We finished in last the following year, one place higher in 4th the next. In 2010 Black presided over the worst collapse in Padre history, the team blowing a 6 and ½ game lead over the Giants in September, courtesy of a 10 game losing streak when, as memory serves, they could nary muster a run. For his efforts Black was rewarded with being N.L. Manager of the Year.
The Padres never finished higher than 3rd the rest of his tenure. During a couple of those years the Padres’ offense was so anemic it was labeled “the false 9”, an ironic label considering “the false 9” was the position the greatest soccer player on the planet, Lionel Messi, played. Messi, who played a sport where scoring was borderline impossible, could usually score more goals all by himself than the Padres could score playing baseball. The black cloud generated a perpetual storm, often raining a drought.
During Black’s tenure the formerly beloved owner John Moores turned into a recluse, owning the club from afar while basically losing all interest in it. He ultimately sold it – I kid you not – on a layaway plan to a snake oil salesman, a so-called super agent, John Moorad, who didn’t have enough money to turn on the lights in the stadium and later would abscond with $200 million of the $800 million local television rights package the Padres signed while he was owner. In the end Moorad was denied ownership of the franchise by the rest of the MLB owners who knowing his true motives voted him out thereby saving the Padre franchise from itself.
All the while Black soldiered on.
Black is beautiful: black skin, black gold, the color of my first girlfriend’s hair. Black’s teams never had the most talent and he did have a knack for getting a lot out of them. However, his greatest virtue was his worst fault: he was too nice and his teams played like it. His pitchers generally didn’t throw inside and his teams could be run over. In a four game series in Atlanta about 70 games into the 2015 season both the Braves and the umpires abused, misused and manhandled the Padres all over the field affecting not only the Padres’ professional pride but the outcome of the games themselves. Black nary lifted a finger nor directed his troops to respond. I’m not inside Preller’s head and I’ve only met him once but I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t the last straw. He fired Black shortly thereafter.
It is obviously unfair to blame Black for all the aforementioned calamities. You certainly can’t blame him for his given name. Unexplainable things happen in baseball all the time, it’s the nature of the game. Still, I wonder. Is it just a coincidence that a sort of permanent darkness settled over the organization while a man named Black was managing the team? The only one who ultimately knows is the Great Padre in the Sky and he or she or it ain’t sayin’.
By turn I ask again: Is it a coincidence that our new manager’s name represents spring, renewal, growth and fertility? In fact, like the Great Padre in the Sky itself, the color represents movement, it’s literally telling you that despite everything, despite all odds, to go, to push forward, to push yourself. Christ! It’s the color of the beautiful grass this game is played on!
Exactly what this franchise needs heading into the future.
Andy Green, less than a year on the job, is evidentiary piece number one the Padres may finally be on the cusp of escaping the curse which has haunted them since their inception. Not yet 40, 5’9”, approximately 170 pounds, it’s the rub of the Green we’re counting on, and it’s bound to pay dividends.
Looking closer – at Green’s stature, the look of perpetual half-bemusement, half-amazement on his face, at those cute little ears – he sort of looks like a leprechaun, basically a walking, talking good luck charm, hiding away the gold of a World Series ring, knowing it will just take a little time to guide us there.
And guide us he does. Green was sum cum laude in Kentucky with a major in finance and he’s taken that mind and applied it to America’s favorite pastime. Known for his in-game strategy, the Padres currently employ the shift an average number of times compared to the rest of baseball. Yet we have saved more runs using the shift than any other team. Talk about genius, that’s off the charts! The Padres also lead the league in taking extra bases, squeezing the most of their sometimes meagre production. Who says a manager can’t make any difference in baseball?
As Tony Larussa, Hall of Fame manager, put it recently, “Andy Green is already a star.”
It’s not just strategy either. Listen to his post-game news conferences. Green is a straight shooter yet can criticize his own team while simultaneously teaching them (and us) without anybody feeling the worse for it. Black often peddled platitudes, at a loss how to describe another night of Padre frustration. Green peddles software, code, a matrix to get from here to there. Nothing escapes his attention but he can still distill it all to its essence, and from there green grow the rushes grow. (R.E.M. reference.)
I’d be curious to know what Green believed he was walking into when he took the job. No doubt he was thrilled to be given his first chance at such a young age to manage in the big leagues but did he know the highly peculiar – and dysfunctionally despondent – history of the Padres and exactly where the franchise currently stood? He’s incredibly intelligent but he’s only 38 and the history runs deep. But here he is, learning on the job every day, now 100% aware that we’re building from the ground up without a lot of veteran flotsam floating around liked damaged goods. It’s Green’s team and he gets to mold it for greener pastures.
Yea, he’s young and he’s green and I know green is only a metaphor but he’s also Andy Green and the green light says go, proceed, move forward, go forth. We follow this man – this intense, little leprechaun of a man – directing us to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The Taco Train comes in many sizes and shapes – and colors too – and the color green has it heading down the tracks towards the New Jerusalem, the Land of Canaan for the Padre tribe. Does the Great Padre in the Sky see it that way too? Stay tuned, the renewal – the Green renewal – has just begun.