Here are criticisms of Bob Geren, fired Thursday morning as manager of the Oakland A's. These criticisms point directly at Billy Beane. More on Beane below.
In a conference call with reporters, Beane said he fired Geren because it's no good when the focus is on the manager instead of the team. Call this a clever diversion from the truth.
Beane fired Geren because he is not a smart manager -- he may not be a smart man. He famously got confused in interleague play in Chicago and forgot to double switch, or didn't know how, and was stuck with reliever Andrew Bailey leading off the ninth. He had to remove Bailey for a pinch hitter and lost the game 3-2.
When Ken Macha was A's manager, he developed a serious bloody nose and had to leave a game. It was his job to appoint someone to manage. Geren was Macha's bench coach but Macha appointed Rene Lachemann because he saw early what Geren was or was not. Geren has been outed all over the major leagues as a substandard manager and now he has been outed by his own team.
He lost his team this season. Reliever Brian Fuentes said publicly he had "zero" communication with Geren. What does it mean for a good manager to communicate with his players? It means he makes clear what their jobs are and what he expects of them.
Geren did not know the roles and could not communicate them, and that made Fuentes anxious. Players did not trust Geren to do what managers do. He lost the team and could not get it back, and Beane had to fire him. It is unusual to fire a manager in early June. But no one defended Geren. Not one A's player defended him. No one from other organizations defended him. No one.
With the media, Geren was humorless and bland and afraid to take a stand or say anything of consequence. He lacked self-assurance and his briefings were useless. This was a leader?
All of these criticisms of Geren are an indictment of Beane. It is difficult for me to write this. I go way back with Beane and like him very much -- he is overwhelmingly charming, great company, warm, thoughtful. He would be disappointed in me if I were not to tell the truth as I understand it.
Beane said it's bad when the focus is on the manager. Yes, but the focus should be on Beane -- a spotlight. He hired Geren in 2007 when he could have hired Ron Washington, the superior baseball man, a great teacher who had been the A's infield coach. Washington took Texas to the World Series last year.
Hiring Geren over Washington partly defines Beane -- Beane is a complex person and one definition can't come close. He gave the job to an inferior manager and it made you wonder. Did Beane want someone he could manipulate? Was Beane so afraid of a bright, talented, assertive man?
People are defined by their friends -- partly. You see Beane, so dashing, and then you see Geren, unimpressive, pedestrian, ordinary. And you ask, "This is Billy's best friend? Does this tell us who Billy really is?"
Beane assembled the A's. Remember that. He is in charge. It was the usual deal -- great young pitching and nothing else. The infielders can't hit or catch the ball. The A's infield is a major-league disgrace. Beane let it happen, made it happen, just as he let Geren happen. Beane must be accountable for this continuing disappointment, for this dreary team.
Managing partner Lew Wolff must be accountable, too. Reporters call Wolff "Clarence" because he looks like George Bailey's guardian angel in "It's a Wonderful Life." You expect to see Wolff show up at the ballpark in his long johns looking to earn his wings.
He never will earn them at this rate. He is a complainer. He is cheap. He is waiting for a park in San Jose, which may never happen. Until then, he allows -- insists? -- Beane put some sort of product on the field, some sort of team. Just enough to be sort of respectable, never enough to win big. What a shame.
He gladly sticks out his hand and takes the revenue sharing that rich teams give him. He is a beggar even though the A's owners are fabulously wealthy, one of the fattest, richest ownership groups around. He is a taker, always taking. He never gives.
He and Beane and whoever the manager is -- Bob Melvin, nice guy, on an interim basis -- try to fool us that the A's mean business, actually want to contend. Until further notice, that is not true. Call it the big lie.
Near the end of Thursday's conference call, one reporter asked if the A's still can win the division.
"I'm going to get Bob (Melvin) up to speed," Beane replied. "We're going to get through the day. As far as making predictions, it's not the right time to even consider that."
That's quite a call to arms for the fan base. The A's may as well wave the white flag. They always do.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.