Oakland A’s history: The underrated Ken Macha
By David Hill
Ken Macha often gets overlooked on the pantheon of Oakland A’s managers, but he was better than he may be remembered.
Sometimes, life is just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. That was certainly the case with Ken Macha, who had been the Oakland A’s bench coach under manager Art Howe. When Howe departed after the 2002 season, having been handed a far more lucrative contract by the Mets, Macha was handed the reins of the club.
It was a talented team that Macha took over. The A’s had been to the playoffs in each of the three previous seasons, giving the neophyte manager a great opportunity. Armed with a new contract, the A’s were now Macha’s team.
He did not disappoint in that first season. Oakland won the AL West with a 96-66 record, and won the first two games of the ALDS against the Red Sox. It seemed as though the A’s were finally going to get over that postseason hump until Boston’s 3-1 victory in eleven innings in Game Three took all the wind out of their sails. The Red Sox would come all the way back and advance in five games.
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The A’s continued to put up solid performances under Macha in the next two seasons, finishing second both years. However, he and the A’s were unable to agree on a contract following that 2005 campaign, making Macha available for other teams. The Pirates interviewed the former A’s manager, but he eventually returned to Oakland, signing a three year deal.
His return did not last that long. The A’s returned to the postseason again in 2006, taking the AL West with a 93-69 record. Oakland even advanced, sweeping the Twins to reach the ALCS for the first time since 1992. However, after the A’s were swept by the Tigers, Macha was fired even though he was still due over $2 million on his new contract.
Overall, Macha posted a 368-280 record in four years with the A’s, his .568 winning percentage trailing only Dick Williams and Alvin Dark. The A’s also floundered after Macha was unceremoniously dumped; they were unable to finish above .500 in the next five seasons and did not return to the playoffs until 2012.
When one thinks of the great managers in Oakland A’s history, Ken Macha does not often come to mind. As it turns out, he was one of the best managers the franchise ever had.