Littlefield expects to interview Macha

PITTSBURGH -- Former Oakland manager Ken Macha flew back to his home in suburban Pittsburgh on Thursday after parting ways with the Athletics, and one of his first offseason stops will apparently be a familiar location: the ballpark.

Macha, whose teams won 275 games the last three seasons despite one of the league's smallest payrolls, is expected to meet in the next couple days with Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield, most likely at PNC Park.

Littlefield said Thursday he also expects to schedule a face-to-face meeting quickly with former Dodgers manager Jim Tracy, who was the clear front-runner for the Pirates job until Macha unexpectedly entered the picture.

As late as last weekend, it appeared Macha was ready to return to Oakland after being offered a three-year contract extension. But he and the team couldn't reach financial terms -- Macha reportedly wanted $1.5 million a year -- and the A's decided to pursue another

Macha said in a conference call Wednesday that the Pirates job is attractive not just because he is a former Pirates player and lives in Murrysville, Pa., but also because he is comfortable managing a
team with mostly young players. The Pirates' lineup during the final six weeks of the season routinely included three or four rookies.

"It seems like a good fit," Macha said.

Whether the finances are could be a different matter. If Macha wants the same money he supposedly did with Oakland, it may be too high a price for the Pirates -- former manager Lloyd McClendon made only about half that.

And while Macha badly wanted the Pirates job when McClendon got it in 2000, he could decide he's not willing to take a big paycut even to manage at home, especially with the Devil Rays, Marlins and Dodgers also seeking a manager.

"That's one of the factors that goes into any decision," Littlefield said Thursday of the financial aspect.

Littlefield spoke Thursday with Alan Nero, Macha's agent, and planned to talk to Macha once he got to town, either late Thursday night or Friday morning.

What isn't known is if Macha left the Athletics in part because he wanted to pursue the Pirates job and couldn't do so while under contract to the A's. It has been rumored in baseball circles for several weeks that Macha was very interested in the Pirates, for whom he played in 1974 and again in 1977-78.

Tracy and Littlefield, who worked together with the Expos during the 1990s, talked by phone for two hours earlier this week, and an in-person meeting could be set up by this weekend. With so many teams looking for a manager, Littlefield said there is a sense of urgency to get something done "sooner rather than later."

"We have talked to a lot of people in the industry to gather information," Littlefield said. "A lot of people are calling and are interested. ... It's good to see there are so many [good] people out there, a nice, experienced group of guys and up-and-comers like Fredi Gonzalez."

Gonzalez, a Braves coach, interviewed with Littlefield on Monday in Atlanta.

Macha, 55, had a 275-211 record with the A's after succeeding another Pittsburgh-area native, Art Howe, as manager. His team won the AL West in 2003 and was second the last two seasons, making a run for the postseason despite a dismal start. The Athletics had a 2-0 lead over the Red Sox in a 2003 playoff series, only to drop the final three games and the series.

Macha graduated from Gateway High School and has a civil engineering degree from Pitt.