Padres fire manager Black after slow start to his 9th season
Bud Black understood full well the expectations for San Diego to win now with a remade, star-studded roster -- and with a new front office, too.
His leash was a short one trying to get a new-look team to come together in a hurry.
In his ninth year managing the Padres, Black was fired Monday with San Diego sitting in third place in the loaded National League West at 32-33. The Padres never reached the playoffs during Black's tenure after he took over when Bruce Bochy departed to manage the San Francisco Giants in 2007.
General manager A.J. Preller said he made the decision after a couple of weeks of thought. He told the players he still believes in them, and didn't put all the blame on Black.
"It wasn't one magic thing. I made the decision last night and I slept on it," Preller said, noting he didn't expect Black to be managing San Diego in 2016. "At the end of the day this was the direction we wanted to go. I've evaluated him overall for eight months when I was looking at everything. I've seen inconsistencies, ups and downs. This team is not bottoming out or playing poorly. Just too much inconsistency. We have not played to the level we are capable of."
Preller said he would interview candidates in the next two days to become interim manager for the remainder of the season. Former Padres outfielder and current bench coach Dave Roberts was set to manage San Diego as it hosted the Athletics for a two-game series at Petco Park starting Monday night before going to Oakland for two games.
Black inherited an entire new outfield during the club's offseason overhaul, one Matt Kemp called the best outfield in baseball.
"We were all shocked. I'm really surprised at the timing," Kemp said. "There should be a lot of disappointment in the clubhouse with the way we played."
All three outfielders came in trades during Preller's winter frenzy. All three within 48 hours: Kemp in a deal with the reigning NL West champion Dodgers, 2013 American League Rookie of the Year Wil Myers from the Rays and Justin Upton swapped by Atlanta.
Kemp has struggled, and Myers on Monday was placed on the 15-day disabled list for the second time this season. Upton began the week batting .286 with 13 home runs and 41 RBI.
"I called Buddy. I know Buddy well, we're close," Bochy said in San Francisco. "I hated to hear that."
Preller also traded for All-Star catcher Derek Norris in a deal with Oakland then punctuated his productive winter by bringing in free agent pitcher James Shields on a $75 million, four-year deal.
"It's not something we are trying to hide from -- it is a distraction," Norris said. "Hopefully when we go on the field our concentration goes from a distraction to taking a four-game set."
During spring training, Black would sometimes begin the day with the phrase, "no trades, no transactions," to note the club was quiet on the transaction front.
"I was excited," Black said during spring training, referring to watching Preller make big moves. "We've still got to catch two teams, the World Series champions and the Dodgers, who won 94 games."
Black, 57, has a 649-713 managerial record after pitching parts of 15 major league seasons. He was named 2010 National League manager of the year after leading the Padres to 90-72 record, the most wins by San Diego since a franchise-record 98 in 1998. But the Padres lost the division title on the final day of the season when they lost at San Francisco, and the Giants went on to capture the World Series.
The Padres haven't had a winning season since then and last year finished 18 games behind Los Angeles in the NL West. Black was in the final year of his contract.
The 43-year-old Roberts, who last played for the Giants in 2008, has been a positive example and presence for the Padres since he re-joined the organization in 2010 to work under Black.
"It is very emotional. I've never been in this situation," Roberts said. "He's a friend, a mentor."
Roberts is cancer-free after undergoing treatment for lymphoma beginning in 2010 after it was detected during a physical before his hiring.
"Real nice man. Dave and I go way back," Bochy said. "Dave's a good baseball man. He's coached first, he's been a bench coach. He's worn some different hats. He knows all aspects of the game. You hate to see a change there, but Dave, he'll be fine."