Wearing a crisp white jersey and an A’s cap over yet another Zoom press conference, Mark Kotsay was introduced as the A’s newest manager on Tuesday.
Replacing longtime manager Bob Melvin after his abrupt departure to manage the San Diego Padres earlier this offseason, Kotsay is one certainty amid one of the most uncertain A’s offseasons this decade.
How the A’s roster may look in 2022 is still a complete mystery, both because of Major League Baseball’s lockout and whispers that Oakland’s ownership may mandate budget cuts to an already bare-bone payroll. But the Kotsay hire brings some light to the dark room.
It also brings Kotsay full circle. Despite less than half of his 24 years in baseball in Oakland, Kotsay always considered the A’s organization home.
Since Billy Beane flipped Terrence Long and Ramón Hernández to the Padres for him in 2004, Kotsay became a staple of the organization. First building a fandom with his rifle arm in center field, his inside-the-park home run in the 2006 ALCS, then returning home nine years later in various coaching jobs with the A’s since 2015. Pogoing around MLB those years in between, Kotsay always stayed close with Beane, David Forst and the rest of the A’s front office mainstays.
The 46-year-old could have leaned on that familiarity while interviewing to be the A’s 31st manager in franchise history, seeking to fill the large shoes of three-time manager of the year Melvin. That he left the friendship at the door helped secure Kotsay the job.
“Mark didn’t take anything for granted in the interview,” Beane said. “He came prepared as you possibly could be despite the fact that he’s known David and I for 20-plus years. That really impressed us.”
“This does feel like it’s a little over 18 years in the making,” Forst said. “Most people wouldn’t guess that he’s only spent four years of his 17 year career with the A’s because he’s always been identified so much with this organization.”
It wasn’t Kotsay’s first interview. Known for a keen coaching eye, preparedness and individualized relationships with players, Kotsay has been cycled through plenty of managerial hire cycles. The Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros were among the teams that interviewed Kotsay over the last few years — none stuck.
All those ‘no thank you’s’ from other clubs taught Kotsay even a familiar interview wouldn’t give him a leg up.
“I knew not to take anything for granted,” Kotsay said. “Relationships are valuable but they aren’t everything.”
The A’s interviewed five others for the position, including A’s hitting coach Darren Bush and Marcus Jensen. Outside the organization, they interviewed Houston Astros bench coach Joe Espada, Boston Red Sox bench coach Will Venable and Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro.
“All five of them, we could have hired all of them. They were all outstanding,” Beane said. “It made the decision very challenging. We had six guys who could manage a major league team.”
Beane has been drawn to his new manager since 1996, when the Florida Marlins snatched him as the ninth pick in the MLB draft’s first round out from under the A’s nose. With the 10th pick, the A’s selected Eric Chavez, an eventual six-time Gold Glove winner who spent 12 seasons in Oakland.
“It all turned out well,” Beane said. “Ultimately that obsession with Mark as a player continued as he made his way through the major leagues.”
Kotsay joins Jeff Newman — the interim manager in 1986 between Jackie Moore and Tony La Russa — as the only managers in Oakland history with no previous managerial experience. But a reputation within the A’s organization not just as a Billy Beane obsession, but a respected coach, precedes him.
He’s spent the last six seasons in the clubhouse, first as a bench coach in 2016, then as quality control coach from 2018 to 2020 before moving to third base coach in 2021. Working alongside Melvin, Kotsay learned about the value of transparency and cultivating individual relationships with players within an organization that can be particularly cutthroat in the name of cost-efficiency.
“He’s awesome,” Chad Pinder said last December. “With him playing for so long and not being that far removed from his playing days, he’s a guy that everyone gravitates toward.
Pinder, a utility player, has struggled with consistency at the plate with inconsistent playing time since his call-up in 2016. Kotsay has been instrumental not only in helping him find a balance, but picking and choosing the right moments to coach him, offer words of encouragement.