OAKLAND, Calif. – Ken Macha was fired as manager of the Oakland Athletics on Monday, two days after the AL West champions were swept out of the playoffs by Detroit.

Macha had two years left on his contract. The A’s went 368-280 in his four seasons as manager, but have frustrated management and their fans by failing to get into the World Series.

In an odd episode last October, the Athletics parted ways with Macha as their manager – and then rehired him about a week later.

“Not to fault either side, but I felt a disconnect on a lot of levels,” general manager Billy Beane said. “Once again, it’s not to point the finger at Ken or anything like that. But that disconnect was there and it was something we needed to address as soon as possible.”

The Athletics did not announce a replacement, but bench coach Bob Geren is considered a top candidate to be Macha’s successor.

The A’s became the sixth major league team to let its manager go since the final days of the season. Dusty Baker (Chicago Cubs), Joe Girardi (Florida), Felipe Alou (San Francisco), Frank Robinson (Washington) and Buck Showalter (Texas) are not coming back next year.

To manage the A’s, taking a back seat to Beane is an understood requirement. In the best-selling book “Moneyball,” an in-depth look at Beane’s management style and reliance on statistics, the job comes across as practically interchangeable and not worthy of the big dollars that other teams pay their managers. Macha made $800,000 this year and was still owed $2.025 million. He was due to make $875,000 in 2007 and $1.15 million in ’08.

A call to Macha’s cell phone was not immediately returned Monday.

Oakland won the West with a 93-69 record this year. After sweeping Minnesota in three games in the first round of the playoffs, the A’s were eliminated by the Tigers in four straight in the AL championship series.

During Oakland’s injury-plagued season, Macha referred to some players with long stints on the disabled list – such as star right-hander Rich Harden and lefty reliever Joe Kennedy – as nonentities because they weren’t really part of the team at the time.

That didn’t always sit well with players. Macha believed in leaving his players be, staying out of the way and letting them play. Yet that sometimes led to a lack of communication.

“Mach’s a good guy,” Harden said Monday. “I hope he ends up somewhere and gets a job.”

First baseman Nick Swisher heard the news when he arrived at the Coliseum to clean out his locker. Macha met briefly with Beane on Monday morning.

“It happens,” Swisher said. “As a team and as players, we move on. You just hope he ends up finding another job somewhere.”

The 56-year-old Macha went through a topsy-turvy time last October, too, during which he briefly was out as manager.

Right after missing the postseason for a second straight season in 2005, the A’s failed to reach agreement with Macha on a new deal. The A’s cut ties with him and Beane announced there would be no further negotiations.

At the time, Macha called it one of the “massive disappointments” during his seven years in the organization. The A’s interviewed other candidates for the job and Macha talked to Pittsburgh about its managerial vacancy. But about a week after the sides split, the A’s rehired Macha and gave him a three-year contract.

Cubs hire Piniella

CHICAGO – Lou Piniella’s coming to Wrigley Field, agreeing Monday to a three-year contract to manage the Chicago Cubs and accepting a job that has long been one of the most challenging in baseball. His assignment: Get to the playoffs and win a championship with a franchise that hasn’t been to a World Series since 1945 and hasn’t won one since 1908.

“I feel terrific about Lou. I think he’s a tremendous baseball man and a proven winner from the beginning of his career,” Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Monday.

“I think he’s absolutely the perfect choice as we move forward.”

Piniella, who will be introduced Tuesday at a news conference, has a deal that is worth about $10 million.

“I’m basically a blue-collar-type manager that believes in a good work ethic, preparation and a desire to win a baseball game,” Piniella told the Chicago Sun-Times over the weekend in Detroit where he worked the ALCS for Fox TV.

Piniella replaces Dusty Baker, another veteran manager with a strong resume, who left after four years when his contract was not renewed following a 66-96 last-place finish.

in the NL.

Piniella has 19 years’ experience managing in the big leagues with four teams – the Yankees, Reds, Mariners and Devil Rays – and said his work in TV and a year away from the dugout on a daily basis refreshed him.


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