Former Padres skipper Bud Black has reportedly emerged as a frontrunner for the Nationals managerial vacancy.
Dennis Lin is in his third season as the Padres beat reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter: @dennistlin) and says Black was very approachable by both his players and the media during his time as San Diego’s manager.
“I’d say the No. 1 thing that comes to mind when people think about Buddy around baseball is the fact that he treated everyone the same way - with respect,” Lin said. “He’s one of the nicest guys in baseball. The players appreciated that they knew what they were going to get in the clubhouse when it comes to Bud Black.”
Black was manager of the Padres from 2007 to June 2015 and won 649 games with a .477 winning percentage. He was the 2010 National League Manager of the Year. Lin said Black did the most with the cards he was dealt, rarely having overly talented clubs in San Diego, but able to make some of them competitive, especially in 2007 and 2010.
“I think the legacy with Buddy is that he was really handed a lot (of) teams with small payrolls,” Lin said. “One of the knocks on him is the homegrown player never really developed under him - (current Yankees third baseman) Chase Headley would be one of the exceptions. As far as a communicator and a leader, you’re not going to find many more solid candidates than Bud Black.”
Communication was one of the reported issues that strained relationships in the Matt Williams clubhouse of 2015. Lin said that Black did a nice job this past season of breaking the ice with a bunch of newcomers and had a unique way of building team camaraderie.
“I go back to just this past spring training when the Padres brought in what seemed like 20 new players,” Lin said. “Bud Black basically organized a three-point shootout tournament with teams. That stuff might sound kind of cheesy, but it goes a long way in building chemistry.
“I wouldn’t say he’s the most confrontational manager, but he definitely would welcome anyone into his office.”
Black will also protect his players off the field.
“Bud Black will never handle the club’s business in public to the media,” Lin said. “It’s something the player’s respect as well. That’s a big point with him. He’ll never air dirty laundry in public.
So is Black a players’ manager?
“Players do like him,” Lin said. “He commands respect. I think that was also one of the knocks on him is that he wasn’t fiery enough for the Padres. They wanted to kind of change their perception. As far as communication, he’s just an easygoing guy. If he lands the job there, you guys in the media will see it (and) the players will appreciate it.”
The left-handed Black won 121 games over his 15 seasons in the majors and finished with a 3.84 ERA with 1,039 strikeouts.
“Pitching is kind of his thing (as a manager) because he was a former major league pitcher,” Lin said. “He was pretty by the book in terms of seventh-, eighth- and ninth-inning guys. He had a really good pitching coach, Darren Balsley, who I would suspect has a strong chance of joining him wherever he goes.”
Did Lin consider Black overly aggressive on offense or conservative?
“I would say he’s pretty conservative,” Lin said. “I think (current Giants manager) Bruce Bochy was more willing to try things when he was here in San Diego. But Black is open to the new analytics, the advanced metrics, all that stuff. He’s pretty conservative, but also be willing to try whatever the front office recommends.
“I think actually one of the criticisms of him is he’s not offense-centric enough,” Lin continued. “He’s focused on pitching a little more than offense for obvious reasons. The pitcher’s love that. With Balsley and Black, they kind of got the package deal, two guys that really understand what’s going through a pitcher’s mind when he’s on the mound. With Black, I think you are going to see kind of the pitchers gravitate toward him. He kind of makes that a point of emphasis. I’d say he’d definitely make an impact there.”
In addition to Balsley, Lin also believes that Dave Roberts would join Black’s staff wherever he ends up. Roberts was brought in as a bench coach and has five seasons of experience as a coach.