Blog Entry

A's fire Geren; Melvin takes over

Posted on: June 9, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 2:53 pm
What would it take for Billy Beane to fire Bob Geren?

Well, now we know.

It took last place. It took nine straight losses. It took players, past and former, complaining publicly. It took, according to Beane, a constant focus on the manager's job status.

The A's general manager fired his close friend Thursday morning, relieving Geren of his duties and replacing him with Bob Melvin. Melvin, the former Mariner and Diamondbacks manager who had just rejoined Arizona as a special assistant, will serve as the interim manager for the rest of this season, beginning with Thursday night's game in Chicago.

"This was an opportune time for a change," Beane said on a Thursday afternoon conference call.

The move will stun some people who thought Beane would never fire Geren, who was the best man at his wedding. Others assumed that Beane would wait until the end of the season, if he fired Geren at all.

But the A's, who expected to contend behind a pitching staff that is one of baseball's best, have turned into a disaster that has only gotten worse. By last week, there were rumblings in the organization that Beane could be ready to make a change.

Players questioned Geren's communication skills, and rival scouts and executives derided him as the worst manager in the game.

"They'll never win as long as he's there," one scout with Oakland ties told me last month, after the firestorm that began when Brian Fuentes and Huston Street ripped Geren in print.

People close to the team said that Geren had lost the trust of his veteran players.

"He could have said the house is on fire, and guys would have stayed, because they wouldn't have believed him," one A's person said.

Thursday, former A's catcher Rob Bowen ripped Geren on Twitter, writing: "Finally the A's have realized Geren has destroyed a dozen pitcher's careers and doesn't have a clue how to manage a big league club."

Geren was 334-376 in five-plus years with the A's, and never had a winning season. The A's had been to the playoffs five times in the seven years before he took over.

This year, the A's have been hurt by injuries, with four starting pitchers on the disabled list and with closer Andrew Bailey also missing time. But even with the injuries, the A's rotation still owns the lowest combined ERA in baseball, at 3.17.

Offense has been a much bigger problem, as the A's have scored the fewest runs in the American League. That's not all Geren's fault, but players complained about his inconsistent lineups that kept anyone from getting going.

Those complaints helped fuel the questions about what it would take for Beane to fire Geren, and the GM said that speculation led to his decision. He refused to say whether he had talked to A's players about Geren, but it's hard to believe he hadn't.

"You get a feel of the tone of what's going on," Beane said. "You need to shift the focus back on the field."

The 49-year-old Melvin has local ties, having grown up in the Bay Area and playing one year at the University of California. He played 10 years in the big leagues, and he managed the Mariners for two years and the Diamondbacks for a little more than four years. He took Arizona to the National League Championship Series in 2007, but was fired two years later.

Melvin worked for the Mets last year, and the Mets interviewed him last fall before giving their managerial job to Terry Collins. Melvin returned to the Diamondbacks in April, and as of Thursday he was planning to call this weekend's Diamondbacks-Marlins series on Arizona radio.

While the A's named Melvin as just the interim manager, it's hard to believe that there's not some kind of understanding on a longer-term relationship.

"Bob's got the rest of this year to make an impact," Beane said. "He's got a big job ahead of him. We'll see how it goes."

Geren had a rough final few hours as manager. The A's lost 3-2 in Baltimore on Wednesday night (and some criticized Geren for using singles-hitting Ryan Sweeney instead of power threat Hideki Matsui as a ninth-inning pinch hitter). Then the team had travel trouble because of bad weather in Chicago. The A's plane sat on the ground in Springfield, Ill., for three hours, and the team didn't arrive at the hotel in Chicago until 6 a.m. local time.

A few hours later, the A's announced that Geren's time was up.

Billy Beane had seen enough.

Category: MLB

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