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12/21/12 10:49 AM ET
Black 'humbled' by Padres' confidence
Padres manager discusses his contract extension and his goals in Q&A session
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
The Padres are under new ownership and their fourth chief executive since Bud Black replaced Bruce Bochy as manager after the 2006 season. The general managers also have come in rapid succession, that baton being passed from Kevin Towers to Jed Hoyer and currently to Josh Byrnes, the former D-backs GM. In six seasons under Black and with a consistently changing cast of players, the Padres are 464-509 and have finished better than .500 only twice. Both times -- in 2007 and '10 -- the Padres were eliminated from playoff contention on the final day of the regular season. Yet, in one of their first major acts since acquiring the Padres from John Moores this past August, the group headed by local businessmen Ron Fowler, Kevin O'Malley and Peter Seidler exercised a pair of options in Black's contract that will keep him in the dugout through the 2015 season. To the 55-year-old Black, the move -- announced officially about six weeks after the end of San Diego's season -- couldn't have been more gratifying. "This is the town where I went to college," said Black, a graduate of San Diego State and former left-handed pitcher who had a 121-116 record in his 15 big-league seasons. "This is the town where I've raised my daughters. I feel very grateful to be able to manage this team. There's nothing I'd want more than for us to win -- to win a championship here." Black is thoughtful and glib and has a dry sense of humor. He recently sat down with MLB.com to reflect on those first six seasons. MLB.com: From my perspective, since 2007 you are the continuity of the franchise, as owners and executives have come and gone. It's amazing that in a job that is often so tenuous, you've been able to work through all that. Black: Thank you, but I'm not sure how to respond, except to say that what I've tried to pass down to the players from the coaches is just a consistent approach. We always want to keep improving as a club, and when the season is underway just simply win that day's game. We never want to get too far ahead of that. Play good baseball. And I do think there's something to continuity if the right people are in place. We have good coaches. On the players' side there have been some roster changes. My sense is that could smooth out moving forward. Believe me, I know the position of manager is one that at times can be very volatile. My approach through all this more than anything has been to be a consistent, steadying force as much as possible. MLB.com: How do you adjust to dealing with the different personalities of the general manager directly above you? You've gone from Towers to Hoyer to Josh in a very short period of time. Black: First of all, you've got to be yourself so I've maintained who I am. I think that's the No. 1 thing. What I do that's important is maintain open lines of communication with whoever the general manager is, whoever the owner is. I always try to be engaged with the people I'm connected to. In my position, it has to be that way. There are times when I have to be engaged with the ownership, with the players, the clubhouse people and the media. I've just basically tried to do my job regardless of who was (or is) above me. I never felt like I had to reinvent myself based on the situation. I've just kept plowing forward. MLB.com: The Padres recently picked up a pair of option years on your contract. Are you happy they did this so quickly after the end of the season? Black: I don't know if it happened as quickly as it seemed. I know Josh mentioned it to me at the latter stages of the season. He wanted to pick up these options and was going to go to ownership and express that. At some point he came back to me and said everything was good as far as everybody being on board. MLB.com: So this was done before the end of the season, but not announced until afterward? Black: It was verbally. It wasn't like one day they said they were going to pick up my options, and the next day it was announced. Josh knew. Ownership knew. I knew. Some people in baseball ops knew. MLB.com: That kind of confidence from management had to make you feel good. Black: Yeah, sure. I think the time that I've been here has made me feel a strong sense of loyalty to this organization, going back to when I was hired by John Moores and Sandy Alderson and Kevin Towers. That loyalty to the organization hasn't stopped just because some things have changed above me. I'm honored. I want to win here. I'm humbled that Josh and the new ownership group feel that I and the coaches are the ones who are going to continue that quest. MLB.com: How do you assess life under the new ownership? Black: It's a group that really feels strongly about the future of San Diego baseball. With the O'Malleys and Seidlers actually moving from Los Angeles to live here and Ron Fowler, their commitment to the long-term is evident. That's extremely positive. I get a sense that the O'Malley heritage -- where they've come, what they've done -- they understand what it takes from the top down in a lot of areas. In Ron's case, he's passionate about San Diego. His feelings about this organization are strong and what a strong baseball franchise means to a community. He's going to do everything he can to enhance that. Padres baseball is in great hands. The commitment to stability and continuity is there. MLB.com: The Mike Scioscia managerial tree: You were pitching coach on the Angels team that beat the Giants in the 2002 World Series. What was going on there that you, Joe Madden of the Rays and Ron Roenicke of the Brewers all went on from coaching positions under Mike to be solid managers in your own right? Black: With Mike and Ron -- and when Mickey Hatcher was there -- they all had long standing relationships. Then when Joe and I were united with that group, immediately I recognized an incredible collaboration of baseball minds. There wasn't a day that went by when there wasn't great debate on something regarding baseball in general or specifically about our team. I'm talking about strategy, our players, offense, defense, pitching. No matter what, we always had great debate. It led to some creative thinking, some free thinking. It was awesome, and I try to instill that in our guys today. There's no doubt that our time together really helped us understand what it took to manage. And Mike was right there empowering us to do a lot of good things for him and the Angels. MLB.com: What has been the most important thing you've learned in your growth as a manager? Black: For me, it has been the continued effort to engage the players, to understand that component of the relationship between player and manager. In this day and age, more than anything, that's vital. To get the best out of the player you have -- to let him know the expectation level. You have to let them know what's out in front of them. That's the most important thing. The teaching, the motivating, I think all comes from a relationship. There has to be a level of respect and trust both ways between player and manager, and that's something I try to adhere to. MLB.com: You guys have run through a lot of hitting coaches. Is it the toughest thing for a former pitcher and pitching coach like yourself to learn how to run a baseball offense? Catchers always seem to make such good managers. Black: No question. To your point, the pitching conversation, for me, is what I've done my whole life. There's no doubt about it. So when I'm talking to (pitching coach) Darren (Balsley) or the bullpen coach or the pitching staff, that is second nature to me. On the offensive side when I talk strategy, when I talk after the game to our coaches, when I talk prior to the game about lineups, there's no doubt that I lean on our coaches. There's no doubt that during the course of a day I talk more about our position players than I do about our pitching. I know how to run a bullpen. As a player, I knew when I should come out of a game. I knew when I should stay in. To your point about catchers: Their conversations are endless with managers, with pitching coaches, pitching staff, the hitting coach. I mean, they've done it all in their careers going back to their days as a high school catcher. Even if you're a backup catcher, you're sitting on the bench studying the game, you're in the bullpen. You get a feel for all of that. So pitching for me, it's not easy, but I get it. Offensively, I look at it through the eyes of the pitcher. Hit and run, bunt, steal. I know what that feels like from a pitching side. I can do that. But I do not get into a conversation with a hitting coach about technique, about mechanics. Do I get into a conversation with Darren about (pitching) mechanics? Sure. MLB.com: So you've evolved into a manager who lets his coaching staff pretty much handle the offense? Black: My conversations with them are more to get a feel about what they're thinking in a certain situation. That can happen pre or postgame and sometimes even as the game moves on. That first year was important for me. Having Mike Cameron and Brian Giles. Adrian Gonzalez was a younger player there. Marcus Giles, Josh Bard and some older players. I learned from Jim Edmonds for the short time we had him here. For me to manage, those guys had to know that they could trust me with what we were going to do offensively. We did a lot of talking about it and things evolved from there.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.