Black ideal man to lead Padres forward
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The 2010 National League Manager of the Year award went, and justifiably so, to Bud Black of the San Diego Padres. The encore won't be particularly easy, but at least the point about Black's managerial ability has been made in the most public way possible.
Black has the essential qualities that this job demands: intelligence, diligence, persistence, organizational ability. On the other hand, he has no visible tendency toward self-promotion. That absence is particularly refreshing in an era in which managerial egos can expand at a rapid rate.
So, has winning the award led to constantly being stopped in public by fans, autograph-seekers, followers of the famous, etc.?
"Based on our year last year, in San Diego, maybe there's a little bit more," Black said Saturday in his office at the Peoria Sports Complex. "You know, we were sort of back last year, and the city got caught up in what we were doing, which was great. We've got to carry that momentum, and that's what we're obviously trying to do, organizationally. Maybe there are a few more 'Hey, great year,' a few congratulatory things at the grocery store, Starbucks.
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Black has put the award in its proper perspective, which is that he is essentially the point man for the efforts of an entire organization. His individual honor, he understands, is based on what was a collective endeavor.
"I'm honored by receiving that award, but I also know that it's a function of so many other factors of our team -- players, front office, coaching staff -- so I look at it that way," Black said. "It's not so much me. It's a great tribute to our organization and what we accomplished last year.
"I know in this game, as players, there are great individual accomplishments, and there are a lot of individual battles during the course of a game, but in this position, the teamwork involved in getting the team ready to play and playing a game is a function of a lot of different people supporting me."
What is the real-world payoff for becoming NL Manager of the Year? The 2010 Padres exceeded all reasonable expectations, winning 90 games, not being eliminated from a postseason berth until the final day of the regular season.
In a better world, the Padres would simply build from that point. In this one, the team will move forward without its core offensive player, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, traded to Boston, a franchise that could afford to sign him to a mega-million-dollar, long-term contract. Baseball's economic playing field is more level than it used to be, but this kind of episode reminds one and all that it is not yet completely level.
But there is no whining on the part of the Padres. They'll still have sound pitching and solid defense, which were the leading components of their game in any case. While they search for runs, the pitching will keep them in games and will keep them competitive.
"We have some challenges, obviously, but every team has different sets of challenges," Black said. "We're not going to sneak up on people like we did last year. [Mat] Latos is not going to sneak up on people, Clayton Richard, our bullpen. Because the other teams know that our guys are real, and we play well and we play a certain style. We saw a little bit of that in the second half last year, where teams were more cognizant of our running game and they made some changes."
In the meantime, the manager is not going to devolve into somebody who is taken with his own heightened status.
"I try to be myself and as consistent as possible in my daily gig," Black said. "I think that is something that I've learned from the managers that I've played under, and Mike [Scioscia], who I coached with. The steadiness of leadership is very important, in both personality and actions. What we do on the field, our structure, our philosophies. Try to be as consistent as possible.
"We've had five years together here, and what we're trying to implement, we're doing the same things we did five years ago. We've tweaked some things and we've added some things and we're moving forward, but still there are some fundamental philosophies that we had five years ago. Other teams do, too."
The franchises that succeed in this game maintain managerial continuity whenever possible. The team where Bud Black did his coaching apprenticeship -- the Angels under Scioscia -- offers a classic example of that concept. The Padres need every advantage that they can find. They have one of those advantages in the 2010 NL Manager of the Year.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.