 93 69 .574
1
TOTAL
648 368 280 .568

The A's were 368-280 under Macha, the fourth-best mark in baseball in that four-year span. His .568 winning percentage is the second-best in A's franchise history behind Dick Williams' .603.

Yet he was let go two days after the A's were swept in the 2006 American League Championship Series by the Detroit Tigers. Two days after that came a newspaper report that quoted a number of players as critical of Macha, citing among their beefs a lack of communication and the perception that he did not stick up for players.

Macha addressed those issues at length on Thursday in a sometimes tense back-and-forth with Milwaukee reporters. In fact, the first question he was asked was not about his vision for the Brewers, but about the circumstances surrounding his dismissal from the A's.

"The bottom line is this: The manager is responsible for wins and losses," Macha said. "The amount of respect that you get from the players is shown by the intensity with which they play. If you take a look at our teams in Oakland, they always played better as the season went on. I just let the record sit the way it is. We always won games there in Oakland."

Macha that the questions about his dismissal from Oakland probably played a role in his two-year layoff from managing.

"When you get dismissed, there has to be a reason," Macha said. "Whatever reason it be, it is going to stick with you. I know the difference between perception and reality, and I am just going to leave it at that."

Melvin was certainly aware of the questions surrounding Macha's departure, so he sought or received unsolicited recommendations from a number of sources, including Red Sox manager Terry Francona and Rays manager Joe Maddon, both of whom have coached with Macha. Brewers pitcher Jeff Suppan, who played under Macha at Double-A Trenton in 1995 and Triple-A Pawtucket in 1997, also called with an endorsement.

Melvin already had done some of his homework six years earlier. When Melvin took over as Brewers GM at the end of the 2002 season, Macha was one of five finalists for the managerial opening and may have been Melvin's frontrunner. But when A's manager Art Howe left to manage the Mets, Macha decided to remain in Oakland to fill that vacancy instead.

He skirted around the issue of his frosty relationship with A's GM Billy Beane on Thursday, saying only that he looked forward to working with Melvin who is, "more of a delegator. He's going to let me go out and do my job as manager, and I am going to be very grateful for that."

The Brewers decided on Macha over Brenly and Randolph as early as Sunday and were waiting for the World Series to end to make the formal announcement. The Phillies did the Brewers a favor by winning the championship on Wednesday night; had the Series shifted back to Tampa Bay, the Brewers were considering asking Major League Baseball to waive the moratorium on making news so they could name Macha on Thursday. Melvin leaves town for the Managers Meetings on Saturday and wanted the staff settled before then.

The Pirates selected Pittsburgh native Macha in the sixth round of the 1972 First-Year Player Draft, and he played parts of six Major League seasons, primarily as a third baseman. He then played four seasons in Japan before beginning his coaching career in Montreal in 1986.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.