On the heels of the unceremonious firing of manager Matt Williams, following the complete bust that was the 2015 Nationals season, Washington seems to have found a new manager for 2016. According to a report from the Washington Post, the Nationals are expected to hire Bud Black to be their next manager, following the conclusion of the 2015 World Series. Black just completed his second interview with the team earlier in the week and was competing with Dusty Baker, who had previously interviewed for the job with the Nationals prior to the 2014 season.
Black is fresh off being fired by the San Diego Padres in June following the team’s sluggish 32-33 start to the season after a highly publicized offseason makeover. Black’s tenure began in 2007, following the departure of Bruce Bochy, and included no playoff appearances and a final managerial record of 649-713 over his eight-plus seasons with the Padres.
In his eight full seasons with the Padres, Black had losing records in six, with the only winning records coming in 2010 when the Padres finished 90-72 and lost the division title to the eventual World Series Champion San Francisco Giants on the final day of the season and in 2007 in Black’s first year with the team when the Padres finished in third place in the National League West.
Despite his failures with the Padres, the Nationals seem to have found the man they wanted for their managerial opening. The most obvious reason the Nationals gravitated toward Bud Black is simply his vast experience. Black was a major league pitcher for most of fifteen seasons, a pitching coach for the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels for seven seasons, as well as eight plus seasons with the Padres as manager. Over fifteen years of previous coaching experience is the main reason Black stuck out as the man for the job, following the failures of brand new coach Matt Williams.
While Williams was a poor communicator who is generally well known for lacking any tangible managerial strategy, Bud Black is known as a player’s manager as well as one of the best communicators in all of baseball. More than any of the other candidates, Black has a mix of both experience and a calm demeanor with a vast baseball intelligence.
While the positives with Black are numerous, his time in San Diego has left several question marks. While Black is known for his calm demeanor, that calmness can sometimes come across as apathy. Throughout his tenure in San Diego, Black was stuck with the apathetic label. Whether it was in post-game interviews or even during games, Black stunk of apathy. In a losing culture like the one that exists in San Diego, Black seemed to accept failure rather than stamp it out. This is obviously also on the players and front office, but Black lacked the fire and emotion to stamp out these inadequacies early on.
Beyond his calm demeanor, which is clearly both a blessing and a curse, Black was a poor judge of talent and was poor in developing the talent that he was given. Throughout his tenure, Black would have a habit of constantly switching the lineup around on a daily basis, not giving players playing time when they were hot, not benching players when they were cold, and on top of all of that for a former pitching coach Black showed very poor bullpen management on frequent occasions.
In a losing culture such as that in San Diego, Bud Black was simply not the leader that the team needed. The situation in Washington is obviously a different one, and perhaps Bud Black is a better fit for that job than he was for the one in San Diego. Black is a nice guy above all else and a very intelligent baseball mind. With that being said, he has shown in the past he lacks fire, is sometimes a poor judge of talent, and struggles managing rosters. The Nationals may very well have a decent manager and a good fit for Washington in Bud Black. However, Nationals fans and the Nationals front office must keep in mind that Black is no Bruce Bochy or Joe Torre or Joe Maddon. Black is definitely better than the last guy, and maybe that’s enough.