That Old Black Magic

Former Padre Skipper Has Managed Just Fine With Rocks

Chris Ello
September 28, 2018 - 4:42 am

You won't admit it out loud to anyone else, but that's OK. You know who you are. You are among the hundreds -- maybe thousands (if there still are that many) Padres fans -- who couldn't wait for Bud Black to be let go.

Couldn't cut it as a big league manager, you said. And the Padres obviously agreed with you. Never mind that he was National League Manager of the Year in 2010 because, in retrospect, he had choked away that season by blowing a 10-game lead in late August and setting the stage for another former Padres Manager Bruce Bochy to win the first of his three championships with the San Francisco Giants.

Black also had blown it with the Padres in 2007, over-using (your words) Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman down the stretch, then watching helplessly as Hoffman blew a save in the season's second-to-last game in Milwaukee by allowing a Tony Gwynn Jr., triple, and then couldn't hold a two-run lead in the one-game playoff loss at Colorado (Matt Holliday, be damned).

By the middle of the 2015 season, after management had all but dismantled the Padres' teams that had gotten as far as Black, or probably any other manager, could have taken them, Black was dismissed. 

Be careful what you wish for.

As the final weekend of the 2018 regular season dawns this morning, Black's Colorado Rockies are stunningly sitting atop the National League's Western Division, a game ahead of the powerhouse and five-time defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers with three left to play. Colorado also has a two-game cushion on St. Louis for the NL's final wild card slot.

Sure, there's still time left for him to "blow it" again, but consider this: with the season on the line Colorado has been managed to seven straight wins by Black, out-scoring its opposition 52-10 in the process. The Rocks finish the season at home, starting tonight against the Washington Nationals, with their first-ever division championship clearly in sight.

Really, regardless of where Colorado finishes, Black has done wonders with his team. The Rocks, under his guidance, made the one-game Wild Card playoff a year ago (losing to Arizona) and are on the verge of repeating as a postseason participant for the first time in the 25-year history of the franchise.

Black's Rockies have accomplished two things that no other Colorado teams have ever had success with. First, they have won on the road, finishing 44-37 away from home this season (after finishing 41-40 on the road last year). Always a Mile High threat, the Rockies had been annual sea-level pushovers until Black arrived.

More importantly, Black somehow has turned the Rockies into a team that can pitch. And that's as unlikely as just about anything you can name in baseball. Sophomore lefty Kyle Freeland has developed into one of the NL's best starters and is likely to finish with the lowest ERA in franchise history (2.84 right now, and incredibly 2.36 at Coors Field). German Marquez -- who struck out a Colorado record 221 batters this season -- isn't far behind him. Jon Gray's not bad, either. And the Rockies' bullpen -- something that Black excels at managing -- has an ERA of under 1.50 this September.

Yes. You might as well accept it. The Colorado Rockies have won this season thanks to a nice big helping of that old Black magic. Wish the Padres still had some of it around.