Yesterday, on Monday, June 15, the Padres fired long-time manager Bud Black, who has held the position since the 2007 season.
They currently have a 32-33 record, which does not match the sky-high expectations that fans and many experts had at the start of the season, after a tremendous offseason overhaul.
Was it necessary?
They were 32-33, but that record includes a month where they were deprived of two of their best hitters, Yonder Alonso and Wil Myers. Losing those two players probably cost them 2-3 wins, in which case they would have been above .500, in a little bit shape, and thus with less justification to fire Black.
Additionally, Black remains one of the most respected personalities in baseball. He is renowned for his ability to communicate with players, and get the most out of them.
For evidence, one need look no further than the last three seasons, where the Padres won 76, 76, and 77 games despite a roster where mediocre players like Cameron Maybin, Alexi Amarista, Will Venable, Chase Headley (sans his ’12 season) received significant playing time. Meanwhile, he and pitching coach Darren Balsley got a lot out of pitchers like Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner.
Looking at this record, Newcomer A.J. Preller obviously thought that a severe revamping of the offense could be just the thing to make the Padres into a contender.
As of June 15, that has not happened.
And so, Bud Black is no longer manager of the Padres.
So then, why was the move made?
It’s very simple: he wasn’t A.J. Preller’s man.
In fact, Black wasn’t Preller’s predecessor’s man (Josh Byrnes), either. Nor was he brought in by the current ownership. In an industry where general managers like to choose their own managers, and the tenure of managers is roughly 2.6 seasons, it is clear that Black’s stay in San Diego was tenuous.
Hard Ball Talk is reporting that the Padres will announce an interim manager who will finish out the 2015 season. One possibility is AAA El Paso manager Pat Murphy, who is currently on his way to San Diego.
Bench coach Dave Roberts will manage the team until someone is chosen. According to Preller, Roberts does not appear to be a candidate for this position, as he apparently wants to keep the rest of the coaching staff intact.
But why search for an interim manager? Why not a regular manager? This seems to send the signal that the Padres are waving the white flag on the 2015 season.
Which means that San Diego will likely be selling between now and July 31. At which point, we can expect to see Justin Upton, Andrew Cashner, relievers Brandon Maurer and Joaquin Benoit, and perhaps even closer Craig Kimbrel get moved to contenders.
2015 Offseason a Failure?
So then, does this mean that the hyped 2015 offseason was a failure?
Yes, and no.
Yes, in the sense that this team is not performing as was hoped. Yes, because Preller gave away a lot of young talent (Yasmani Grandal, Joe Wieland, Jace Peterson, Max Fried, Joe Ross, Trea Turner) to acquire the key parts to the underachieving Padres.
No, in the sense that they acquired some solid pieces with which to contend:
Wil Myers, 24, who remains a very talented young hitter;
Matt Kemp. Even though he has been a disappointment thus far, his very recent 2014 second half shows that he can still swing a bat with authority;
Derek Norris, who is a solid catcher who can hit;
James Shields, who retains a perfect 7-0 record with 104 strikeouts and a 3.59 ERA.
This remains a solid nucleus upon which to build around. Swapping some of the above names will help Preller to acquire the missing pieces, including upgrades at centerfield, third base, and shortstop who can play defense and add balance to a righty-dominant lineup.
At that point, Ken Rosenthal opines that Preller is going to look for a new manager “with sizzle.”
Time will tell who that will be. Until then, one thing remains certain: the Preller Era in San Diego has been anything but dull.