Surprise! A's rehire manager Macha

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Ken Macha has a new job: His old one.

Out last week after three seasons managing the Oakland Athletics, he called general manager Billy Beane one last time to say thanks -- and wound up Friday with a three-year deal to return.

"I think both of us felt this would be best for himself, best for myself and best for the club," Macha said. "I think Billy has a lot of trust in what I do on the field, and I have a lot of trust in what he does off the field."

Macha and Beane didn't talk after the A's announced negotiations on an extension broke down Oct. 5. Macha now acknowledges the two sides probably should have waited a week after an emotional season to begin the discussions.

"It all started with that call," Beane said. "I think it took a lot for him to pick up that phone. It was probably not an easy call for him to make."

Right fielder Nick Swisher sounded happy to have his old manager back.

"Macha's a great manager and he knows the game. I'm excited for next season to get started," Swisher said during a telephone interview from his home in West Virginia. "Billy knows what he's doing. Just like everyone else in this organization, he's always going to push us in the right direction."

Macha interviewed for the opening in Pittsburgh that ultimately went to former Dodgers manager Jim Tracy and had plans to talk with Tampa Bay.

The A's had already interviewed bullpen coach Bob Geren and third base coach Ron Washington. Beane had also set up meetings next week with Rangers pitching coach Orel Hershiser, Colorado bench coach Jamie Quirk and former Philadelphia and San Diego manager Larry Bowa.

Macha led the A's to the AL West title in his first year as manager in 2003, the club's fourth straight playoff berth. But Oakland failed to reach the postseason the past two years despite a 91-win season in 2004 and 88 victories this year.

"Ken did a great job for us. We've always said that," Beane said. "He was a good enough manager for us to want him back before, and he's still a good enough manager to come back."

The 55-year-old Macha called it one of several "massive disappointments" in his seven years with the team when the sides
couldn't reach a deal.

Beane said last week the A's had offered a three-year deal with a club option, while Macha had countered with a three-year deal without a club option. Beane would not release terms of the new deal but said the option had been taken out. Macha earned around $630,000 this season.

Macha's agent, Alan Nero, declined to provide terms of the deal.

"Everything's wonderful in Oakland," Nero said Friday. "I'm very happy for Ken. He's very attached to his players and felt very badly he wasn't going to be with them. The bottom line is this really wasn't about money. It was more about both parties being comfortable on going forward. In the end, it was easy to get resolved."

Beane admitted it was a "unique situation" for a manager to be cut loose and brought back so soon. One of the only other times that happened came in 1978 when Billy Martin resigned as skipper of the Yankees on July 24 but was rehired by George Steinbrenner five days later to take over from Bob Lemon in 1980. Martin ended up taking the job the following June and was fired following the 1979 season.

"This is ultimately what we were trying to do during the season and in the days after it," Beane said. "Unfortunately we weren't able to do that and we parted ways last week. This is the outcome we wanted."

Macha likened it to Phil Jackson's return as Lakers coach this year after a one-year hiatus.

"In the world of sports, anything can happen," he said.

A's second baseman Mark Ellis admitted the whole situation was "very strange."

"I was totally caught off-guard. I was very surprised," Ellis said from Arizona. "It's good. He knows everybody on team and everybody is comfortable with him. It's weird how it turned out, but I think everybody's happy. It's good to have Mach."

The A's seemed out of the race in May when they had two eight-game losing streaks and finished the month with a 7-20 record. Oakland rebounded with another strong second half, overcoming injuries to key players, including shortstop Bobby Crosby and No. 2 starter Rich Harden.

Oakland watched the Angels clinch the AL West on the A's home field for the second straight year.

"Kenny's a fine manager. He was my vote for manager of the year," Angels skipper Mike Scioscia said.

The A's have most of their key players under contract for 2006, including Harden, Crosby, Barry Zito, Eric Chavez, Huston Street, Dan Haren, Mark Kotsay, Mark Ellis and Joe Blanton. Macha said he would like to add another right-handed bat to the lineup.

"We always undergo a lot of change every year," Macha said. "I've been here even years and there's always been key players leaving and new guys put in. That's all been done by Billy and done well. I think he knows how I feel about what will be needed."