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December 6, 2006
Q. With all the discussion about Greg Maddux, can you sort of express how you feel about the prospect of him coming aboard.
BUD BLACK: Well, obviously we're extremely excited to have him on the team. You know, what he brings, not only as a talented pitcher but who he is as a teammate, what he's done historically as a pitcher, what he's going to do as a teammate, you know, his influence will be very, very impactful.
Q. Towers mentioned yesterday that he thought his familiarity with the league could be particularly helpful to you coming from the other league, and him having been there for two decades and his observation.
BUD BLACK: Yeah, from what I've heard of Greg, he's a tremendous student of the game, and just his insights will help not only me, they'll help everybody. They'll help our coaches, help the players. You know, in that regard he'll be a help for me. I'm going to obviously pick his brain hopefully daily.
Q. Quite a brain.
BUD BLACK: Yeah.
Q. Do you expect him to be an influence on the younger pitchers?
BUD BLACK: Absolutely, yeah. And I think that he's, from what I've been told, I think he's taking that role on a little bit more in the last number of years as far as spreading his wisdom to the younger players. For years he was with Glavine and Smoltz and Neagle and Avery, Leibrandt, guys who are veteran pitchers in their own right.
But where he is now, he has that ability to teach and mentor young pitchers.
Q. With your background, is starting pitching the core really of any team?
BUD BLACK: I think that over the 162-game season, solid starting pitching enables you to compete day in and day out, and over the long haul, that wins in a long season. And to have a solid bullpen to go with the good starters, that gives you even more of a leg up. You know, obviously if the team is fortunate enough to get to the postseason, you need 11 or 12 guys to win a championship. Every guy is important. Every out is important.
But over the long haul, if you have good starting pitching, that sets you up and puts you in a good spot.
Q. You have a guy who certainly has the ability to be one of the best in Jake Peavy, maybe took a step at least numbers-wise last year. What do you do to get him back on track?
BUD BLACK: I'm going to get to know Jake obviously as soon as possible, what makes him tick. But everything I've been told about Jake is he's a No. 1. He's won the National League ERA title, he's up there yearly in strikeouts, he has the ability to be one of the best starting pitchers in the National League year in, year out.
Last year, I don't know exactly how his season went. I haven't really broken it down. But I expect him to bounce back. I guess he has the type of mentality and character, competitiveness that -- he wasn't happy with last year. He'll get back to where everybody thinks he should be, and he expects that, too.
Q. Have you had a chance to speak with him yet?
BUD BLACK: I met him at my press conference and the awards banquet that night, so we spoke briefly.
Q. Have you also had an opportunity to get familiar with any other players, or is it still a little early?
BUD BLACK: It's still a little early. I've talked to most of the guys on our roster but haven't really got -- haven't been around them enough physically to really carry on any deep conversation. We've talked by phone and we've touched base that way.
Q. Early on will you lean heavily on coaches, front office people in terms of assessing what you have and so forth?
BUD BLACK: Yeah. I mean, we're going through that process now. You know, I touch base with Kevin often when we're back in San Diego, I'm talking to our coaches, I've met with Glenn, Craig Colbert has been down, I've talked to Darren about our pitching. So we're going through the process. I'd say daily that I talk to a number of people, whether it's our front office staff, whether it's our coaches, whether it's players, just to get things, for me to get as much information as I can about our team.
Q. Is too much made of this point about few pitchers having made the successful transition?
BUD BLACK: I think so. We talked about that when I first got hired, that there hasn't been a large sample size of pitchers who have managed. I think people in -- I don't hear it from people in the game as much as people outside the game.
Q. Have you talked to a guy like Lasorda? Have you ever had a chance to --
BUD BLACK: Actually I did speak briefly with Tommy. He sent me a congratulatory note. I played for Roger Craig. But it goes back to -- there just isn't a big pool of guys who have managed who pitched.
Q. What about Dierker?
BUD BLACK: No, I don't know him, but I read a few of his quotes in print. He seems to think that pitchers have the ability to manage. He did a nice job. You know, he won a lot of division titles down there in Houston.
Q. Is this something you always wanted to do in the back of your mind, or is it something that's come fairly recently?
BUD BLACK: It sort of came on. Obviously when you're playing, that's your main focus. But as I got later in my career as a player, I knew I was going to stay in the game in some capacity, whether it was management or whether it was going to be on the field.
You know, I got an education with the Indians right after I retired, so my five years in Cleveland gave me a great foundation of the whole inner workings of the front office, the field personnel, coaching, managing. It laid a base for me when I went to Anaheim. I was in a good place as far as being ready to do that.
And then as time went on, the last couple years in Anaheim, I felt as though this would be something that I would really be interested in.
Q. And you had other opportunities to interview in other places before?
BUD BLACK: Yeah, I never went through the formal interview process, but there was -- some teams reached out that wanted to sort of see my interest in coming on board, yeah.
Q. And that wasn't really there yet for various reasons?
BUD BLACK: Yeah, I wasn't ready. You know, mentally I wasn't ready, the timing wasn't right personally. There was a number of things that just didn't fit in the big scheme of things. And I think when you do this, you want to be all in, and that's how I felt as I came into this season, if something happened this off-season. I felt the timing was right on a lot of different levels.
BUD BLACK: Family, just experience. Like I said, the last couple years I really became more observant about the whole managerial thing and just talking to people in the game and getting their advice and their thoughts. I processed that all together and I figured now was the time that I would throw my hat in the ring.
Q. You had Kevin Gregg for the last few years and the Marlins have him now. What can we expect from him and how is he coming along?
BUD BLACK: You know, Kevin -- with us, we had such a deep pitching staff. You look at our starting pitchers over the years, you look at the back end of our bullpen. It has stayed pretty consistent, and the type of pitcher that we have acquired, even though they might not have been with the club in prior years, we've had quality pitching, and Kevin never really was able to find his niche.
But with that said, he's got good stuff. The thing about Kevin, he can either start or relieve. He has the pitch ability to the start. I think he has the resiliency to make an impact in the bullpen. He pitched for us in '04 and there were flashes of great pitching where he was a big part of our success. He's going to do just fine. He's a good guy, knows what he's doing, hard worker.
I'm going to follow him because I like to follow the guys that I've had. He's going to be -- he'll be an impact. He should make a big contribution to the Marlins.
Q. You guys never had to use him back at the end of games --
BUD BLACK: You look at what we had, Percival, Frankie Rodriguez, Shields, Donnelly.
Q. Does he profile seven, who could pitch the eighth?
BUD BLACK: I think he could pitch the seventh and the eighth, absolutely. I think he could make 34 starts and log a bunch of innings, too. He's durable, he's never been hurt. He just needs an opportunity to pitch more on a regular basis. That's what it comes down to with Kevin.
Q. Is a guy like Trevor Hoffman the least of your concerns in terms of maneuvering the pitching staff because he knows himself so well? Will you listen to him and get a sense of --
BUD BLACK: Yeah, when you have Hall of Fame players like Trevor, like Maddux, those guys are -- if you don't counsel those guys, you're not taking advantage of everything they can bring. When the game starts -- actually it's nice at 2:30 when you walk in the clubhouse and you see Trevor Hoffman, you see Maddux, and we were fortunate in Anaheim and I've been fortunate enough to play with a number of great character guys, when you walk in the clubhouse you were really happy they were on your team. He's one of those guys.
And it's nice when the game starts to know that in that inning you feel pretty good about the outcome of the game, and fortunately we've had that in Anaheim, with Percy and Frankie. The eighth and seventh innings, it's a good feeling. And we have that, too. This goes back to any good team, going back to Quisenberry with the Royals. We just felt good about that. You feel good about the end of the game.
I've been fortunate where I haven't been on teams where -- there hasn't been many years when I was a player or a coach where we as a team and individually I didn't feel good about what happened. I've been fortunate to be with good bullpens and good closers.
Q. You mentioned the Royals and influences. In what ways has Dick Howser influenced you?
BUD BLACK: For me Dick was a patient man but yet he had a presence to him. The thing that I brought from Dick was he believed in his guys, and if you were one of those guys that he believed in, the support that he lent a player really brought the best out in a player. You know, he let us play. You knew that he was always in your corner. That's one thing that I brought from Dick.
Q. Quis used to say that Dick always said his door was open but none of us would dare go in there.
BUD BLACK: Yeah, it was always open. I never went in because I never really had any beef with Dick.
Q. But I think the point Quis was making is, we knew his door was open but we didn't want to go in there (laughter).
BUD BLACK: He was a good professional.
Q. You were talking about the bullpens that you've had, especially in Anaheim. They were built with a great closer, a couple of good setup guys. You probably have something similar right now with some of the arms that have been already assembled for you.
BUD BLACK: Yeah. You look at Trevor, look at what Linebrink has done, and Meredith last year was phenomenal. Just look at his statistics, and what I'm hearing from the people in the Padre organization about this guy is he's legitimate, even though it was 50 innings or so. But you look internally at those numbers, they're pretty good. Just from other players and other guys who have faced him, it's a nice bullpen.
Q. And if the bullpen is a strength and the starting pitching is becoming even more of a strength, where do you need to improve in order to be the top team?
BUD BLACK: Well, I think every team wants to keep getting better. If you look at our team, behind the plate we're happy with the two catchers, Gonzales at first came into his own, Khalil Green is a dynamic player, the trade from Cleveland brought us Kouzmanoff at third base, Cameron is Gold Glover, Giles, a solid major league player for a number of years.
Left field and second base are two areas that we've addressed over the last number of weeks internally about what direction to go. Terrmel Sledge on the field, I don't know much about him, but I'm hearing good things about him from our people. Second base, Todd Walker and his decision on arbitration is coming up, whether he accepts or not, but he's a guy that played last year in San Diego and has had a nice career. There's some options out there.
Q. Do you expect any movement here at the meetings on either left or second base?
BUD BLACK: Possible, but I'm not sure.
Q. It's interesting to hear everybody is talking about pitching, and that's the obvious question, and it's always kind of interesting to hear the other guys who aren't former pitchers that are managers and generally everybody hits them with questions about their hitters. Most of the questions here have been about pitching. So with that being said, what do you think about that whole aspect of coming in because generally we hear a manager say, I just want my boys to throw strikes. How much input are you going to have? How much are you going to be manager and how much are you going to work with your pitchers?
BUD BLACK: I think obviously coming from a pitching background, I have a feel for that, and I'll always be --
BUD BLACK: That's just instinctive to know what's going on there. But we have a tremendous pitching coach in Darren Balsley, we have an ex-pitching coach who's in the bullpen, and just from what I can gather from my conversations with those two guys and what I've heard from the Padre people, that they have a dynamic relationship with the pitchers. They're great coaches, and I'm going to empower these guys to do their jobs, all of them.
But I like pitchers. I like watching them and I'm going to continue to do that.
Anybody will tell you for 100 years, Fred, Jack who's been around, pitching is the name of the game. You've got to pitch to win.
Q. Do you feel as a former pitcher that you're some sort of a standard bearer in the sense that few former pitchers get the opportunity to manage but the few who do that come to mind, Lasorda, Roger Craig, Bob Lemon, have done well, Dierker?
BUD BLACK: Yeah, Dallas Green. I saw him in the elevator last night. Like I said, there's been a small sample size, and if you look back over the last 30, 40 years, the guys who have for the most part have done well. There's been a couple guys that maybe were in some rough situations, but these guys have won divisions, they've won -- Bob Lemon won a World Series, Tommy has won a World Series, Roger has been to a World Series.
Obviously when I look at our pitching coaches and other guys, I think there's a standard there, and it's like, hey, don't let us down (laughter).
Q. Is that sort of implied or have guys said that to you?
BUD BLACK: They haven't really said it per se.
Q. But you feel it?
BUD BLACK: I don't feel it a great deal. I want to do well just to do well. I want to win, regardless of -- I want to do well and win games.
Q. I'm not suggesting that you're looking at the universe here.
BUD BLACK: I'm not looking at this is about a pitcher manager. This is about a guy hopefully leading a team to win games.
Q. Any thoughts as to why so few pitchers have had the opportunity over the last few decades? Is it just seen as a specialized niche or these guys are too busy with their one little area, important as it is?
BUD BLACK: I think that could be. I think as a -- somebody asked me this morning in another interview about Maddux being a student of the game. I mean, he is. Pitchers can be students of the game as much as a catcher or an infielder or a position player. You know, maybe pitchers' focus has been just on pitching and not that total broad outlook.
I sort of use this analogy: When I was a player, I used to like to have hitters come to me and talk about, hey, what's going on with the pitching, just like I used to go to Mac and I'd ask him about pitching. So if you have those conversations with players and learn about the other side, it's -- I'm not sure how many pitchers do that because there's a lot of managers who don't understand pitching, who didn't -- you know, position players.
This is going back to my youth. I studied the game. I studied the game, and I don't know how many pitchers really --
Q. Your communicative skills have been proven, whether it's as a player, front office days, pitching coach days, so I don't think it's an issue of, well, they play a different part of the game, these hitters, these position guys, I can't talk to them. I mean, that may be an issue for some former pitchers and maybe a large issue, but I doubt for you.
BUD BLACK: No. I mean, my closest -- well, obviously I'm friends with a lot of guys, but some of my dearest friends were position players, and we just talked the game. That's one thing even with Mike the last seven years, we talked baseball. I like talking baseball with anybody about hit and runs, bunt, first-and-third defense, it doesn't matter.
Q. You weren't just talking about release points and arm angles?
BUD BLACK: Mechanics and all that, balance point, sliders, no.
Q. Once you got the job, what day-to-day did you do to start preparing? I know you know baseball, I know you know pitching. Do you, like, re-read the rule book? Do you read books, call managers that you know?
BUD BLACK: Yeah, I think you do all that stuff. The whole thought process changed, and it's still going on -- it goes on every day. I'm talking to coaches, we're talking about Spring Training, things that you don't do as a coach -- the things you have to do as a manager, completely different. The priorities change.
It started from day one. Instead of calling in the wintertime, instead of calling all the guys on the pitching staff, I've got to call 25 guys now. Instead of thinking about what we're going to do in Spring Training with the pitchers, I'm thinking about, okay, Glenn, what are we going to do? Bobby, what are we going to do? Merv, what are we going to do? Okay, you guys do it. It's about empowering coaches, delegation, leading. Just the priorities change and the responsibilities change, and that started from day one. And the interaction with Kevin, with Sandy.
Q. Do you remember when you said you wanted to be a manager?
BUD BLACK: There wasn't one time. It just sort of built momentum over the last couple years. You know, prior to this year I wasn't ready on a number of different levels, but now the timing was right mentally to throw my name in the hat. It just sort of kept gaining speed for me to take this on.
Q. On the field do you ideally like your leader to be a catcher? Is that important that he has a strong personality?
BUD BLACK: I think that it's not essential, but that is a demanding position in a lot of ways, and if you're fortunate to have a catcher that has that presence and great leadership ability, it helps a team, but it's not a necessity, no.
Q. What have you heard that about Bard and Bowen?
BUD BLACK: I've heard they're two solid guys. I don't know that much about them. I don't know much about their personalities, but from what I hear, they're two fellows that do a great job with the pitching staff. They want to catch, they want to -- their main priority, which is important to me and the Padres, handling that staff, pitching first, offense second.
Q. You were gone from Cleveland when Bard was making his way up there.
BUD BLACK: Yeah, I was gone.
Q. Because I think that trade was '02 when he was in AA.
BUD BLACK: Yeah, I saw him when I was on the Angels and he came. I've talked to him on a phone a little bit.
Q. He was on course every day working out. We'll try not to screw him up. He's a great kid. We miss him in Boston.
BUD BLACK: That's right, he was in Boston.
Q. But Wake really defended him, though, in terms of how much he tried and how professional he was, and Wake being Wake tried to take a lot of heat away from the kid.
BUD BLACK: Right.
Q. We've talked to a lot of managers here at the winter meetings. Is there one common piece of advice that they all give you?
BUD BLACK: Everybody, whether it's managers or people that I come across that have known me for a long time, the common theme is be yourself. They say, Blackie, be yourself, you're going to be fine.
Q. Have you talked to Dusty about that?
BUD BLACK: I haven't. I spoke with Dusty a few weeks ago. We talked about a number of things. You know, Tito, Mike, guys that I have relationships with, Joe Maddon.
Q. Will there be anything new or different as you plan Spring Training? Will there be anything unusual in your routine that you'd be willing to try?
BUD BLACK: No, we're not going to reinvent the wheel. The Padres have had a nice couple seasons here. I think that any time there's a change, there will be some new ideas brought in but nothing -- there will be nothing earth shattering.
Q. Bob Geren, nice timing from each for you getting the job.
BUD BLACK: How about that, yeah?
Q. He's adrift there for a few weeks.
BUD BLACK: Yeah, he was floating and now he's back on dry land (laughter). He's excited. I'm happy for him. I've known him since 1977.
He came back to the Angels and he managed in the Minor League system.
Q. He was in Pittsburgh for a while like a roving infield manager.
BUD BLACK: He was with Pittsburgh for a while and then moved to us.
Q. And then he was with the Rockies as a roving infield manager.
BUD BLACK: Yeah, he had children so he always liked the roving thing because it got him back to Colorado for a week or two and then back out. I'm happy for him because he was -- I'm sure he was thinking you pulled the rug out from under Joe Girardi.
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