Buddy Black was fired today.
Canned. Let go. Adios.
Yesterday he was managing a ballclub, today he is (hopefully) throwing back whiskey shots on a tropical island.
— Annie Heilbrunn (@annieheilbrunn) June 16, 2015
I’ve always respected Buddy. He’s authentic, genuine. He cares about people. He cares deeply about his players. He is smart, funny and easily likable. I know those last two traits don’t necessarily make a great manager, but I’ll follow that up by saying players respected Buddy. He was a player’s manager. They didn’t give up on him. They played hard for him every night.
Whereas football is super secretive and access keeps getting more and more restricted, baseball is a place where you chat with the manager twice a day — and rather than being at a podium, you just sit with him. The conversation goes many directions … Sometimes you’ll be talking about a player, the next thing you know you’ll be hearing a (not for public consumption) story from when Buddy was pitching or when he shared a clubhouse with the opposing manager or what not. It’s just great. Buddy was the best at it. He also made it a point to learn all the names of the reporters who covered the team — (okay, you might not care, but that says a lot about a person) — and to try and explain things in a way that was sincere and helpful. Those dugout chats with Buddy are easily some of my favorites moments about baseball.
Ultimately, I think Buddy was just the sacrificial lamb. This move was made to make the players feel accountable, responsible; to feel that they had just gotten their manager fired, so they better step up their game. They better win.
Black isn’t Preller’s guy. He was here when Preller got here. This season wasn’t going to work for Black unless the Padres were first place in the division. Never mind that he was having to get creative with the infield because of holes in the roster or the logjam at certain positions; never mind that general manager A.J. Preller signed players in the offseason that, while “stars,” may be on a downward slope (perhaps there is a reason the Dodgers are paying Matt Kemp to play for the Padres?!); never mind that a team that has a mostly new roster may need more time to gel; never mind that expectations were perhaps impossible to meet; and never mind that the Padres were only, um, four games back in the Wild Card and six back in the division.
I’m not paid enough to know if this was the “right” move. I’m not a general manager. I know these things happen in the world of professional sports. They happen every day. Perhaps the Padres will turn it around and go on a 10-game winning tear to lead the division, and this will be the reason why. Perhaps.
Pressure is now on Preller to find the manager he thinks will get this team to the Promised Land (i.e., the playoffs).