OAKLAND — Ken Macha will not return as Oakland Athletics manager, a decision announced by the club early Wednesday afternoon after General Manager Billy Beane concluded the gap in contract negotiations was too wide.

The A's offered a three-year, $2.625 million contract to Macha with a team option for a fourth year. Macha made

$600,000 in the final year of his previous three-year contract.

Macha's agent, Alan Nero, made a three-year counteroffer Tuesday for about $4 million. Macha was willing to return for$3 million, but there was never any back-and-forth discussion.

Beane said there was a "significant gap" in offers.

"It was so far apart that it's best to part ways at this point," Beane said. "There's no sense of going through the exercise. We were never going to be able to bridge the gap."

With a big sigh, Nero said the negotiations went so quickly, it was hard to tell what really happened.

"It's just the right time for everyone to go their own separate way," Nero said. "It's an amicable separation. It's a sad day for Kenny and the fans and players. I think we had all hoped that this would work out, but it didn't. It's time to move on."

Under Macha, the A's were 275-211 (.566), winning the American League West in 2003 and finishing in second place in 2004 and 2005.

"I view this as an opportunity and nothing else," Macha said. "I feel there may be some opportunities out there, and there may not. ...


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That's a whole lot of money to pass up. If it were about the money, I wouldn't have passed that up.

"I know what the truth is, but I'm going to respect the Oakland A's and my privacy. I'm disappointed, but I've been here seven years. There have been some massive disappointments. I can also look at the things that happened here positively."

Beane and Macha had many disagreements during Macha's tenure as manager.

They had a couple of heated blowups this year in May, during the team's darkest moments of the season. Beane told Macha after one game, "You lost this game" for a pitching change he didn't make. An exasperated Macha told him on another occasion, "If you're going to fire me, fire me now."

Those post-game conversations wore on Macha, in particular Beane's questioning of the manager's strategy immediately after games. Macha was rarely in the loop on personnel decisions.

But Beane said there were no other issues involved in the separation besides money.

"They have a belief on what their value is," Beane said. "It comes down to do you really want to stay in Oakland? There's challenges here (in Oakland). Either you do or don't. In many cases, they come down to compensation. We felt we were being fair."

The $875,000 average annual salary offered to Macha is below what Houston's Phil Garner, Texas' Buck Showalter and San Diego's Bruce Bochy made last year.

Beane refused to get into specifics on who would be the new manager or what qualifications he was seeking.

Beane did say he anticipates significant interest in the job, like any other major league managing job, pointing out that former managers Art Howe and Macha were better off professionally and financially when they left than when they arrived in the organization.

"It's a credit to their talent and a lot of people in the organization, including the players," Beane said. "It's always about the players."

The popular media speculation is that bullpen coach Bob Geren, who knows Beane dating back to their teenage years growing up in San Diego, is Beane's first choice.

"I thought Ken was coming back," Geren said Wednesday from his Arizona home. "This is all news to me. I haven't had time to let it sink in. I don't know what to say."

Geren leaves in six days to manage a winter league team in the Dominican Republic.

Infielders coach Ron Washington heard the news on the radio while driving home to Louisiana.

"The Oakland A's will continue to thrive no matter who manages," Washington said. "It's the same way with managers, the same way with coaches and the same way with players. We change, but the A's keep going on."

Washington has another year on his two-year contract. He has made no secret his desire to manage in the major leagues, and A's players have lobbied for him to get a managing chance somewhere.

"Of course, I'm interested in the job," Washington said. "I feel sorry for what happened. We were going in the right direction. They couldn't get together on the numbers. Mach will find himself a job. That's baseball. Nothing you can do about it."

As of Tuesday, the Pirates were leaning toward hiring former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Jim Tracy. But that changes now, as the Pirates consider Macha, who grew up in Pittsburgh and was originally drafted by the Pirates in the sixth round of the 1972 draft.

"It seems to be a fit," Macha said. "We won here with young kids. That's an interesting concept these days."

Nero said he hadn't spoken to other teams during the negotiations with the A's but was now going to be aggressive for his client. There was one report that Nero spoke to the Florida Marlins and Pirates before Wednesday ended.

The Pirates were cautious to talk about Macha because of tampering rules, but Beane said he would not stand in the way of anybody talking to Macha before his contract officially expires Oct. 31.

Macha has told friends he is more interested in the Marlins job because it can be a hassle managing in a hometown, but he was intrigued by both jobs.

"If you are going to leave, you always like to leave it better than you came, and that's certainly the situation here," Macha said. "It's a great young team. Whoever gets this job is going to have a turnkey operation."