Although Los Angeles Dodgers director of player development Gabe Kapler and Chicago Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez are perceived frontrunners for the vacant managerial position in Los Angeles Dodgers, veteran Bud Black was once under consideration.
However, Black interviewed for the vacancy with the Washington Nationals, and on Wednesday night was said to be on the verge of being hired by Washington.
Harry Ralston “Bud” Black, 58, is a Southern California native who pitched for five different teams including the Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants over his 15-year Major League career, ultimately retiring in 1995.
As a manager, Black went 649-713 over his eight-plus seasons with San Diego and was the National League Manager of the year in 2010. With less-than-stellar talent and a small payroll, Black did the best he could with the cards he was dealt, and had the Padres competitive in 2007 and 2010.
Black was fired by San Diego earlier this season after going 32-33 (six games behind the Dodgers at the time).
San Diego general manager A.J. Preller made a plethora of offseason moves along with the Dodgers, but the Padres never panned out to be a viable contender in the NL West even after the acquisitions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, Will Middlebrooks, James Shields and Craig Kimbrel.
San Diego’s disappointing season was not all Black’s fault. The Padres finished with a subpar final record of 14 games under .500.
After Don Mattingly and the Dodgers parted ways at the conclusion of the 2015 season, one of the shortcomings of the Mattingly era was in his inability to make the leap to the World Series after being eliminated from the postseason three years in a row.
Although experienced, Black never reached the postseason with San Diego. While he doesn’t have managerial experience in the postseason, Black is a proven leader and pitching expert. Handling the strong personalities in the clubhouse was one of Mattingly’s admired managerial skills, and like Mattingly, Black is well-respected by players as a leader and communicator.
The Dodgers need a manager who can handle the fiery personalities of superstars like Yasiel Puig. When San Diego players were told of Black’s firing, may were shocked, via Dennis Lin of the San Diego Tribune:
“I think the guys took it tough, including myself,” said left fielder Justin Upton, another winter acquisition. “We felt that Buddy was doing a pretty good job here with the new team and getting us to jell. You know, obviously, the front office saw it differently. It was definitely shocking, coming off a pretty good stretch of winning, and playing a tough series where a couple pitches could have changed, and a couple plays could have changed.”
Not only a respected leader, pitching expertise is Black’s specialty. With the arsenal of young arms in the Dodgers’ system, his experience as a former Major League pitcher and successful pitching coach (winning a World Series with the Angels in 2002) would have been extremely valuable.
It currently is uncertain whether the Dodgers plan to bring back long-time pitching coach Rick Honeycutt; the coaches were permitted to seek employments with other teams as Los Angeles works to hire a new manager.
Darren Balsley, Black’s pitching coach, could very well follow his manager wherever he may be hired, with it of course appearing to be in Washington.
While Mattingly had more of an offensive background being a former batting champion and hitting coach, Black’s focus on pitching could/would be a good fit for the Dodgers.
Black also has ties with the Dodgers having served under team senior vice president Josh Byrnes, who once served as general manager of the Padres.
Byrnes and Black also worked together in Cleveland under GM Paul DePodesta, which had an analytically-inclined front office much like the current Dodgers front office.
Although the ship appears to have sailed on Black becoming the next Dodgers manager, he would’ve been a hire who possesses a valuable skill set including pitching expertise, experience managing in the National League, and strong leadership qualities.