|SAN DIEGO PADRES|
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Fired manager Bud Black. [6/15]
Here’s something you might not have known: Bud Black was working under his fourth general manager. He was hired by Kevin Towers and retained by Jed Hoyer, Josh Byrnes, and A.J. Preller.
To put Black’s staying power into perspective, consider how Mike Scioscia is the lone active manager who can claim he’s survived multiple GM changes, and he’s only at three bosses. There were other reasons to think Black’s job could be in jeopardy: He was in the final season of his contract and Preller had reportedly named plausible successors last winter during his own interview process. Besides, at some point the gulf between Black’s reputation and record was going to catch up to him.
Around the league Black is considered one of the game’s best skippers. He’s a skilled tactician with a California cool persona that players find agreeable. Yet his Padres teams rarely won. Black never managed in the postseason and oversaw just two winning efforts in eight tries, neither within the last four years. Otherwise the Padres lived in that undesirable 70-win zone; heck, their current record prorates to 80 wins … if you round up.
Of course managerial records are flaky—tell a Cubs fan Dusty Baker has a better career winning percentage than Joe Maddon if you want trouble—and contingent on factors beyond a manager’s control. Black’s was no different. He never had much talent at his disposal in San Diego, and when he did have the talent, he didn’t have the luck: His 89- and 90-win teams missed the playoffs by a game apiece. Still, you can understand if San Diego’s management theorized that Black’s impact was overstated.
Now the Padres have to hope the next 97 games prove their hunch correct. Preller spent the winter remaking the Padres: trading prospects for veterans, spending money, and all the other fun stuff that made them a trendy preseason pick. Alas, the winter offensive hasn’t resulted in wins. The Padres have a middle-of-the-road offense, a bad defense (to be expected from their personnel), and a pitching staff that ranks near the bottom of the majors in DRA. You wouldn’t suspect, based on those ranks, that the Padres would possess playoff aspirations; if anything, you’d say their .500 record should be considered a victory. Indeed, they own the worst third-order win percentage in the division.
Nonetheless, the Padres intend to chase their 16 percent playoff odds until the fall. From a tactical perspective, Black seemingly gave them the best chance at reaching October. But the Padres are considering more than in-game strategy here; by promoting Mark Kotsay or Pat Murphy, the Padres are hoping to spark a room full of underachieving players. Only God knows whether that trick will work. What you can say, though, is that this move makes sense if the Padres were planning to move on from Black in a few months anyway; what good would come from waiting?
Black, for his part, will land on his soles. Maybe he returns to television for the rest of the season, but don’t expect him to join a team’s staff as a bench or pitching coach. He’s almost certain to get a desirable post this winter; until then, he’ll serve as the Internet’s favorite manager.
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