Macha agrees to extension with A's

Macha agrees to extension with A's

OAKLAND -- A letter of thanks led to a phone call of thanks, and that phone call led to a stunning development.

Ten days after A's general manager Billy Beane announced that the difference between what manager Ken Macha wanted to be paid to return to the team and what the team was willing to pay was too great to warrant further talks, the club announced on Friday that Macha, 55, has signed a three-year deal to remain as manager through 2008.

And it all started with a letter to Macha from new A's owner Lew Wolff. It arrived on Tuesday, expressing gratitude for the job Macha had done in his three years as Oakland's skipper. Later that night, on the way to his weekly basketball game, Macha decided to express his own gratitude to Beane.

"I decided we'd had enough of a cooling-off period," Macha said of his phone call to Beane.

"It all started with that call," said Beane, who conceded that he was surprised by it. "I think it took a lot for him to pick up that phone. It was probably not an easy call for him to make."

The two talked briefly, with Beane asking Macha if there was anything he could do to help him. They spoke again on Wednesday, and Macha said the conversation "gravitated" to the idea of his return.

"And I was very receptive to that," he added.

Beane, who led interviews of Oakland's top two in-house managerial candidates -- infield coach Ron Washington and bullpen coach Bob Geren -- on Tuesday and Wednesday in Phoenix, conferred with several "high-level" team officials after he spoke with Macha on Wednesday, and the two spoke again on Thursday.

By Friday morning, they had a deal.

"The details really weren't that big of a deal from a contractual standpoint," Beane said. "Just a couple of minor details. ... This is ultimately what we wanted to accomplish at the end of the season."

Financial terms of the deal were not released, but the A's had offered a reported $2.6 million over three years -- with a $1.2 million option for 2009 -- two weeks ago, and the second counteroffer from Macha's agent, Alan Nero, was said to be worth roughly $3 million over the same span.

"There were no negotiations," Macha told MLB.com on Oct. 5, an hour before Beane's announcement. "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."

"At this point, both sides have agreed to pursue other options," Beane said later that day. "We were just too far apart. I don't think we were ever going to be able to bridge the gap. ... When you're so far apart, there's no sense going through the exercise."

The gap, Beane suggested in a conference call with reporters on Friday, was not bridged.

"From our standpoint, we've been completely consistent," he said. "Taking out the option was the only change of significance."

Macha refused to discuss contractual details on his own conference call on Friday afternoon, but when contacted at his suburban Pittsburgh residence Friday morning, he confirmed to MLB.com that "there was a compromise."

In his conference call, however, Macha insisted that he didn't contact Beane in an effort to get his old job back.

"It just kind of came about in the conversation," he said.

Of the acrimonious week following the end of the regular season, Macha essentially said he'd take a mulligan if it were possible.

"Looking back at the whole thing, we'd just had a very emotional season," he explained. "At that point in time, emotions were running high -- on both sides, and then you jump right into negotiations on a new contract. It was probably an ill-advised time to do that.

"It would have been better to say, 'Let's talk about this in a week or so.' "

There has been much speculation that a less-than-ideal working relationship with Macha was part of the reason for the initial split, but Beane, as he did last week, downplayed that angle on Friday.

"I wasn't aware of any personal problems, anyway," he said. "Ken did a great job for us. We've always said that. ... He was a good enough manager for us to want him back before, and he's still a good enough manager to come back."

"We've got an extremely successful situation out there," said Macha, whose teams won the 2003 American League West title and finished second in the division in 2004 and 2005.

The reaction among A's players was best summed up by veteran catcher Jason Kendall.

"It reminds me of a saying you hear players say all the time: 'Just when you think you've seen everything, you see something new,' " he said Friday afternoon. "And I guess this proves that it's true. I just didn't think it filtered into the front office. I thought that was just for on-the-field stuff, but this is definitely a new one for me. I've never heard of anything like it."

"I'm definitely surprised," outfielder Bobby Kielty said shortly after the news broke. "When I heard they couldn't work something out [last week], I figured that was that. But Macha did a good job for us, and he deserves a three-year deal, so I'm happy for him.

"Good for him," rookie outfielder Nick Swisher said of Macha. "I'm glad to have him back."

Kendall, who recently underwent what he called "minor" arthroscopic knee surgery, was in a rehab session when Macha's return was announced. There were 10 messages on his cell phone when he got to it, including three from A's center fielder Mark Kotsay.

"I think everyone had the same reaction," Kendall said. "It's pretty amazing. ... But I'm happy for 'Mach.' He's a good dude, and I think we're gonna have a good team next year."

When the uniqueness of the situation was pointed out to Beane and Macha, both were playful about it.

"We weren't trying to make history here," Beane cracked.

"The Yankees fired Billy Martin and hired him back five days later," Macha told MLB.com. "And look who's coaching the Lakers again this year. This kind of thing has been done before."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.