A (Not So Hot) Take On Bud Black’s Firing

When I saw this, I was surprised:

I probably shouldn’t have been. Bud Black was in the final year of his contract, new general manager A.J. Preller has shown a preference, like most GMs, for bringing in “his guys,” both on and off the field, and Black’s teams haven’t won — not this year, where the Padres are a mildly disappointing 32-33, and not through his tenure as Padres’ manager, where he holds, as Scott pointed out earlier today, a 649-713 record in eight and a half seasons.

I’m not sure if firing Black was the right move, but what follows are some disjointed thoughts on the matter.

The Case to Keep Black Around

  • He’s a manager, and managers don’t have a huge impact on a team’s win-loss record in the first place. That old axiom about players winning games, well, it’s mostly true. And if Black was good enough to be manager in April, with eight and a half years of track-record behind him with the Padres, why is he suddenly not good enough after 65 games in 2015?
  • People like him. Players, media, everyone (even bloggers) seems to like Black, which can’t be a bad thing. Maybe it doesn’t correlate strongly with winning games, but it’s more pleasant to lose with someone you like. You could lose with Bobby Valentine.
  • The Padres are playing near expectations. There’s an argument that this team is really no better than a .500 club as constructed, and that the Padres’ so-so performance thus far is merely a reflection of the players’ ability and not Black’s shortcomings.
  • It could get worse. Remember Sunday Night Baseball with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan? Remember how much you clamored for ESPN to replace Morgan with someone — anyone! — else? Yeah, now you’re stuck with Curt Schilling and John Kruk, wondering why they can’t just bring Morgan back. There are worse managers out there.

The Case to Fire Black

  • He’s not great at in-game strategy. Whether it was bunting too much, mismanaging the bullpen, or making a questionable late-inning decision, Black’s not in the Joe Maddon category of managers. He’s certainly knowledgeable about the game, but plenty of his decisions left something to be desired, and there was little chance he’d do something out-of-the-box, like bat the pitcher eighth or use his closer unconventionally (read: optimally).
  • He generally struggled developing young players. Take this year with Austin Hedges (future manager), one of the best prospects left in the organization and he’s started just seven games since his call-up in early May. It’s a tough situation, with Derek Norris, the everyday catcher, having a great season, but even then Black has done a poor job integrating Hedges into the lineup to spot an overworked Norris. And this isn’t an isolated case, as other recent examples include Jedd Gyorko, who is currently in Triple-A, and Jace Peterson, who is currently an above-average second basemen in Atlanta.
  • Hired on November 6th, 2006, Black,  prior to his dismissal, was the third-longest tenured manager in the majors, behind Mike Scioscia and Bruce Bochy. That’s just too damn long, especially with only two winning seasons mixed in, both of which ended in heartbreak. Managers are hired to be fired, and Black’s time had come.

There you have it. I don’t have a strong opinion on Black’s firing. I hope he lands on his feet, naturally — and he surely will, either as a TV analyst, front office staffer, or with another shot as manager. A.J. Preller has shook up the entire organization since coming on board, so it’s not surprising that Black, who was hired way back in the nascent days of the Sandy Alderson era, has finally been let go.

You are encouraged to comment using an exisitng Twitter, Facebook, or Google account. Upvote comments you find helpful, and only downvote comments that do not belong. The downvote is not a 'disagree' button.

  • Kevin West

    You could rename this article “an actually reasonable take”

  • Pat

    “He generally struggled developing young players. … And this isn’t an isolated case, as other recent examples include Jedd Gyorko, who is currently in Triple-A, and Jace Peterson, who is currently an above-average second basemen in Atlanta.”
    This may be, but I don’t see these guys, Hedges included, as examples. That he is left with Hedges versus Norris is Preller’s fault, and who in his right mind would start Hedges over Norris given the circumstances? Norris was on fire, and is still hitting well, when the team (read Preller) dumped the lousy second catcher and gave Black Hedges instead of another stopgap. Gyorko was pretty darned good as a rookie, seemed to recover somewhat in the second half of 2014, a 745 OPS versus 482, and then he regressed badly again this year. How would this be Black’s fault? Peterson? He was traded before he had a chance to develop. Again, that Peterson is gone is on Preller, not Black.

    • I agree with you that it certainly wasn’t all Black’s fault, and I think that calling up Hedges put Black in a tough situation. Still, I think Hedges should have (and should) played more frequently, both for his development and to give Norris more rest. With Gyorko, I think you can argue that Black should have just let him play everyday, and he would have turned it around. He didn’t get consistent playing time, and it’s hard to get out of a slump when you’re not on the field (most) everyday.

      With Peterson, why didn’t he play more when he was up last year? I guess that’s my point. Sure, he wasn’t hitting at all, but the Padres didn’t have much to lose and could have got a better look at what they had in Peterson — turns out he might be okay. And where was he in September? Was he left in the minors because Black wasn’t going to play him in the majors?

      I think there’s a pretty decent trend of Black failing to trust young players, perhaps negatively affecting their development. But I certainly wouldn’t blame the poor development of young players all on Black; it’s been an organizational thing.