The 2015 San Diego Padres entered the current Major League Baseball season with a sense of optimism and excitement never before felt by their fans.
Coming off of their seventh-straight campaign without reaching the postseason, the new ownership saw that changes needed to be made.
The change started with the acquisition of Matt Kemp from the Dodgers. Soon after, new general manager A.J. Preller finished a complete overhaul of the Padres’ roster.
This team was built to score runs and win games. While the team appears on paper to be a weak defensively, the pitching, theory, makes up for that. The pitching staff has one of the best aces in the game today, and also one of the best closers at the back of the bullpen.
The season is only 39 games in, but San Diego is one game under .500 (19-20) and six games out of first place. The team had two winning streaks in April, both of which were only three games.
The way the Padres have performed thus far leaves one scratching their head and wondering just what is wrong with this team.
The main problem with the San Diego Padres is that they lack consistency. The inconsistency was clear to see in the most recent series against the Washington Nationals on May 14-17. The Padres jumped on Doug Fister early in Game 1, scoring eight runs in the first four innings, and winning the game 8-3. The next game, the offense was nowhere to be found. San Diego was shut out 10-0 by the same team they blew out the night before.
After scoring eight runs in that first game against the Nationals, the Padres managed to score just six in the next three while the Nationals scored 24.
The season is still early, but this team is much too talented to have just 19 wins in mid-May. But, where do you place the blame for the poor performance?
Placing the blame on the players is a viable option. Most of these players have spent time on winning teams, and they all know what it takes to win. The players on this team are also All-Stars, and also have postseason experience.
These players certainly are professionals, but even professionals need a voice to keep them on a successful pace. That voice needs to come from the person in charge.
That leaves one to look at Bud Black. Black has been the manager since 2006, and from then until now, he has managed just three winning seasons.
Some people may make the excuse that he hasn’t had much talent to work with in San Diego, and he may even have floated that excuse year-in and year-out in order to keep his job. But even then, his teams had chances to do something great. Each time, Black made poor decisions that resulted in the Padres playing on the golf course in October and not on the diamond.
Black showed his inability to make crucial decisions in 2007, when the Padres were caught in a Wild Card chase with the Colorado Rockies. San Diego finished the regular season with a four-game series against Milwaukee. Trevor Hoffman blew save opportunities in the final two games of that series, putting San Diego in a play-in scenario against Colorado.
Hoffman already blew back-to-back save opportunities on the road, but Black still put him in to close out that play-in game, which also happened to be on the road. Hoffman again blew the save, and the postseason that would have been never happened.
The 2010 Padres won 90 games, but a meltdown in August and September of that year led them to a second-place finish in the NL West, allowing the San Francisco Giants to take the division en route to a World Series title.
While poor decisions have led to Black’s demise, his demeanor and attitude appear to be a much bigger problem. Many times after a loss, Black sits in the post-game press conference and says things such as “we just need to play better,” or “you just have to tip your cap to the other team.”
He talks to the media this way, but is this also how he talks to his players?
“Okay, gents, we just got shut out by a mediocre pitcher on a losing team, but we just have to tip our cap to him. Tomorrow, let’s go out and play better.”
Is this really what he is doing? When this team falls into a slump, they need something to get them out of the slump. This team needs a fire lit underneath them, not a tip of the cap or a pat on the back.
If Black wants to keep his job, he needs to motivate this team. He needs to find a way to get this team to play harder. When he addresses the media, he needs to single out poor play. Black needs to get angry. If he’s keeping calm when addressing the media immediately after an embarrassing loss, he’s probably calm when he addresses the team.
This team is consistently inconsistent. Preller might still have a few more moves to improve the team. This team still needs an everyday shortstop, and a new starter in the rotation may also be an option.
However, if this team doesn’t start winning, then the next change Preller makes should be a new manager. The time for making excuses is over. Black has been given what he needs to win. If he can’t show results, then the Padres need to find someone who can.