Gather around kids (and adults). It's time for a much-needed lesson in human interaction.
Today's topic? Common decency.
It's an antiquated concept, clearly, as the pink slips delivered by the A's to three of their coaches last Saturday shows. But it shouldn't be. Not when it takes so little effort and a tiny bit of empathy to carry out.
Unfortunately, the A's proved themselves devoid of both. And don't think for a moment that folks around baseball -- including some inside their own clubhouse -- haven't taken notice.
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The problem isn't so much that the A's decided to part ways with bullpen coach Brad Fischer, third-base coach Rene Lachemann and bench coach Bob Schaefer. As the team's manager, Bob Geren has the right to choose his own staff, and after years of being criticized for giving their skippers less than full autonomy, it's unfair to knock A's management for easing their restrictions.
No, the issue is with how it was done.
Fischer, 51, had given the A's 29 years of loyal service, first as a minor-league player, then as minor-league manager, instructor, assistant director of player development and major-league coach.
Lachemann, 62, has been part of the organization for parts of five decades, both as a player and coach. Yet, each of them received the news the same way as Schaefer, a man who in his one year in Oakland often looked as enthused as a guy about to clean out his garage.
A two-minute phone call out of the blue, telling them essentially, thanks for the memories.
This, ladies and gentlemen, should outrage you.
Here's why: All of us who have worked for a living have made sacrifices we didn't want to make, swallowed words we'd like to say and engaged in politics we'd rather not play, because that's part of the deal if we want to get paid.
But what we'd really like, at the end of the day, is a sense that our effort has been appreciated. It may seem like a small thing, but in reality, it's really the biggest thing. To be left without it is to endure a vicious kick to the stomach.
Just ask Fischer, who three days after the termination, said it would not be in his best interests to discuss things but not before adding, "I'm still trying to regain my wind."
Now, some of you may wonder -- yes, we see those hands raised -- what does this have to do with winning baseball games? Fair question, and here's your answer.
In baseball, as in other businesses, people talk, and with each less-than-flattering thing that's said about an organization, the less likely it becomes that the most talented individuals will want to work for it. And while that may not mean much in the present -- nobody is questioning the talent of the A's front office and talent developers -- things can change quickly.
So Fischer and Lachemann were reminded.
Some may wonder what other choice the A's had. Boarding a plane and making stops in Wisconsin, Arizona and Florida, the respective homes of the Tomahawked Three, would've been as impractical as it was inconvenient. And flying out the three to deliver the news in person could be deemed as cruel as the method used.
But there was a decent way to do this -- decent being the operative word because job changes are, by definition, ugly -- and, at least in the cases of Fischer and Lachemann, the A's should be ashamed that they didn't employ it. The three deserved some warning, perhaps a word on Sept. 20 -- when the A's were reduced, in effect, to playing exhibition games -- that a change might be in the offing.
If the three then opted to go home early, fine; there is no shortage of minor-league coaches and managers who could've filled their spot for 10 days. If not, then they deserved the proverbial dinner and gold watch. It may not have made the news any better, but it would've been a classy gesture.
More to the point, it would've been good business. The A's should start paying attention to that part of the game, because moves like this -- just like decisions to keep a future Hall of Famer on the disabled list longer than necessary (see Mike Piazza) and trying to rush a starting pitcher back so he can toss out of the bullpen (see Rich Harden) -- make for a scouting report that's less than glowing.
Talented baseball minds, it reads, needing an elementary course in common decency.