If you’re an A’s fan you’ve probably already read the post-game quotes from closer Brian Fuentes tearing into manager Bob Geren.
To say the least, Fuentes isn’t Geren’s biggest fan and I’m sure the feeling is mutual now that Fuentes has gone public with his gripe. Things are getting ugly fast in Oakland.
In the battle of crappy relief pitcher vs even crappier manager no one is really going to come out a winner unless general manager Billy Beane wakes up and fires Geren. Of course, he never should have hired Geren in the first place but that’s a whole other story.
Here are my quick thoughts on this mess as I work my way through a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal:
* Bad move dude, bad move. As much as I can’t stand Geren I also hate seeing this kind of thing play out in the press. Dirty laundry should be kept behind closed doors and the entire organization looks bad when internal problems like this see the light of day.
* Shut up and pitch better. Winning cures everything and Fuentes hasn’t been doing his part to make that happen. As Dennis Eckersley said on 95.7 FM today, “He makes a ton of money, and he’s not the greatest closer in the universe. So zip it.” Andrew Bailey can’t come off the disabled list soon enough.
* I could be wrong, but I don’t think Fuentes is going anywhere. The A’s won’t cut him and eat his 2-year contract and no one is going to trade for a pricey malcontent who isn’t pitching well.
* The only way I can cut Fuentes some slack is by assuming that he’s actually speaking for the silent, frustrated majority in the clubhouse and trying to step up as a veteran leader on a team that doesn’t seem to have any strong personalities. I bet if you spoke to most of the players off the record about Geren they’d probably rip the guy. Even if they didn’t tear into the skipper I’m sure most of them wouldn’t have any high praise for the man.
For young players who have never played anywhere else they probably think this is just how an MLB team is run but for guys like Fuentes who have played for established managers on winning teams, I’m sure following a clueless dolt like Geren into battle is more than they can handle.
* As much as I disapprove of Fuentes crying to the press about the way he’s being used, I love that this situation throws egg on Geren’s face and might push him one step closer to the unemployment line. I know that’s not very cool but I’m just mean like that. Geren hasn’t done anything to earn 1 ounce of my loyalty as a fan.
* You’ve finally been fully exposed as an incompetent leader of men Bobo. A manager who can’t control his own clubhouse and gain the respect of his players can’t win in the big leagues.
* A good manager puts his players in a position to succeed and at this point Geren isn’t doing that with Fuentes. Geren should have figured out by now that Fuentes just isn’t that good of a pitcher and he’s not comfortable or effective pitching in non-save situations.
* OK, I’ll throw Geren a bone here: He didn’t put this imperfect roster together, he’s just trying to win with the shoddy hand he’s been dealt. Asking Fuentes to pitch in a tie ballgame shouldn’t be a big deal and, in an odd way, it’s actually a compliment to Fuentes. Making the bizarre move of running Fuentes into the ground and regularly putting him in a position to fail is Geren’s way of saying, “You’re my best relief pitcher and I’m putting our season in your hands.”
* Are you even paying attention to baseball anymore Billy? Turn off whatever soccer game you’re watching and shake up your baseball team. You’re the general manager of the Oakland A’s, isn’t that your job?
* One of the main reasons Beane cited when he fired Ken Macha several years ago was that he didn’t communicate with his players and he had lost the clubhouse. With that precedent in place, isn’t it time to finally dump Geren?
* Everyone else in this post got a cut’em-some-slack bullet, so here’s yours: What can you really do with this team? Is bench coach Joel Skinner really going to inspire the players, show himself to be a master tactician and spark a playoff run? Probably not. Is there any immediate help in the farm system to ignite the offense? Nope (but that’s your fault). You tried to get Lance Berkman and Adrian Beltre in the offseason and ended up with Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui and they’re playing like … well … Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui. The team can’t really be this bad, right? For the most part I think the A’s just have to ride this out.
The A’s are only 3 games out of first place but they’re also in last place and if you put me in a corner and force me to give you a straight answer I have to admit that they feel like a last place club. They don’t look like I team in a strong position to go on a run and turn a 3 game deficit into a 3 game lead in a week or so.
A lot of that has to do with the roster Beane assembled. A lot of that has to do with Fuentes’ pitching. And a lot of it has to do with Geren’s managing.
The quickest fix is to show Geren the door and see if a new manager can be the breath of fresh air the A’s need to salvage their season but I just don’t see that happening right now.
My gut feeling is we’ll see Fuentes get fined/suspended and make a public apology. When he comes back he’ll be relegated to being used as the second left hander in the bullpen and Geren will get a little more time to right the ship.
If the A’s are still struggling around the All-Star Break it’d be the perfect time to fire Geren without letting it look like the inmates are running the asylum.
It’s either that or throw Fuentes and Geren into the Thunderdome …
[UPDATE: Twitter is abuzz with news that Fuentes and Geren have kissed and made up. Beane reportedly is also pretty chilled out about the situation. So much for my speculation that Fuentes would get slapped on the wrist. I guess public humiliation is more than enough. But I’m sticking to my guns that Geren should get canned if the A’s are still a lifeless club hovering around .500 at the break]