Macha Out as Manager

Milwaukee Brewers manager Ken Macha (R) and coach Willie Randolph watch the Brewers beat the Colorado Rockies 6-1 in the ninth inning at Coors Field on June 20, 2010 in Denver.         UPI/Gary C. Caskey Photo via Newscom

As expected, Ken Macha will not return to manage the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011.  Tom Haudricourt is reporting that Macha’s 2011 option will not be picked up.

The fact that he’s not returning isn’t surprising, but I am a little surprised that the news is coming out tonight.  If anything, I was expecting it to come out tomorrow, so kudos to TH for getting the scoop.

As he notes in his article, Macha was unfortunate enough to get saddled with playoff expectations without ever having a playoff-quality pitching staff.  That much was out of Macha’s control.

From day one, though, Macha seemed like a personality that never seemed to connect with his players.

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He came in admitting that he didn’t want to get to know his players before they went into camp, because he didn’t want it to cloud his assessment of his players.  While that sounds fine and dandy, it probably ended up hurting the team.  They simply couldn’t relate to him, and at times, it seemed like they didn’t like playing for him. 

There was Seth McClung badmouthing him on Twitter, and noticeably leaving Macha off the list of people he thanked when he was non-tendered last winter.  There were the rumblings from players this season about not feeling supported when it came to arguing calls, or protected when it came to retaliating to the plethora of HBPs.  Many fans were irritated with the way that nothing seemed to get emotion out of Macha — not much joy when it came to walkoff wins, not much frustration when things weren’t going well.  While part of Macha’s initial appeal was that he wouldn’t have the players playing tight and stressed when things started to go bad (like Ned Yost sometimes did), on the surface it appears that Macha took that lax attitude too far — even when the team dropped 9 games in a row in May, there was no sense of urgency.  And that irritated a lot of people.

There was his perceived problem with Mat Gamel, his pushing Yovani Gallardo to unnecessarily high pitch counts, and his reluctance to even let the best of his base stealers run.  I’m not someone who advocates running wild on the bases — if you’re going to run, you better damn well make it more than 75% of the time — but when you have Corey Hart stealing 18 bases combined in the Macha era, compared to 23 in both 2007 and 2008, it gets a little unnerving.

In the end, it’s not entirely Ken Macha’s fault that the past two years didn’t go as planned.  It’s fine to replace the manager if you want to make a statement about moving in a different direction, but the truth is there was very little Macha could have done differently that would have given us better results — managers just have too little actual control over how many games the team wins and loses.  Still, I can’t say I’m opposed to this.  He did a lot of things that drove me nuts, but they were largely things that most managers would do.  My main problem with Macha, though, is that the team never seemed comfortable under him.  Very rarely did the game seem fun, and we saw apathy set in when things went wrong. 

Kind of funny that the last example of this apathy under Macha was Ryan Braun not running out a pop up in the third inning of the season finale.  Benching Braun for the rest of the game turned out to be one of the last things of note he did as manager of the Brewers.

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