Macha's Worst Move of 2006
I don't know if any of you saw Neil Hayes' fluff piece on Macha from the Contra Costa Times this morning. It tries, but fails, to paint Macha in a good light. While Macha is recounting just how hard the guys played last year, Hayes neglects to mention that all that hard work would have paid off had the A's had ANY OTHER FUCKING MANAGER!!! Macha cost us the division, last year, plain and simple. And don't give me that injury shit, either. The Yankees, Braves, and Angels all had extensive injuries last year, but when they had to endure starts from their Seth Etherton's and Ryan Glynn's, those managers knew when to take them out. Macha....well...didn't.
Anyway, so that got me to thinking. In light of the fact that Hayes' article was designed to sway public opinion regarding him, it only seems fair that the other side gets a voice in the debate. So I was wondering: What was the single worst move Macha made last season? Now, I know that trying to pick out Macha's worst move in a season that consisted of nothing but terrible moves is like looking for a specific grain of sand in the Sahara desert, but I have attempted to wade through all the shit, and select what I believe to be Macha's shining moment of stupidity in 2005. Was it Yabu in the Tenth? Leaving Zito in to face Belliard? Leaving Glynn in to face Beltran? Was it his year long fixation with the most inefficient lineup he could come up with? All terrible moves to be sure, and all costly to the team, but, at least in my opinion, Macha's worst move of the season came on September 16, in Boston. Yes, this was the Yabu in the Tenth game, but Macha lost this game for us six innings before that, in the top of the 4th. Let's recap the situation, shall we?
In the previous 7 games, the A's had grounded into 15 double plays. That's an average of more than two per game, for an entire week. They had grounded into a then AL-leading 139 double plays on the season. Scott Hatteberg had grounded into 22 himself, and his OPS' the last three months had been .672, .633, and .548. Scott Hatteberg was, in no uncertain terms, the least valuable player in the American League last season.
Pitching for Boston was knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. As you might expect with a knuckleballer, 82.4% of baserunners were successful stealing bases against him last year. The knuckleball is a pitch that travels 65 miles per hour, and catcher's have a difficult time handling. It's basically an invitation to steal a bag.
In that 4th inning, 4 of the 5 batters had gotten base hits, including a double by Mark Ellis. A 1-0 deficit had turned into a 2-1 lead. With Jay Payton at first, and Eric Chavez at third, up to the plate stepped Scott Hatteberg. Hatteberg had been a GIDP machine the last week. In fact, he had grounded out to the infield seven times in the last 3 games, resulting in two double plays, and another where he reached because the throw pulled the Cleveland first baseman off the bag. Quite simply, there was only one person in the universe that didn't know that Hatteberg was going to hit a grounder on the infield, and unfortunately that one person was Ken Macha.
So while I don't need to tell you what happened here, I will anyway. While Jay Payton was certainly no basestealer, he is a fairly fast runner, and should have been sent. With Wakefield pitching and Mirabelli catching, there is almost no chance you will be thrown out. "Ok," I told myself before that at-bat. "Not even Macha is dumb enough to let this inning end with Hatte's predictable double play, right? I mean, he was dumb enough not to put Melhuse in Hatte's stead in the first place, and had been dumb enough not to do that all season, but surely, he would send Payton here, right?"
The first pitch came in from Wakefield, and Hatteberg fouled it off. Payton wasn't running. The second offering from Wakefield was high, and Hatte watched it go by to even up the count at 1-1. Again, Payton failed to take second. "What the fuck is Macha doing?" I yelled loudly. "He's not going to send him, is he?" Wakefield wound up to throw his third pitch to Hatteberg, and again Payton remained chained to first base. Wakefield's knuckler didn't dance. It was flat, it had spin, and it was heading right for the middle of the plate. Hatteberg's eyes opened wide, he cocked back his right shoulder, and took a mighty swing.....
....and hit a weak grounder to second base.
Graffanino fielded it, flipped to Renteria at second for one out, and then back to first base for the inning ending double play. The A's would not score again, and would later lose when Yabu hit Manny with the bases loaded in the 10th.
Now, you might be wondering why I selected this moment as Macha's single worst move of the year. Well, I selected it for many reasons. But basically, it was the perfect storm of ineptitude. So many factors had to come together in this instance that allowed Macha to fuck everything up so badly, and fuck it up he did. To wit:
1) It required Macha to ignore the previous 2.5 months of Hatteberg's performances, and put him in the lineup, instead of the much superior hitter in Melhuse, AGAIN.
2) It required Macha to completely ignore recent history, which had found the A's grounding into 14 double plays over the previous four games.
3) It required Macha to be completely unaware of his opponent, as Wakefield's slow knuckler is simply unable to prevent base stealing.
4) And last, but not least, it required Macha to once again freeze when a situation required for his brainwaves to fire.
You see, those other moves, like bringing in Yabu instead of Street, or leaving Zito out to get killed, were merely awful moves that everybody could tell were awful before they happened or didn't happen. But they were just singular moves. They didn't require Macha to have paid attention the last week, or for him to know what was going on. They merely required Macha to be able to look up and see that his pitcher was struggling, or that maybe bringing in your best pitcher instead of the scrub with the game on the line might be a heady maneuver. But with this double play, so many factors were involved, and each had to go perfectly in order for Macha to fuck it up so badly. It was like a Rube Goldberg machine of retardation. If it were a board game, it would be called Moron Mousetrap. If one thing doesn't happen, the machine fails, and Hatte doesn't hit into that double play. If Melhuse were in the lineup like he should have been, no double play. If Macha had been paying attention at any point that season, no double play. If Macha knew his opponent, no double play. And of course, if Macha had put all these variables together and sent Payton, no double play.
You see, with so many things, people merely see the finished product. You don't see the millions of parts that went into it, you just see a spaceship. When you look at another human being, you don't see neutrons smashing together, primordial sludge, single cells, multiple cells, invertebrates, or New World monkeys; you just see another human. But it takes a special ingenuity of reverse engineering to break something down like Macha's non-move here to show you how he had to be a moron on about four different levels to lose this game for us. This was the Peter Principle gone haywire. Macha should have been kicked out of baseball before he achieved the rank of bat boy, but somehow became a manager. And with each new promotion, he evolved a new set of special retardation skills. And each new set was put into in-action here. It was an awesome display of idiocy, the likes of which we may never see again until April 3rd. But for one night, it was perfect. It was all perfect.
And on September 16, 2005, in a 3-2 loss to the RedSox in ten innings, everything came together perfectly for Macha. Every stupid inclination, every game day nap, every inability to adapt came to the forefront, and Jay Payton was left at first base while Scott Hatteberg grounded into a double play.
It was, in no uncertain terms, Macha's worst move of the season.