The ongoing MLB lock-out, and subsequent lack of baseball news, is making it even more difficult to ignore the constant stories about the Covid-19 variant Omicron and everything going to pot here in the UK.
However, the A’s did give us an early Christmas present yesterday by formally announcing the appointment of Mark Kotsay as the team’s new manager.
As I wrote in a previous blog, Kotsay was the front-runner as soon as Bob Melvin’s departure to the Padres was confirmed. He’s been on the A’s coaching staff for the past six seasons and his relationship with BoMel appeared to be one of master and apprentice. It’s now Kotsay’s time to take over the reins.
In theory the situation couldn’t line up better for him when taking on his first MLB managerial job. He knows the organisation inside out, has a strong relationship with the Front Office and already has a good rapport with the players. Taking over from a manager who was in the job for over a decade is never easy, but Kotsay is in a good position to provide some continuity for the players initially whilst putting his own spin on things.
He will also get to learn his trade knowing that he has a very understanding Front Office above him. He will not be judged solely on wins and losses as Billy Beane and David Forst will be acutely aware of the quality of roster they present Kotsay with, if the presumed payroll cut and roster tear-down do take place.
Anticipating a new manager’s style in baseball is a much different task to an appointment at a football club. Kotsay, as with all MLB managers, will work with the players he is given and from there decide on the best approach alongside the Front Office. That isn’t quite as dogmatic as some fans will have you believe. As we saw this past season, although the A’s generally aren’t a team that puts runners in motion all that much, when they have a player who is very good at it, such as Starling Marte, they will let him do what he does best.
The main factor for a manager is what players he is given and how they are performing. Melvin would tend to go with a ‘hot-hand’ approach but, as we saw with the bullpen in 2021, there’s only so much a manager can do if the players aren’t performing whatever you try. As Jose Mourinho once said, “it depends on the quality of the eggs”. Kotsay won’t be judged harshly in 2022 if some of the eggs he is given are only good for throwing at people.
Kotsay did state in his press conference that he thinks the main difference between BoMel and himself is that he is not naturally as stoic and calm as his predecessor. “I may have some emotion that comes across at times — good and bad”, is how Kotsay put it. As with most things, the end result will determine popular opinion on that: win and it is seen as lighting a fire under his team, lose and you’re unable to cope with the pressure.
What we can tell already is that Kotsay will do a good job of representing the team well. That was one of the biggest faults of BoMel’s predecessor Bob Geren, who really didn’t help himself with the way he came across in interviews.
He was on a sticky wicket from the start due to his close friendship with Billy Beane, and perhaps partly that was why he was so defensive in his interactions with the media, but whether a manager likes it or not there is a PR game to be played in terms of creating goodwill. Geren’s record and reputation as a coach with the Dodgers proves that he has many qualities. Maybe he’s someone better suited to that role, or maybe he just made his mistakes with us and would be a better manager second time around?
The same could prove to be the case with Kotsay, but I have a good feeling about the appointment. With so much else going on around the team, he will be able to find his own way and learn a lot in his first couple of seasons. Kotsay’s past as a popular player with the A’s will give him a bit of breathing space from most parts of the fanbase too.
His first press conference immediately showed he understands the importance of keeping everyone on board, especially during what may be a trying couple of seasons. He made it clear that this is not just an opportunity to manage in the Big Leagues, but to manage a team that means a lot to him. He was quoted as saying “I played for seven different teams, seven different organizations, and really this is my organisation that I call home”. That counts for a lot to a fanbase that is still being threatened with their team making a home elsewhere.
Kotsay is “one of our own”, as we like to say here in the UK, and whilst that is no guarantee of success, it’s a good starting point when so many other people seem to revel in running our club down. Add on his credentials as a player and a coach and he may be just the skipper we need right now.
Let’s just hope he has some players to work with come the start of Spring Training.