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Murrysville's Macha on the bench again

| Wednesday, April 29, 2009

MILWAUKEE — The day Ken Macha was hired as the Oakland A's manager seven years ago, he remarked, "I am probably going to get only one shot at doing this."

To his luck, he was wrong.

Two years following his unceremonial firing as Oakland's manager, the Gateway High School and Pitt graduate is getting a second chance. This time, it's as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers.

"There is life after baseball," Macha said. "I know that now. ... But there are things I did miss."

Macha posted the second-highest winning percentage in Oakland A's history (.568) but was fired in October 2006 after four years due to what general manager Billy Beane called a "disconnect."

So, for the first time since 1972, Macha was away from the diamond.

Macha, 58, passed his time calling Boston Red Sox games as a TV analyst with weekly trips to New England, playing some golf and building a house in Latrobe with his wife Carol.

Mainly, after two years away from the game, he was lobbying for his next chance.

"I thought if it got to be three years, it was never going to happen again," he said, sitting in the Brewers dugout a couple of hours before Tuesday's game with his hometown Pirates. "So I made an increased effort to make sure people in baseball knew that I wanted to get back in."

Macha had lunch with team presidents, spoke with general managers and traveled to spring training in Arizona, "just to make sure my name was still in the mix."

Finally, last October, general manager Doug Melvin called after the Brewers opened their top spot despite reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1982. A former sixth-round pick of the Pirates, Macha will manage from the opposing dugout in Pittsburgh for the first time when the Brewers swing through PNC Park for a two-game series beginning Monday.

Macha left Oakland with a solid resume. He averaged 92 wins in four years with the A's and never had a losing record in eight years as a manager in the minor leagues (Boston Red Sox farm system) and the majors.

"You feel like you worked your way into a position where you can help an organization out," Macha said. "So you want to do that."

Macha's departure from the A's was rancorous, with reports he had lost touch with his players. Brewers catcher Jason Kendall, who played for Macha in Oakland, said the firing wasn't about player relationships.

"In my mind, he and Billy Beane didn't get along," Kendall said. "No ifs, ands or buts about it. That happened. Go back and look at his track record, and it's pretty damn good."

What about Kendall's quotes in Bay area newspapers saying Macha's dismissal "needed to happen?" The former Pirate said he was taken out of context.

"It was all blown out of proportion," Kendall said. "We have zero problems. There was nothing to (smooth over)."

After a slow start, the Brewers were 5-1 in their past six games entering last night.

"I've got a nice team," Macha said. "A great group of guys, hard-working and a very together group. Low maintenance. A whole bunch of positives."

Macha may need a strong effort. He is only signed through next season after being hired on a two-year contract.

Macha by the numbers

Brewers manager Ken Macha, a Murrysville native, has never won fewer than 88 games in a season as a big-league manager:

Year: Team, Record

2003: Oakland, 96-66

2004: Oakland, 91-71

2005: Oakland, 88-74

2006: Oakland, 93-69

2009*: Milwaukee, 9-10

Totals: 368-280

*-Entering Tuesday night

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