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Enough is Enough, Fire Bud Black 

Bud Black

The fans of San Diego deserve something more than a few nice guys that don’t mind losing. Despite all the ass-kissing that goes on between local media and Padres manager Bud Black one thing remains… He’s not getting the job done. This isn’t a post about how great Buddy is, or how all the losing isn’t his fault, or how the front office can’t bring in talent, or how he has had nothing to work with. This blog post is about accountability. Although you can’t blame everything on a manager, when you’ve had three General Managers, plenty of roster turnover, and one constant, ignoring the constant is irrational.

Like most people I also think Black is a great guy. He always answers questions, and he has local ties. Everything a media person could want in a figurehead of a major sports team in your city. Unlike most people I care much more about the team making the playoffs than having a nice guy turn in the lineup card on a regular basis. If we can put that aside for the next few minutes, let’s be objective. Black’s reign as the Padres manager as well as his relationship with the team and media are eerily similar to Norv Turner’s stay at Chargers Park, with one exception… Turner’s teams tasted the post-season.

In 2007, the Padres were coming off two consecutive seasons of making the playoffs and the brass decided that Bruce Bochy could move up the street to the San Francisco Giants. Buddy Black was a hot managerial candidate after working with Mike Scioscia as a pitching coach for the Angels. Black took over a veteran laden team that was able to force a play-in game with the Rockies before falling short of the playoffs.

The Padres rewarded Black’s efforts and gave him the highest payroll in team history the next season. That team lost 99 games. Then the wheels fell off with ownership and in the clubhouse, the roster turnover had begun. I won’t bore you with the details of how we got to the point, if you follow me on twitter @Steve_Adler or listened to my radio show (Steve Adler show on XTRA Sports 1360) in the past, you know that I’ve been telling fans for years Black needs to go. He’s not the right fit for this organization. With a record of 561-622 and not one playoff berth in seven seasons, something has to give.

Before feeble attempts are made to defend Black, I figured I would go ahead and answer the most common excuses up front.

  • Black doesn’t have the talent to win

NEWS FLASH: If you think Black needs to have a roster like the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, etc to win, it’s never going to happen in San Diego. I will say that Black inherited a talented roster in 2007 (baseball parity was also much different back then) and lost. He’s had young players, and lost. He’s had a mix of young guys, and savvy vets, and lost. You get the picture.

  • The offense isn’t his fault

Of course it’s not all his fault, but baseball players are creatures of habit/routine. When a manager (former starting pitcher) doesn’t allow these position players to ever find a routine how can you expect them to perform at the highest level. During the eight seasons as skipper, Black has not been able to develop one consistent position player. Not one.

  • He just needs more time

How many free passes can you give a guy that routinely is below average at his job? Two of seven winning seasons. I realize that he’s had three owners, and three general managers, but as a lifelong Padres fan and season ticket holder, how long must I and others fund this experiment?

  • He’s a great baseball mind

This is debatable. Very debatable. We all know this team has trouble scoring runs, but giving away outs trying to manufacture “A” run, isn’t exactly the best way to do it. How many times do we see poor bunting attempts that result in a player trying to swing with two strikes, failed bunt attempts, middle of the order hitters trying to bunt? Too often. Black blew out the pen himself last season with the short leash mentality and presently, it’s on the verge of falling apart the way he’s trying to handle the loss of Cashner, and now Erlin in the rotation.

  • Players love him in the clubhouse

Players loved Norv Turner as well. Why? Because he’s a cool boss that lets you get away with things. From a person that has spoken with a lot of former Padres I can say this. Black runs a country club-house. Players have outlined how he plays favorites, how the team lacks accountability, and direction internally. Black likes to let his vets lead, but when you give him a vet or two such as Adrian Gonzalez, Orlando Hudson, and Carlos Quentin it’s no wonder the team has issues. Give him the Dodgers, Black wins 100 games, because he’s great at massaging egos and keeping vets happy.

  • Injuries aren’t his fault

Josh Johnson, Andrew Cashner, Robbie Erlin. Cory Luebke, Casey Kelly, Joe Wieland. Injuries are part of the game, they happen to every team, but when they happen at the major league level at this rate, something has to give. Perhaps it’s the medical team, perhaps it’s the trainers (often praised), perhaps it’s the way guys are handled, used, over-used. This is one of those things you can’t pin on someone. I would blame Quentin solely on Byrnes, but the way Black handles him with kid gloves is on the manager. Letting Luebke, Wieland, and now Cashner pitch with discomfort in their arms, that’s on Black. This is one of those built in excuses. You can’t deny it, but you also can’t use it over and over. At a certain point you have to admit guys get hurt in this game and move forward.

(I do reserve the right to update this list if/when necessary. )

For those that say it’s not Black’s fault, especially media people. You are lazy. Do some work, make some calls, if you have a half decent relationship with former players (often younger players), you’ll get confirmation that the issues are much deeper than bunting, changing the lineup, and pulling a pitcher in the fourth inning.

If you love Buddy, then set him free. He’s not going to win with the talent he gets in San Diego. He won’t have any trouble finding a job. You can’t honestly tell me that the Phillies, Cubs, Tigers, and/or Mariners would have passed over Black last year. All much better jobs long-term than the Padres gig. That’s not a shot at the Padres, it’s more a shot at what Bud Selig has done to baseball.

Why fire Bud Black?
Here’s the short version. In my opinion, the way he manages the position players makes it harder for them to succeed. Playing matchups is one thing, not letting a guy get into or stay in a rhythm is another.

The way he manages young position players is maddening – Baseball is a mental game, this entire “get your first AB as a pinch-hitter” is terrible and plain stupid. Darnell, Forsythe, Tekotte, Decker, Fuentes, and now Peterson handled with reckless abandon, sent back to AAA with their heads spinning. Is it too much to ask to just let a guy start for a week or two and let him make mistakes?

The way he manages young arms – Starters converted to pen arms, so they can learn. Learn what? They are in the pen! I realize it worked with Luebke, but most of these guys should be pitching every fifth day at the highest level possible to learn how to go through a lineup 2-3 times. And when they do bring up a pen arm he’s either exiled after a bad outing or he’s over-used and hits the DL.

Accountability is essentially non-existent – Bad plays happen, mental lapses shouldn’t. When they do having a little accountability would sure go a long way. The team looks defeated – I hate to say this, because it’s just an eye test (no one would ever admit to it), but the way this team is playing they are begging for a change. Sometimes it just takes someone else saying the words to have them sink in.

He doesn’t get the most out of players – I mentioned earlier how not one consistent position player has developed, but guys have shown they can hit at this level. Headley, Venable, Maybin, Alonso, Grandal, have all shown they can hit at this level, so why aren’t they? I know this is very Norv-esque.

Personally I agree, Black is a great guy. However, I don’t care if Bobby Cox or Tony LaRussa was managing the Padres, one can only tolerate losing for so long.

The numbers don’t lie:
Bud Black over the last seven seasons has more loses than any other manager in baseball.
From 2007-2013 eight teams have only had one manager, seven had multiple playoff appearances

  • Phillies (5)
  • Rays (4)
  • Rangers, Angels, Tigers (3)
  • Twins, Giants (2)
  • Padres (0)

From 2007-2013 only seven teams have missed the post-season (last post-season appearance)

  • Royals (1985)
  • Blue Jays (1993)
  • Mariners (2001)
  • Marlins (2003)
  • Astros (2005)
  • Mets (2006)
  • Padres (2006)

From 2007-2013 of the 23 teams that made the playoffs, 11 had a playoff berth within two years of hiring a new manager.

Just some numbers for you to chew on. It doesn’t mean that replacing a manger ensures a playoff berth, it only shows that other teams that have struggled, desperately seek a way to change fortunes. This doesn’t take into account ownership changes (which typically help) or front office changes; it’s just bare bones information.

At the end of the day, just like you, I love the Padres. My problem is that I hate losing, more than I enjoy winning, so watching the Padres miss the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons has me asking myself… How long can I accept financially investing in this terrible product that day to day makes me feel like I’m wasting my life away while I “Keep the Faith”? I suppose it’s only a matter of time until I turn into a lot of Padres fans and just cancel my season tickets and wait for football season.

I’d much prefer to see this new ownership seek a new direction. Give a new guy a shot in the interim (Pat Murphy), and either allow Josh Byrnes to hand pick his own manager to work with the philosophy he’s put in place or blow this up from the top down.

I’ll leave you with this…

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein



About the author: Steve Adler

Steve is the founder of the Friarhood