Ken Macha had what he called an amicable farewell meeting with Brewers general manager Doug Melvin at Miller Park on Monday in which Macha was formally told what he already knew — the team will not bring him back as manager in 2011.
After the 45-minute sit-down, Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash helped Macha load up a rented SUV for the drive home to Pittsburgh.
“I don’t know if that’s a good sign or a bad sign,” Macha joked. “Maybe they wanted me out of town. I thought that was pretty funny.”
Melvin was scheduled to meet with reporters later in the day but he may not be able to offer any news about Macha’s coaching staff. Pitching coach Rick Peterson signed a two-year contract last winter, so he is expected to return. The team could wait until it hires a new field manager before deciding on the other coaches.
The Brewers went 157-167 in their two years under Macha, who was given a two-year contract in October 2008 and had an option year added to his deal at the end of the 2009 season.
“I tried to do what’s right,” Macha said. “I think if you’re sitting there worrying about, ‘What’s this guy going to think?’ it’s not going to work. You come to the ballpark, study what you’ve got there, put out the best lineup and do what you think is the right thing. If you win enough games, then you’re going to be there.”
Macha enjoyed his two years with Melvin, whom he called, “a gentleman.”
“We have similar philosophies about a number of things,” Macha said of his Monday morning chat. “We both know baseball. We’ve been in it a long time and understand. He encouraged me to stay in baseball, said that I know what I’m doing and that if there’s another opportunity, I should do it.”
Macha was particularly touched by a line of “10 or so” players who stopped by the visiting manager’s office at Great American Ball Park following Sunday’s season finale to say goodbye. Among them were pitcher Randy Wolf, the prized free agent pick-up who struggled early in the season, third baseman Casey McGehee, who thanked Macha to giving him a shot to start last spring, and Manny Parra, who thanked Macha for sticking with him.
“I felt good about that,” Macha said. “You hope that you can help people out and get their careers on the right track.”
The subject of Brewers pitching did come up during Macha’s meeting with Melvin. Brewers pitchers ranked next-to-last in the National League with a 4.83 ERA in 2009 and moved up only one spot in 2010 to 4.58. Melvin expressed regret that Doug Davis and LaTroy Hawkins did not work out as free agent signings and conceded the team was “at a deficit,” Macha said, because of that.
If wins and losses were the bottom line, consider that Dusty Baker was 152-172 in his first two seasons managing the Reds. Now he’s celebrating a National League Central title and a contract extension.
So the question at least bears asking: Was it fair to pin the Brewers’ disappointments on the manager?
“There’s a lot of people who don’t necessarily merit getting a promotion or getting fired,” Macha said. “That’s just the nature of this game. Do I think that I merited this? I don’t know. Did I merit getting the job in the beginning? I’m not sure. That’s just how things work out in baseball. That’s the game. That’s the business.
“Look, I want this to be positive as it can be. I enjoyed working for Doug. I got to know him better through this process, and he was great. And I’ve said this a bunch: the people in the City of Milwaukee were tremendous. That’s a tremendous baseball city, and I wish people understood how supportive they are. I don’t understand why more free agents wouldn’t want to come there. You’ve got a packed house every night, and everywhere you go the people were encouraging you. That was tremendous.
“Any time you get into a situation [where you’re let go] you sit back and say, ‘How can I make myself better?’ Sure, there’s a couple of things I would do a little differently. But not a whole lot.”