Before Spring Training this year, the A's offered Macha, who made $620,000 in the final year of his deal, a two-year extension that would have paid him $680,000 in 2005 and $700,000 in 2006. The deal included a 10-percent club buyout for the second year, however, meaning Oakland could have paid Macha $70,000 to terminate the contract, so Macha declined, and the sides agree to revisit negotiations after the season.
Beane on Sunday presented Macha's agent, Alan Nero, with a new deal worth $2.6 million over three years, with a $1.2 million option for a fourth year. Nero on Monday countered with an offer asking for $4 million over three years. Beane balked, and Nero on Wednesday presented a second counter worth $3.1 million over three years.
Again Beane balked, so the A's will open 2006 with their third manager in five years. Art Howe, for whom Macha served as bench coach for four years, was released from his contract after the 2002 season so he could sign a far more lucrative deal with the New York Mets.
"There were no negotiations," said Macha, whose teams won the 2003 American League West title and finished second in the division in 2004 and 2005. "Their offer was basically a take-it-or-leave-it deal, so that's that. ... Billy said he wasn't budging from his first offer."
Beane said he responded "verbally" to both proposals from Nero but did not offer another package in an effort to find middle ground.
"When you're so far apart, there's no sense going through the exercise," he said. "We had different opinions as to what the compensation would be."
"We weren't looking to break the bank here," Macha said. "Alan looked at what some other guys out there were making and came up with something we thought was fair."
Two contracts that might have been used in the comparison process were those of Lloyd McClendon and Phil Garner. McLendon, fired last month at the end of his fifth consecutive losing season with Pittsburgh, made $800,000 in 2005. Garner, hired by the Astros last year after nine consecutive losing seasons with Milwaukee and Detroit, made $1.2 million this year and is scheduled to make $1.3 million in 2006.
"It's disappointing that we couldn't bring it to a conclusion that's satisfactory to both sides," Beane said. "In a situation like this, you never know. ... This is part of the business."
Asked if he'd have been willing to counter Nero's proposals if the gap hasn't been so wide, Beane said, "It's moot at this point to speculate, so there's no reason to say, 'What if?'"
It's no secret that Beane occasionally clashed with Howe and Macha over personnel and general baseball philosophy, but Macha and Beane both characterized a two-hour meeting between the two as "productive," and Beane suggested that their working relationship wasn't an issue.
"It seemed to work pretty well for three years," he said. "That certainly didn't come up in the negotiations. This was strictly an issue of compensation. I thought Ken did a good job. ... Art did a spectacular job, Kenny followed up, and it was a fairly seamless transition."
Macha told MLB.com he "had a feeling" that his departure might be the ultimate conclusion to the contract talks and was prepared for managerial free agency. Currently, there are openings in Florida, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. That doesn't include Baltimore, which hasn't decided on interim manager Sam Perlozzo's status, and Washington, where Frank Robinson's future could be affected by a change in ownership.
Any team interested in interviewing Macha before Oct. 31 will have to ask the A's for permission.
"My guess is, given the fact he's had some success here, he'll have some opportunities," Beane said of Macha. "We don't want to do anything to inhibit his ability [to explore those opportunities. We wish him well."
"Who knows?" Macha said. "You might be calling to congratulate me [on a new job] in two weeks. I'm sure everything will work out just fine."
Oakland's search for a new manager will begin immediately, but Beane wasn't ready to discuss it in detail Wednesday other than to say that he'll be looking within and outside the organization.
"I think that's probably a better question for later on," he said. "From a logistical standpoint, we will start to put that list [of candidates] together. ... We'll make sure we get the best person for the job. There's no sense of urgency. We do want to be thorough."
Beane also said he didn't think the departures of Howe and Macha would sour any potential candidates on working in Oakland.
"Most of the people who come here leave here in a better position," he said of his managerial hires as the GM. "We're 2-for-2 so far."
Among the internal candidates figures to be infield coach Ron Washington, who interviewed for the position after Howe left. Washington, though, is a candidate for the Tampa Bay job, and he's said that he's intrigued by it. Another name that's been bandied about for months regarding a potential opening in Oakland is that of Bob Geren, a close personal friend of Beane who has managed at Triple-A and was Macha's bullpen coach this season.