Macha’s Brewers were five games under before they played the Chicago Cubs amidst a seats-available Wrigley Field scene that couldn’t have been further removed from the electric, surreal environment that enveloped Sept. 15, 2008.
Then, a media horde surrounded the stand-in skipper, Dale Sveum. The Brewers and the Cubs were locked in a mesmerizing playoff race that seemed to blot out the pending fall of an economy and the local pro football team.
But now. . .
Three or four reporters were talking to Macha in the visiting dugout when the topic of his two-year contract was mentioned. “I thought I’d get that question sooner or later,” he said.
Macha signed it last winter without an agent. He’d been a short-timer before, having elected to play out the final year of his 2005 contract in Oakland when A’s general manager Billy Beane offered him a $15,000 raise after Macha had won 187 games in his first two seasons. After some uncomfortable moments between the two, it ended badly a couple of years later.
It’s almost certain Brewers GM Doug Melvin won’t allow Macha to manage as a lame duck. He’ll either extend him or release him with a year’s pay, partly to avoid the awkwardness that occurred in Oakland and partly because that’s the way Melvin operates.
Melvin told me last week that he does not hold Macha responsible for the starting pitching, the injuries or any of the personnel matters that wrecked the season. He also said he would wait until it ends before making a decision.
But if the Brewers decided that Yost could only take a developed team so far, and if they don’t intend to rebuild, as Melvin maintains, it follows that an experienced manager would be given a legitimate chance to run the competitive team the Brewers propose to field next season.
“I signed for two years,” Macha said. “I want to come to work every day and put in the time to help these guys be successful. Whatever is going to happen will happen.”
Like on a number of big-league teams, there is disconnect between some of the players and the manager. Macha admitted as much Tuesday when he said he wished more players would take advantage of his open-door policy.
“That’s just the way it is,” he said. “This is professional baseball. They’re getting paid a lot of money to go out there and perform, regardless of liking or not liking somebody.”
The criticism that Macha is not fiery enough goes to one of sports’ silliest myths. Joe Torre, Chuck Noll and Phil Jackson never pitched a fit, but they won, just as Macha must do commensurate with the talent Melvin must assemble.
Macha earned a pass for juggling inadequate starters since June and filling a Rickie Weeks-less lineup card since May, but not for long in an unforgiving business. Of that you were reminded on a mid-September night when the Brewers and the Cubs were playing a pointless game.
“I am so grateful to Doug, Mark (Attanasio) and Gord (Ash),” Macha said. “I wanted to get back into managing. I want what’s best for the Milwaukee Brewers.”