In Bud Black’s eight years (including the on-going 2014 season), the San Diego Padres own a record of 587-654 (.473). Five of Black’s seven full seasons have resulted in a record below .500.
The first of the two exceptions includes an 89 win season in 2007, Black’s first year at the helm, in which the club was eliminated in a “play-in game” by the Colorado Rockies in walk-off fashion — Matt Holiday has yet to touch home plate, by the way.
The second exception came three years later, when the club finished 90-72 in a season that once again came down to the final weekend—finishing just behind the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants. That second-place finish in 2010 is the highest thus far in Black’s tenure, as his ball club has finished in the cellar twice, in fourth place a couple of times. And if the season ended today, this would be the third time the Padres have finished third in the NL West under the current regime.
It’s fair to say Black had two very good seasons, but that leaves six seasons with the Padres amongst the worst in the league.
When 2014 comes to an end, Buddy Black will have had eight complete seasons, zero division titles, zero wild card spots and just one season with 90 wins. Of course, this assumes San Diego doesn’t overcome a 12.5 game hole they’ve dug themselves into in the N.L. West.
How many chances does the guy deserve?
In baseball, it’s a bit relative. If Black were the manager of the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers, he would have been long gone after two or three years with the kind of record he had. But if Black were in Los Angeles or New York, he would also have the luxury of a top five payroll, highly coveted free agents and a “win now” mindset in the front office.
Judging a manager’s performance in MLB is an extremely difficult task — you must differentiate what he has influence over and what is simply out of his control. There are many factors that separate a winning club from the rest of the pack — some of which has nothing to do with the skipper. Some managers are dealt difficult hands, and never seem to catch a break. Black has certainly endured his fair share of bad luck and tough circumstance.
It may sound like an excuse, but in a small-market like San Diego, it takes a lot more to build a winner. Entering the 2014 season, San Diego had the 21st ranked payroll in baseball at about $90 million; L.A. and New York each had payrolls well over $200 million.
The Padres currently rank dead last in the N.L. in eight major offensive categories. The best hitter on their roster, Seth Smith, is likely best suited for a platoon roll. This past week, Chris Nelson hit cleanup for the Padres. Who is Nelson? Exactly.
It would be unfair to solely blame Black for this rough era of Padres baseball, as the multitude of issues within this organization extends far beyond his control.
The most evident downfalls in this organization are the ownership group, baseball operations and the general manager. San Diego has taken steps in repairing their broken philosophy after firing Josh Byrnes in June. If the next San Diego GM can construct a roster that maximizes every penny that ownership allows to be spent, perhaps the Padres could once again contend under Black — much like the 2007 and 2010 seasons — but that is a big “if.”
Black has been dealt some very poor rosters, and you certainly cannot blame him for that. However, at some point it’s time for a culture change, a new era and new beginnings.
With a new general manager to be named any day now in San Diego and an organization looking for answers, don’t be surprised if a new face fills out the lineup card in 2015.