Buddy Black’s firing was inevitable and will end up being a good thing for both him and the Padres
This isn’t about the San Diego Padres hiring a better manager because that’s almost certainly not going to happen. This isn’t about getting rid of a guy who did a bad job, either, because Buddy Black didn’t.
In fact, Black will be the frontrunner for every job opening, whether it’s in the dugout or front office. Suddenly, every team growing disenchanted with its manager has an option. Yes, friends, it’s a cold world.
Black served the Padres with professionalism and distinction for 1,362 games. In that time, he established himself among the upper echelon of big league managers even though there were plenty of years when he didn’t have a competitive roster.
In terms of managing people and using a bullpen and getting a competitive, cohesive effort from his club, Black deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Bruce Bochy, Joe Maddon or any of the other top guys. Among baseball people, he’s as respected and as well liked as anyone on the planet.
To know Bud Black is to like him. I first met him when he won 17 games for the Royals in 1984, and in the 31 years since, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone say a bad word about him, professionally or otherwise.
Having said all that, his firing was inevitable.
This is about a new ownership group and a new general manager going out and hiring their own guy. Black apparently came close to being fired last season around the time general manager Josh Byrnes was fired.
Instead, Byrnes got fired and was replaced on an interim basis by A.J. Hinch. During the off-season, Byrnes joined Andrew Friedman’s new front office with the Dodgers.
Hinch departed, too, joining the Astros as manager. At the moment, he’s the easy frontrunner to be the American League Manager of the Year.
The Padres hired A.J. Preller of the Rangers to be their new general manager, and even though he completely overhauled the roster, he didn’t change the manager.
And that was odd.
Some of us figured Preller understood how good a manager he already had. Or maybe he didn’t have a replacement in mind. Whether Preller made the decision to fire Black or if the change was forced upon him by ownership is beside the point. Now all the people in charge of the Padres will find out whether Black was the problem or if it was the roster Preller constructed.
Offensively, the Padres are plenty good enough. Only the Blue Jays, Yankees, Rangers and Diamondbacks have scored more runs.
Everything else is broken. The Padres’ rotation is 18th in ERA despite being first in quality starts (42). Neither Andrew Cashner (2-8, 4.16 ERA) nor Ian Kennedy (3-5, 5.84) have been as good as the Padres hoped they’d be. San Diego has been a poor defensive team as well.
The bottom line is that the Padres are 32-33 after a frantic off-season of change, and given that Black wasn’t hired by the people now in charge, he ultimately was going to pay the price for a slow start. If the Padres take off now with bench coach Dave Roberts in charge, they’ll Black was the problem. On the other hand, if they continue to flounder around .500, there’ll be a message in that, too.
Say this for the Padres. They’ve been consistent: 11-12 in April, 14-15 in May, 7-6 in June.
The NL West is winnable. The Dodgers have spent most of the season in first place despite injuries to the rotation. The Giants have had some very good stretches and some very mediocre ones. The Diamondbacks (30-32) have been better than almost anyone thought possible.
The Padres are six games in the NL West and four out in the NL Wild Card race after losing four of six. Maybe management could see a season slipping away. Maybe they’re hoping a different voice will do the trick. Meanwhile, Black can catch his breath and wait for the job offers to arrive.
About the only thing that’s certain out of all of this is that Buddy Black will manager again in the big leagues if that’s what he chooses to do. Some club will be lucky to get him.