Oakland Athletics manager Ken Macha was out of a job Wednesday after failing to reach an agreement on a new contract.

“We decided it’s best to part ways at this point,” general manager Billy Beane said on a conference call.

“We offered a three-year deal with a club option and they countered with a three-year deal without a club option,” Beane said. “I don’t think we were ever going to be able to bridge the gap. It was a significant gap.”

Macha led the A’s to the AL West title in his first year as manager in 2003, the club’s fourth straight playoff berth.

But Oakland failed to reach the postseason the past two years despite a 91-win season in 2004 and 88 victories this year.

Macha had said he hoped to return to the A’s, and said late in the season he thought the team would make a quick decision.

“There are no hard feelings whatsoever,” Beane said. “This is part of the business.”

The A’s went 88-74 this season.

, but seemed out of it in May when they had two eight-game losing streaks and finished the month with a 7-20 record. But Oakland rebounded with another strong second half, overcoming injuries to key players such as shortstop Bobby Crosby and No. 2 starter Rich Harden.

Beane met Monday with the 55-year-old Macha, who was still in the Bay Area as of Wednesday and had yet to return home to Pittsburgh for the offseason.

Macha was 276-211 in three seasons with the A’s. He came to the Oakland organization in 1999 following four seasons as a manager in Boston’s farm system. He was promoted from bench coach when Art Howe left for the New York Mets following the 2002 season.

A message left on Macha’s cell phone Wednesday wasn’t immediately returned. A call to his agent, Alan Nero, also wasn’t immediately returned.

Beane said the sides exchanged proposals this past weekend because both parties wanted to come to a resolution quickly, leaving Macha time to explore other managerial openings.

“It’s part of the process. Kenny was a free agent,” Beane said. “Ken’s contract was an outstanding issue. … This whole issue didn’t sneak up on us. It’s disappointing we couldn’t come to a conclusion that was satisfactory.”

Beane hadn’t had a chance to speak to Macha about the decision, but left a message for him. Beane said he would work to form a list of candidates to replace Macha, and didn’t say whether members of the existing A’s coaching staff would be considered.

On Monday, the A’s announced hitting coach Dave Hudgens’ contract would not be renewed.

AP-ES-10-05-05 1640EDT

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