Normally, I’m not big on using my blog to rehash a column from the same day, but space prevented me from delving into every possible angle regarding the firing of three A’s coaches last week. And the one thing I really wasn’t able to discuss is how this whole thing could make life tough for manager Bob Geren.
It was obvious during the A’s first losing season since 1998 that Geren didn’t endear himself to everybody. That’s to be expected, because the bulk of players are rarely entirely happy unless a) they’re playing everyday, b) hitting where they want to hit in the lineup c) pitching regularly d) the team is winning or e) all of the above. And even then, most will usually find things to gripe about, because, well, when your young and a millionaire, why be content?
Anyway, through calls made to gauge reaction to the way the A’s handled the dismissals of Brad Fischer and Marcel Lachemann, it seems clear that many players are unhappy with it (I excuse Bob Schaefer from this discussion, because he has admitted he really didn’t want to be here anyway, and with only a year of service, he didn’t really warrent the consideration that Fischer and Lacemann did). Again, this is not so much that the A’s decided to make a change — that’s their perogative, and as players realize, it’s part of the business — but how they did it.
One of the gripes I’m hearing is that Fischer and Lachemann each were tight with the players and that Geren was closed off to any of the input the two had to offer. As one source put it to me, I might as well have been wearing a uniform for all they were allowed to contribute. From an outsider’s perspective, that sure sounds like the continuation of the A’s trend to surround themselves with “yes” men, and that’s always a dangerous thing, because any successful organization has dissenting opinions in the course of charting future strategy (once a strategy has been reached, those same organizations then present a united front, and that’s how it should be).
Thus, Geren may well find a clubhouse where the veterans are ready to tune him out. Now ultimately, that may not be as huge a deal as you might think, because 1) the A’s have several solid pros who are motivated by pride and 2) the youth they figure to use will play hard regardless, because they’re trying to establish themselves in the majors. But a clubhouse that’s not on board with the skipper can foster a bad culture where everybody fends for themselves, and that does not make for winning baseball. And once that culture is established, it can take several seasons to get rid of it.
Of course, it may be that the A’s are preparing to spend the next few seasons near the bottom of the American League West. The players who formed the nucleus of the winning clubs earlier this decade has either aged or moved on; the farm system is not in great shape; and the front office may be enduring transition of some sort, because general manager Billy Beane clearly is enjoying the new responsibilities that come with being an owner.
It all could add up to some turbulent times ahead, and that’s never an easy thing for a manager. Geren has a tremendous advantage in that the front office supports him fully (why else would they give him the autonomy to choose his own coaches?), but he may have to work real hard to establish his authority in the clubhouse. For every action, there is a consequence, and the shabby way with which the A’s dismissed two of their longtime employees may have ramifications that last for some time.