The greatest compliment you can pay a manager is that you can’t imagine their team performing any better year after year. Unfortunately this can’t be said of A’s manager Bob Geren since his tenure began in 2007, and the trend has carried over into 2011.

Ask any Oakland fan what the top reasons they feel their beloved A’s have failed to compete over the past few seasons and you are bound to hear the same answers: low payrolls which prohibit signing impact players, injuries and game management.

Fortunately for Oakland’s current manager, the first two excuses have earned him a free pass with the team’s front office through his first first four seasons as Oakland’s manager.

Geren became manager in 2007, following an impressive run to the American League Championship Series by his predecessor, Ken Macha. The decision to hire Geren was a controversial decision as many A’s fans felt the position should rightfully belong to long-time third base coach Ron Washington.

Through his first four complete seasons, Geren compiled a record of 307-340, with 2010 being his only non-losing season at 81-81.

A’s fans are aware of the injury situation which has decimated the roster the past four seasons. A lack of depth on the roster gave Geren limited resources with which to work to achieve a record better than his sub .500 mark.

This season was supposed to be different, and if Geren is to retain his post beyond this season, it better be.

The Athletics had the best pitching staff in baseball in 2010, and they have managed to improve in the early part of this season.

The lineup was upgraded over the offseason to support the young pitching and provide them the run-support necessary to improve on their 81-81 mark last year.

The bullpen was strengthened to account for the injury histories of Andrew Bailey, Jerry Blevins, Craig Breslow and Michael Wuertz (Bailey, Blevins and Breslow were all recovering from offseason surgeries).

So far the signings of Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes have paid off with both Bailey and Wuertz spending time on the disabled list.

Overall the roster has the talent and depth to make a run at the division title, the experts all seemed to agree.

So why is the team currently sitting at 9-10, and unable to play with any semblance of consistency?

It’s time for the front office to move past their love-affair with their manager and start to take a deeper look at how Geren’s management of the team has effected their rank in the standings since his tenure began.

A quick look at Geren’s managerial statistics on give you an idea of the impact Bob Geren has had on the Oakland Athletics.

In 2007 the Athletics finished with a 76-86 record. According to the Pythagorean W-L evaluation that Oakland team should have finished with a 79-83 record. Hardly a difference worth firing a manager over—after all the Athletics were not playoff bound in 2007 with their abundance of injuries. Geren was an underachiever by three games though.

In 2008 the team finished with a 75-87 record, and the Pythagorean formula suggests that they should have been one game better with a 76-88 record. Again, Geren likely deserves a pass on this difference due to the injuries that decimated his roster. Unfortunately you can see a pattern forming though.

In 2009 the A’s matched their 2008 record at 75-87. Here is where Geren took a massive nose-dive in team management though; according to Baseball-Reference’s Pythagorean evaluation the A’s should have had a 81-81 record, a difference of six games in the standings.

Last season’s team finished at .500 with a 81-81 record, but again the Pythagorean formula shows underachievement. According to its analysis, the A’s were deserving of a record of 85-77, another four-game disappointment.

So far this season the A’s are 9-10, while the formula suggests they should be 10-9. Add another game to the total.

Simply following that formula, Geren has underachieved by 15 games in his four-plus years as Oakland manager.

What has caused Geren to underachieve to this level though?


Game Management Decisions:

Where the statistic fails to tell the whole story though is that it only determines the amount of wins a team should have based on their total number of runs allowed compared with runs scored.

This does take into consideration injured players, however it fails to take into consideration mismanagement that may have led a high number of runs allowed.

For example, say taking out Grant Balfour in favor of the left-handed Brian Fuentes to face the right-handed power hitter, Miguel Cabrera.

Let’s just pretend that Cabrera then hits a home run to tie a game that the A’s may have otherwise won and the opposing team then goes on to score seven more runs in extra innings to win the game. I know, such an unrealistic scenario, right? Oops, forgot that this actually happened just last week.

In this scenario though, those seven runs mess up the evaluation of the Pythagorean evaluation and don’t credit the A’s with the win they deserved based on their own offensive comeback, and stellar pitching prior to the ninth and tenth innings.

Geren’s tenure is filled with questionable managerial decisions similar to this; need I remind you of the decision to intentionally walk a very ill Justin Morneau last season? That decision wound up costing Oakland the win also.

The current series against the Seattle Mariners illustrated missed opportunities with pinch hitters available. Felix Hernandez was dominant, but the A’s left runners on the bases repeatedly when the bullpen took over for King Felix.

It was unacceptable to have the game end with Hideki Matsui on-deck, having not received an at-bat throughout the 1-0 game.

Further, and I must admit this is the most irking of his tendencies for me personally, are the decisions to sit players after a good performance in the previous game. Last season Geren sat Rajai Davis in a game against Toronto in favor of the newly acquired Conor Jackson. Davis was coming off a 4-5 performance the previous day though, and was deserving of the follow-up start.

This season Daric Barton was victim of the same illogical lineup decision. Barton did enter the game in the late innings and helped spark an A’s win.

It’s called playing the hot-hand Bob, learn it!

The in-game decisions that Geren consistently mismanages have unarguably cost Oakland more games than are represented by Baseball-Reference’s Pythagorean analysis. How many games?

Honestly I did not have the heart to go through game summaries of 4+ seasons to figure this out, I felt it would be too disheartening for me as an A’s fan.

This season though, I can safely say the A’s are at least three wins better than their record suggests.


Player Communication:

There is an argument to be made that the majority of a manager’s job is not seen by the fans on a daily basis.

Fans only witness the game-time decisions, which is an obvious short coming of Geren’s. The more important aspect of the manager’s job is communication and management of players.

We know this was a major shortcoming of Geren’s predecessor, Ken Macha. Following Macha’s dismissal several players spoke out about their discontent with Macha’s communication skills and management of the clubhouse.

We have not heard anything similar to this about Geren. In fact, I would argue that Geren’s optimistic personality lends to an overall strength in his case to remain the manager of a young team in need of positive reinforcement as they learn to play at the Major League level.


Player Handling:

This actually falls into the communication category, but since Geren does one well and the other poorly, I decided to separate them for the purpose of evaluation here.

The manager is responsible for identifying problems with the players on his roster, mechanically as well as mentally. The objective being to get the players to play to their utmost abilities.

The image of the rah rah manager may be a bit cliche, but the message it is meant to send is a manager capable of motivating his team to perform at their best.

Geren fails in this regard. Productive players come to Oakland and fade, only to regain their form when they ultimately depart. Is this due to improper preparation? Is it a result of off-field issues effecting their play?

A good manager is able of controlling his clubhouse and getting his players to compartmentalize well enough to still perform between the lines.

If the player is not capable of this for a period of time, then the manager’s job is to identify another player to handle the position until the regular player fixes their problem.

The current handling of Kevin Kouzmanoff actually shows some progress in Geren’s development in this area. He was willing to step away from Kouzmanoff and allow LaRoche to take over.

Overall though, you have to look at the lack of preparation the defense has displayed this season, as well as the across-the-board regression of the A’s lineup.


Is a change necessary?

From a fan’s perspective, I believe the decision was made long ago that a change is necessary at the manager’s position.

I’m not saying at all that Geren is a bad baseball person, or even a bad coach. I actually think that he makes a good bench coach, and has a place on a coaching staff in Major League Baseball.

I want to be clear that I am also not making any judgements about Bob Geren the man. From everything I have heard about him, and from all accounts from former and current players, Geren is well liked. I have no doubt he is a great person. I am growing tired of watching the A’s underachieve under his reign though.

It is doubtful that Billy Beane would fire the best man from his wedding during the season. He is in the final year of his contract though, and the A’s have not offered him an extension.

In the past they have been quick to defend Geren, so far this season no statements assuring him of his job have been made.

I don’t see Oakland parting ways with him until the end of the season though, no matter how tempting it may be. After all, it is well documented that Beane does not attribute the manager as being too connected to the team’s successes or failures.

I find it hard to ignore the example of the 2009 Colorado Rockies though. Rockies manager Clint Hurdle was fired with his team currently 10 games below .500. His replacement, Jim Tracy, managed to turn the team completely around to 10 games above .500 and a postseason contender.

I often find myself wondering if a different manager would be able to extract better results from the current roster (the rotation is the best in baseball, but the offense is anemic).

We’re only 20 games into the season, giving Geren 142 more games to turn this around and save his job. Nothing short of playoff contention should be enough though for him to return as manager in 2012, and it may take more than that to win back some A’s fans.

This 2011 Oakland Athletics team is talented and deep enough to contend in the American League West this season. Our manager needs to lead the team there, not be a detriment to their success.


Brandon McClintock covers the Oakland Athletics and Major League Baseball for You can follow him on Twitter:   @BMcClintock_BR.

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