San Diego’s Rock Star GM A.J. Preller sure looked like he put together one heck of a show last February.
Too bad he stopped the music before it was even close to ending.
With a 39-47 record and eight-and-a-half games behind the Dodgers in the NL West, and eight-and-a-half games behind the Pirates for the NL’s second wild card, the Padres season is all but assured to end October 4th, with no playoff encore.
What a bummer!
Admittedly, there were concerns with Preller’s roster prior to the season. In particular, the defense, a predominately right-handed lineup, and potential injury risks. However, the star power was there. The offense was thought to be vastly improved and the pitching even stronger than last season. Many (including myself) at least thought the Padres would be competitive.
And they were.
Right up until Preller fired Manager Bud Black after a 32-33 start.
Since then, the Padres have gone 7-14 under Interim Interim Manager Dave Roberts and Interim Manager Pat Murphy.
It’s not all Murphy’s fault (or Roberts). Murphy could turn out to be a great manager some day. He was successful at the college level and worked his way up in the Padres minor league system, his last post being skipper of the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas.
But to expect a manager with no major league experience to come in and jump-start a “struggling” club loaded with stars was ludicrous.
More than half of the Padres opening day roster in 2015 wasn’t with the team at the start of 2014. Black had all of Spring Training to get to know his new club, to understand the dynamics of this team, and to learn the personalities of his new stars.
That takes time, and Black needed more of it.
Look no further than last season for an example. Five of MLB’s 10 playoff teams had 34 or fewer wins 65 games in to the 2014 season, including the 31-34 Pirates who were the lone team under .500.
(I repeat, the Padres had 32 at the time of Black’s dismissal.)
Look, Black may or may not have been able to get this team to gel, or to make a serious run at the playoffs. We’ll never know.
He was, however, a better choice to manage the rest of the season. Murphy was thrown in the fire with no time to spare, and with the weight of huge expectations never before placed on a Padres’ season.
How did Preller realistically expect Murphy to turn things around?
For weeks now, we’ve heard Murphy constantly say he’s learning on the job, getting to know the players, understanding the competition. That’s reasonable, but its not what players want to hear or see when trying to stay in the hunt.
A baseball manager, perhaps more so than any other sport, truly has to earn the respect of his team because of the longevity of the season. It’s paramount. It’s about managing personalities and delivering a believable message, win or lose, day in and day out for 162 games.
Baseball can only reach a certain level of complexity. It’s not about X’s and O’s like football or basketball. I’m sure Murphy understands the intricacies of the game as well as any one.
No, he doesn’t.
Perhaps he could have gained some of that respect with time in Spring Training. Expecting it to happen midseason, though, was a mistake.
The season wasn’t lost on June 14th , Black’s last day in uniform.
But now the show’s over. And San Diego can thank its Rock Star GM for it.
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)
Do you think A.J. Presser made the right move in firing Bud Black? Let us know in the comments below.