The best of the many Padres managers

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Credit: Desert News

From Preston Gomez to Bob Melvin, the San Diego Padres have cycled through a multitude of managers since the club’s founding in 1969.

Only four (Dick Williams, Jack McKeon, Greg Riddoch, and Jayce Tingler) have winning records overall. Only two, Bruce Bochy and Bud Black, have been named Manager of the Year during their tenure in San Diego.

During the pandemic-shortened season of 2020, the Padres 37-23 record earned Jayce Tingler a second-place finish behind the Miami Marlin’s Don Mattingly for Manager of the Year honors.  The following year the Padres kept pace with the division rival San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers during the first three months of the season but swooned in the second half. A record of 79-83 dropped the team to third place in the National League West. Thus, Tingler became the sixth skipper to be fired by A. J. Preller, the Padres’ general manager and president of baseball operations since summer 2014,

Over the history of the organization, there have been few periods of stability as a multitude of managers have come and gone:

Preston Gomez 1969-1972 .363 winning percentage

Don Zimmer 1972-1973 .375

John McNamara 1974-1977 .419

Bob Skinner 1997 (one game) 1.000

Alvin Dark 1977 .425

Roger Craig 1978-79 .471

Jerry Coleman 1980 .451

Frank Howard 1981 .373

Dick Williams 1982-1985 .520

Steve Boros 1986 .457

Larry Bowa 1987-1988 .389

Jack McKeon 1988-1990 .541

Greg Riddoch 1990-1992 .508

Jim Riggleman 1992-1994 .385

Bruce Bochy 1995-2007 .494

Bud Black 2007-2015 .477

Dave Roberts 2015 (one game) .000

Pat Murphy 2015 (96 games) .438

Andy Green 2016-2019 .428

Rod Barajas 2019 (eight games) .125

Jayce Tingler 2020-2021 .523

Under Dick Williams (1982-85), the Padres broke even in 1982 and had winning records from 1983 through 1985. The 1984 team (which included Tony Gwyn, Garry Templeton, Goose Gossage, Steve Garvey, and Craig Nettles) won the National League West by 12 games and overcame a two-game deficit against the Chicago Cubs to win the pennant. However, the Padres won only one game against the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

Williams also had a 14-year playing career, mostly in a utility role for five teams. Aside from the Padres, he also managed the Boston Red Sox, Oakland A’s, California Angels, Montreal Expos, and Seattle Mariners. Over his 21-year managerial career, his teams had a .520 winning percentage. In 2008 he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Credit: AP Photo

In his two-year tenure as manager, Jack McKeon’s teams had a record of 193-164 for the highest winning percentage in Padre history. But Trader Jack is better known for his effectiveness as the team’s general manager from 1980 to 1990. He created the 1984 pennant-winning team, the first in the history of the franchise to reach the playoffs.

The Padres finished 12 games above the second-place Atlanta Braves with the best record in Padres’ history (92-70) up to that point. Starters included outfielders Tony Gwynn, Carmelo Martinez, and Kevin McReynolds; infielders Steve Garvey, Graig Nettles, Garry Templeton, and Alan Wiggins; starting pitchers Eric Show, Tim Lollar, Ed Whitson, Mark Thurmond, and Andy Hawkins; and catchers Terry Kennedy (and Bruce Bochy and Doug Gwosdz) behind the plate.

During a Sunday afternoon game in Atlanta, the Braves and Padres faced off in one of the most intense brawls in Padre history. On the very first pitch of the game, Braves starter Pascual Perez hit Alan Wiggins. Tension built over the course of the game, and dugouts emptied with fans entering the fray. Multiple players, including the Padres Tim Flannery, Greg Nettles, Goose Gossage, as well as manager Dick Williams, were ejected.

In the National League Championship Series, the Padres lost the first game against the Chicago Cubs 13-0 and returned home behind 2-0 in the series. With their backs against the wall, the Padres won the next three. Unfortunately, in the World Series, they faced the powerful Detroit Tigers, who started the season with a 35-5 record and went on to win 104 games. The Padres managed to win only the second game of the series.

Greg Riddoch replaced Jack McKeon in the summer of 1990, and the Padres finished that season 38-44. However, in 2991 and 1992, the Padres had winning records of 84-78 and 76-72. Despite his 200-194 record overall, Riddoch was replaced by Jim Riggleman on September 23, 1992.

Of all the Padre skippers, Bruce Bochy lasted the longest–from 1995 to 2006–so it’s no surprise he leads the group in wins at 951. However, he also bests his peers by an impressive 300 wins.

Credit: AP Photo

Bochy also played for the Padres from 1983 to 1987, as well as the Houston Astros and New York Mets. With the Padres, Bochy backed up Terry Kennedy from 1983 to 86 and Benito Santiago in 1987. In 1984, the Padres won their first National League pennant, and Bochy caught one game in the 1984 World Series, a loss to the Detroit Tigers.

Traditionally catchers act as field managers as well as the partner of the pitcher. For this reason, teams often gravitate to catchers, like Bochy, Mike Scioscia, Joe Maddon, Brad Ausmus, to fill managerial positions. The Padres new manager, Bob Melvin, spent 11 years behind the plate with multiple teams.

In 1996 both “The Sporting News” and the Baseball Writers of America awarded Bochy the Manager of the Year award. Two years later, Bochy guided the team to its second World Series and was named Manager of the Year by “The Sporting News.” Unfortunately, the Padres didn’t win a game against the New York Yankees, and players like starting pitcher Kevin Brown, Greg Vaughn, and Steve Finley moved on after the series.

But Bochy also had success in the new venue of Petco Park, which opened in 2004. That year the team went 87-75, and in 2005 and 2006, they won division titles but swooned in the playoffs.

After the 2006 season, the Padres new chief operation officer, Sandy Alderson, wanted to go younger and allowed the San Francisco Giants to interview Bochy. The bay area got the best of Bochy–three World Series titles in five years (2010-14).

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Bud Black took over as manager in 2007. Three years later, he won the BBWAA Manager of the Year honors after leading the team to a 90-72 record and second place in National League West. Unfortunately, the Padres suffered a 10-game losing streak the last month of that season, the worst in Padres history. The Giants took advantage, coming back from a 6 ½ game deficit and winning the NLW with a record of 92-70. Black was also a finalist for the reward in 2017 and 2018 with the Colorado Rockies.

A pitcher for 15 seasons, Black spent seven years with the Kansas City Royals, where he helped win the 1985 World Series.  Before his tenure with the Padres, he’d acted as the pitching coach for the Los Angeles Angels under manager Mike Scioscia.

In 2007 Black presided over Game 163, one of the most galling games in Padre history. The Rockies and Padres met to determine the National League Wild Card winner in a game that lasted almost five hours. It ended with a dubious call when Matt Holliday slid headfirst and touched/didn’t touch home plate.

Reliving the Padres’ infamous game 163 of 2007 season

On June 15, 2015, six months after being hired as general manager for the Padres, A.J. Preller abruptly fired Black. At the time, the team had a 32-33 record, six games behind in the division. The Padres finished in fourth place in the National League West with a record of 74-88.

Black signed on with the Colorado Rockies in the fall of 2016. The following year the team went 87-75 and lost the National League Wild Card Game. In 2018, the Rockies won the National League West 91-72 but lost the National League Division Series 3-0.

Black has had success working with the pitchers in a hitter’s ballpark, Colorado’s Coors Field. In 2017, two rookies broke even or had a positive win percentage: Kyle Freeland .500 and Antonio Senzatela .667, and second-year German Marquez went 11-7.  Both Jon Gray .714 and Jeff Hoffman .545 also had winning records.

Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

One of the hallmarks of Preller’s tenure has been turnover in the managerial office, especially in comparison with Tower’s two skippers over 14 seasons. Since Preller fired Bud Black, five managers have overseen at least one game: Dave Roberts one game in 2015, Pat Murphy 96 games in 2015, Andy Green from 2017 to 2019, Rod Barajas eight games, Jayce Tingler from 2020 to 2021. Bob Melvin will get his chance when the season begins.

In comparison, during Kevin Towers’ tenure at the position (1995-2009), the Padres had just two managers, Bruce Bochy and Bud Black. Bob Melvin will be the first Preller hire with big league managerial experience.

Melvin will have the advantage of managing one of the best groups of players in the history of the San Diego Padres. However, the new skipper also has to contend with the lockout, which has prevented him from meeting his new group of players. In fact, on Friday, the league canceled the first week of exhibition games.

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2 thoughts on “The best of the many Padres managers

  1. Preller’s record has been bizarre. Fired Black and brought in rookie managers Green and Tingler. Both if them were in way over their heads. Maybe Melvin will bring some stability.
    And Williams? Only 3 teams since integration have won 3 World Series in a row, and he managed one of them.

    1. Hi Tom,
      No doubt Green and Tingler were in way over their heads. It took a while, but I think hiring Melvin will prove to be one of Preller’s best moves so far.
      Thanks for your support of EVT,

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