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EARLY RETURNS BODE WELL FOR AFFABLE MACHA


EARLY RETURNS BODE WELL FOR AFFABLE MACHA
During the Milwaukee Brewers' season-opening series in San Francisco, first-year manager Ken Macha was little more than an interested spectator.

"He didn't have a chance to manage too much in the first three games," general manager Doug Melvin said.

He did in the fourth.

With the Brewers trailing the Chicago Cubs by a run in the ninth inning Friday, Macha made a double switch, replacing center fielder Mike Cameron with Chris Duffy and hitting Duffy in the pitcher's spot. The move paid off in the bottom of the ninth when Duffy worked closer Kevin Gregg for a one-out walk, igniting Milwaukee's two-run, game-winning rally.

Now, one successful National League-style double switch doesn't make Macha the equal of Joe Torre or Tony La Russa, or even Ned Yost for that matter. However, it does show that the Brewers' new skipper can handle the NL strategy after four seasons of managing in the American League.

Unfortunately, in-game strategy is only one part of a manager's job. And while it is the most visible part to fans, it often is not the most important part.

If Macha is going to be an improvement over Yost, who took the Brewers to the edge of the Promised Land but couldn't get them through the gate before he was fired with 12 games to play last season, he'll have to show he can get the players to buy into his approach and play the right way, put them in the right positions to succeed and maintain a positive tone in the clubhouse.

It is too early to tell if Macha can make a huge difference on the Brewers' bottom line, but after an extended spring training and a handful of regular-season games, everyone is getting a handle on what he's all about. So far, he's receiving good reviews from the constituency that matters most - the players.

Their first impressions are that Macha is a straight shooter, that he communicates well and that he's more personable and less edgy than Yost.

"It all depends on how well guys respond to him and I feel like this whole clubhouse has responded to 'Mach' well," third baseman Bill Hall said. "He just comes up to you and tells you how it is and tells you what your situation is. He had at least three meetings with me during spring training, just letting me know where I sit and what things he thinks I can do better and asking me how I felt, which is important."

The way Hall said that made it seem like three one-on-one meetings with the manager constituted new ground for him. Since Hall's only other big-league manager was Yost, it appears Macha's communication style is a departure from tradition in Milwaukee.

" 'Mach' is a very personable manager," Hall said. "He lets you know everything that's going on. He lets you know what he's feeling. He wants to know what you're feeling. He just has random talks with us all. No matter what it is, like if he feels like you need to sit down for a couple of days and get some rest, then he's coming to tell you the reasons why and it's not just happening just because."

It has been said Macha lost the clubhouse when he managed the Oakland A's, but most believe the real trouble was between Macha and general manager Billy Beane, not Macha and the players. Indeed, Brewers right fielder Corey Hart has been impressed with Macha's low-key manner.

"He's obviously real genuine," Hart said. "He's just not a nervous guy at all. You look at him and he's always calm. As a player, it's nice to know that nothing rattles him and nothing gets to him and he's as even-keeled as they come. That's the way he's been and it's been great."

No one in the Brewers clubhouse will say a bad word about Yost. Most concede he took them a long way. However, his impersonal style clearly wore on the players over time.

It may be that Macha is just a breath of fresh air right now and that he, like Yost, will eventually grow stale. However, most of the players feel he is a manager who will have a positive impact on their record.

"I feel like (a manager) can put guys in the best spots to succeed, whether it be in the lineup or in the rotation," Hart said. "I feel like he's doing what he can and so far we feel like we're in a good spot."


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 14, 2009

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