With pitchers and catchers set to report Thursday in Peoria, Major League baseball is upon us! For the first time in nearly a decade, Padres fans have something to be truly excited about. General manager A.J. Preller spent a good part of the offseason securing his bid for MLB Executive of the Year by stockpiling talent in various forms. From free-agent signings to bolster the rotation to dizzying trades that brought in a solid core of offensive talent, Preller has given manager Bud Black something he has never had during his tenure as San Diego’s skipper: talent.
The No. 1 challenge for Black will not be scoring runs as it had been in years past — epitomized by June’s .171 team batting average. Instead the true task is to ensure that all of the newly acquired talent can come together in six short weeks and start pulling together in the same direction.
Unlike any other team he has managed to date (Milton Bradley and a blown ACL after arguing with an umpire aside) Black will have to spend time familiarizing himself with all of the new faces, egos, attitudes, and personalities to get a firm understanding of the fresh Padres. Managing these personalities to try and channel true cohesiveness is paramount to success.
Championships are not won on paper – just ask the Yankees led by GM Brian Cashman who has consistently spent more money than other teams in the last 15 years, with only one championship (2009). Making sure that a manager can inspire his players to diffuse their own egos and quest for personal statistics in exchange for teamwork and winning has been essential to postseason success. Just ask the Cardinals, Giants, A’s, and Royals how much teamwork and synergy meant to them.
Expectations are running very high for the Padres. Black can ill-afford to stub his toe out of the gate and echo the notoriously slow starts that have been typical during his tenure. A surefire way to squash the additional pressure, from media and fans alike, is to develop and cultivate cohesiveness so that this team can weather any storm.
Black is the longest-tenured manager in MLB without a postseason appearance. After all of Preller’s moves, Black is on the hot seat. His ability to drive this team toward meaningful October baseball, rather than settling for being “competitive,” may dictate from which dugout he’ll be in next year — with the pessimistic outlook placing him outside of San Diego.
If Black preaches unity and teamwork, injuries aside, the potential is limitless.
+ Story by Mighty 1090 intern Dennis Gulyas, under the direction of Jay Paris.