An interview with Bud Black

An interview with Bud Black

Your thoughts on losing Julio?

BUD BLACK: Julio will be missed. You know, I saw him for -- you guys have seen him for a few more years than I have. But the two years that he was with me -- we had a great year in 2007, had a great year at the plate, and was instrumental in our success in 2007.

Last year, things did not go like he had hoped, and we had hoped on the field. But, you know, his defense was still steady, as you guys saw, every day. He's still a premium defender at a premium position. You know, the offense, he just could not get on track. The harder he tried sort of the worse it got. And at sometimes offensively he could be his own worst enemy.

But he'll be missed. We think that from what our scouts have told us about Worrell and the possibility of another pitcher coming back, it will help shore up a need that we have, and that's more pitching, more quality pitching.

Hopefully the guys that we get in return will help us. No doubt we'll be looking for a shortstop.

Have you had any contact with Trevor? And if so, what role are you playing in this?

BUD BLACK: I've seen T Rev a couple of times in the off season. We haven't talked a lot about his contract situation.

But I think that, you know, he knows, even though it's been unspoken. I've told him that I would love to have him back.

I think that I still think that there's a tremendous will for him to pitch, a tremendous passion to pitch. He wants to pitch. My role in where this leads is very little as far as what's going to happen. I still think that he has some quality pitching left.

You have a payroll in the $40 to $45 million range. Can you justify spending that much on somebody who can optimistically throw 50 innings?

BUD BLACK: I like the Padres to win games.

You're in favor?

BUD BLACK: I'm in favor. You need a bullpen in this day and age to do that. It takes a combination, and the more quality arms you have out there the better chance you have. I think T Rev fits in that scheme to give the best pitching you can.

You're allocating resources, though, of your payroll?

BUD BLACK: I think you ask anybody in uniform, they want the best situation possible to win games.

How frustrating has it been on a personal level to deal with trying to play, trying to win games, and being in an environment where you don't have the resources you want? How have you dealt with that?

BUD BLACK: Over?

Over the last year.

BUD BLACK: Well, you know, it's not every game that we take the field I expect us to win, regardless of our payroll, the other team's payroll, their players, our players.

I think on any given night, our pitchers are capable of shutting the other team down. Our hitters are capable of scoring runs off the opposing pitcher.

So I don't think about all of those things. My job, those of us in uniform, the coaches and the players, our job is to prepare to play and go out and do everything we can to win a game.

All of the other things are, to me I don't want to say not on my mind, but they are not at the forefront of my mind of what I have to do in my job. As the season went on and we sort of went through a little change in our roster, it was sort of a new challenge from the one that we started the season with.

It was to win games, and we had to develop some players and get them acclimated to the Major Leagues as fast as we could and continue to teach Hundley, Venable and the rest of the guys that came up in our Minor League system. LeBlanc, Frieri, Ekstrom, you know, guys that down the line are going to be future Padres, to get them on board of what they need to do to win Major League games.

You know, the challenge is to change as we move from the season. For me, that's the part of managing and leadership that's sort of exciting. There's all different expectations. There's all different components that each of us, regardless of what team we are on, have to do to prepare to win.

The Padres situation is different than a lot of other people's situations. But, still, every game, I think we all have the same expectation to win, whether it's the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Angels, the Padres, the Tigers.

I know we don't necessarily know what the composition of this team is going to look like, regardless if Jake stays or goes. What needs to change this year, and what do you need to do fundamentally better to be better?

BUD BLACK: Well, a number of things. In the last year, all facets, we didn't play well across the board. We didn't pitch like we did the year before, both in our rotation and in the bullpen.

Offensively, even though we didn't score a great deal the year before. We have to score more runs and get more guys on base. I think our overall team on base percentage, we have to cut down our strikeouts. We have to advance runners more by putting the ball in play.

Defensively, we were okay. I think you can always improve that aspect. Guys can become better. We have got a gold glover on first and our defense is solid, but too many areas in offense and pitching we have to improve.

At this point, will you be surprised if Peavy is in the rotation?

BUD BLACK: Today, right today? No. No.

I think that going through this for the last month or so, I think Kevin and our front office are trying and looking at some of the constraints on them as far as the payroll.

I think Sandy said it, and I think Kevin probably mentioned it to a number of you guys, that he just doesn't want to give Jake away. He wants to make a good baseball trade that helps us on the field.

A lot of times it's not that easy to do. There's been a couple of teams that have stepped forward and thrown some pretty good players at us and there's been a lot of dialogue, but nothing has come to fruition.

That doesn't lead me to believe one way or another, but as time goes on, it looks as though it could lean more towards Jake staying the longer it goes.

What kind of concerns would you have about him coming back to a team that had spent two months trying to put him out there?

BUD BLACK: You mean Jake's mind set?

Yeah.

BUD BLACK: Well, it's one thing Jake has indicated that he wants to play. I think he said a little bit of both. You know, you can understand both sides.

But here again, I think that there's a place in his heart for this club. He likes San Diego. He likes the Padres organization. Not that he's, you know, embattled by being there. And you guys know Jake. When he takes the mound he's a competitor. So every fifth day, having Jake Peavy is pretty good. So I don't think that from a competitive standpoint that the way he goes about his business is going to change.

He's said it all along, and Trevor said it. That when we win, those guys want to be a part of it.

Talking about the young players that went through the experience of the second half of the season and going through the experience of next year, how do you judge their progress? How can you tell if they are progressing?

BUD BLACK: You mean besides their statistical performance?

Yeah. How do you judge that?

BUD BLACK: A lot of times you can tell by the conversations that you have with them, whether their confidence, if they show, even when things are going poorly or they are not playing well, what good players show over the course of a season: a lack of anxiety. It seems to lessen as you gain experience.

Just body language. I mean, there's a lot of different signs that show that a player is maturing and the things they talk about. More just total confidence you can sense, and the feeling that they you want to get to the point where they feel as though they belong and really believe.

Do you have enough time to judge that?

BUD BLACK: You know, most players come in most players think they should belong in the big leagues even when they are in A ball. They go, "I'm better than that guy." But once they get there you see a little bit of a change.

But I think that with like Headley, for example. Last year I saw a little bit of frustration over the amounts of strikeouts that he had last year, which is not uncommon for a guy that came in with such high expectations. A lot was expected of him. He's sort of been talked about now for a couple of years, and finally he came up.

I think his time last year will benefit him this year. This off season, I think he'll reflect on what happened and realize that he does belong, and he'll be better off for it.

Who is your centerfielder?

BUD BLACK: Right now, Jody Gerut. Right now, Headley in left, Gerut in center, and Brian in right.

Mr. Venable?

BUD BLACK: Venable is in the mix. Had a good September. He's down in the Dominican and he's playing well. He's in the mix. It's not unconceivable that he'll be a guy that is going to push people.

We have Adrian at first, we have Kouz at third, and we have, as of right now, I think Nick Hundley has a leg up. There you go. Have you left anybody out?

Shortstop.

BUD BLACK: And second. (Laughter.) Why don't we leave those open.

Mr. Towers has said if Kouzmanoff is unable to go, that Headley moves to third.

BUD BLACK: That opens up another outfield spot. Hairston is in the mix.

But if you had to pick a left fielder, in that scenario, would it be Venable?

BUD BLACK: It could be a situation where Hairston gets some at bats versus a left handed pitcher. Gerut or Venable could play against that lefty.

I suspect that Kouz is going to be ready. That's what I'm getting from the medical side. So that could be a moot point. But Chase has that flexibility to come in to play.

Just wonder, a right handed pitcher, if you want to rest Hairston against righties and Kouzy isn't ready, who is the left fielder?

BUD BLACK: I would say Venable has a leg up, as of right now.

Again, for some reason, if Hairston plays against a righty and hits two home runs on a particular night, I've got him in there in the next game. Whoever is playing well. Who ever is swinging well.

I think there's enough at bats, there's going to be enough at bats for Scotty. There's going to be enough at bats for a number of guys that could be on the bench.

Second base, how is that shaping up?

BUD BLACK: Well, you know, I think there are some variables there. (Laughter.) There are some variables there.

If Kevin, if we can acquire a shortstop in some way, that could push Luis Rodriguez over to second. You have Edgar Gonzalez who had a nice season. He's in the mix. Antonelli had a rough AAA season but showed some signs in September that he'll be better off for it. He's going to regroup this winter and comeback, and we'll see how he does.

But more than likely, he could go back, but he could surprise in spring training. And there's still between now and February, there's a lot of time for Kevin to maybe sign some players.

General expectations as you're sitting here today, do you expect to leave a vastly different club come Thursday?

BUD BLACK: Come Thursday, you know, it's hard to say. I would say no. But, hey, it could. Anything could happen. Anything could happen in a couple of days.

You're in a position of winning ballgames. How difficult is it for you to even have Jake's name being thrown out there as potentially being traded?

BUD BLACK: Well, you know, that's been something that's been talked about now for a while. All of us in San Diego are sort of hardened to the fact that that's been out there.

I don't think I'm insensitive to it, but it's part of what we do. You know, Jake no doubt looks very good in a San Diego uniform. I've been around for two years, and I could be hopefully around him for many more. We just don't know. These types of situations, if there is a trade discussed, it takes two teams to make it work.

As a guy who happens to live in the market, how do you explain to fans the need for the payroll reduction, and why they should renew their season tickets, or buy them?

BUD BLACK: Well, I would tell those fans that we are going to play good baseball. We are going to play hard. We are going to have exciting young players, we feel: Venable, Hundley, Headley. We have some guys who are Major League quality players.

Get on board early.

How do you explain the need to cut the payroll?

BUD BLACK: How do I? I don't.

You're not asked?

BUD BLACK: I mean, that is not my role in this organization. It's not one where I have anything to do with the finances.

As a guy who lives in your market, do you think the retooling will be so successful that the fans will know the difference between Hundley and Headley?

BUD BLACK: Yes. I mess that up sometimes, too.

Are fans asking you what the heck is going on? Have you had any of that at the shopping market in Rancho Santa Fe?

BUD BLACK: Neighbors have. Friends have.

And your response has been?

BUD BLACK: Get on board early. (Laughter.) It's brewing. You don't want to miss out.

Would you have taken this job if you had known what was ahead?

BUD BLACK: Yeah.

Seriously?

BUD BLACK: Yeah. I think that you never know what's going to happen in this job. You don't know.

When I interviewed in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Diego, I was all in for whatever happens, all three, and I still feel that way.

For you, your first two years as the manager and next season, which is more challenging?

BUD BLACK: Well, you know, the first two years I think every year is a challenge, no matter what. I mean, this is going to be a little this has the look to be a little different, and that's because of the makeup of our team and the possible roster.

But yet, those are it's a different type of challenge than maybe the one I took on in 2007 as the manager with more of a veteran club. You know, this has the makings of a team that is going to be maybe a little bit more inexperienced, but yet we have some talented we will have some talented players. You know, my job is to do everything I can to help us win a ballgame, every night.

Have you spoken with Trevor since the club pulled out?

BUD BLACK: Yes. But we did not talk about the offer.

Did you talk business at all?

BUD BLACK: No, not when they talk Padres.

Any talk about second base?

BUD BLACK: Kevin has answered a call from his agent these things, as you guys know, agents and GMs talk all the time. This is basically their season, and maybe an agent might have three or four clients. They will just be talking and the agent might say, Hey, listen, you have a need for second base. And he'll say, I have x, y, z, and it's a name we will talk about.

Again, I don't know the particulars about as far as what they are looking for as far as salary. But at this point, I've never seen Ek play second. I've only seen him play short.

When he came to us, we moved him within the first ten days that he came to camp with us. I think he's probably equipped to do both, but I think that right now we would probably look at him more as a second baseman.

How far you and Hoffman apart?

BUD BLACK: As the crow flies...

You're out on a morning walk and you run into him?

BUD BLACK: Morning walk, about three miles, three and a half. Crow flies, two.

Seems like he was pretty hot with the offer, four days later.

BUD BLACK: I don't know. Was he? I don't know. He was in Puerto Rico, wasn't he?

True. But four days later, he was expressing

BUD BLACK: Well, I think things have quieted down. I think there's less emotion now.

Is that because people are not beating down his door?

BUD BLACK: I'm not sure.

Do you have any sense for that, how much interest there really is?

BUD BLACK: I really don't know.

In your mind, could he still come back?

BUD BLACK: Yeah.

Care to put a number on it?

BUD BLACK: Percentage wise? No. I love how you love numbers. No. I think there is yeah, he could come back.

Do you think he can come back?

BUD BLACK: Yeah.

That bridge has not been

BUD BLACK: I don't think that bridge has been knocked down.

Or burned?

BUD BLACK: Or burned.

Bridge must be made of asbestos.

BUD BLACK: I think there's still a possibility. Maybe I'm wrong or maybe I'm too much of an optimist, but I think there's some room in there.

What are some important qualities in your mind? Do you feel he'll view it as competition rather than nurturing?

BUD BLACK: The backup catcher?

If, indeed, he is the backup catcher, and if, indeed, Hundley can hold the job.

BUD BLACK: Right now, Nick ended the season as our guy. I don't know what's going to happen here over the next two and a half months, but Nick's makeup is such where he's going to work his butt off to become the best catcher he can.

I think that we are going to have a new bench coach. Ted Simmons will have a lot of impact on that as far as teaching. And I hope that whoever the backup is still has that strong desire to play and play well. And, Buddy, I want some more at bats. I want some more games.

Yeah, it depends on there's something to having an experienced catcher at a position where there's a learning curve in the big leagues and to have a guy who will be able to move through it.

If you get a good enough backup, presumably could win the job, does Hundley stay or does he go back to AAA?

BUD BLACK: I think you can make a point either way. You don't want, it would have to be a pretty good player to play every day, or to assume the lion's share.

Lion doesn't share.

BUD BLACK: (Smiling.) Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports.