May 18, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Padres managerBud Black
(20) walks back to the dugout following his second replay challenge in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Listening to the local radio station talk about the Padres’ offensive woes on the latest homestand against the Minnesota Twins and Chicago Cubs, they couldn’t bring themselves to blame manager Bud Black for the offensive problems because of the rash of injuries that have plagued the team since the start of the season.
In truth, they do have a solid argument based on the different lineups Black has had to put together during the course of the season, but how much of the blame for the team’s struggles rests on his shoulders?
It’s hard to deny that Black’s been dealt a bad hand offensively with this season’s current roster. Outfielder Carlos Quentin is sidelined again with a strained groin, third baseman Chase Headley has already seen time on the 15-day DL, and Cameron Maybin missed the better part of April rehabbing in the minor leagues.
How much blame should go on Black for team’s offensive problems? The answer is a good portion.
First baseman Yonder Alonso and second baseman Jedd Gyorko are everyday players, and they have been terrible for most of the season. Although both Gyorko and Alonso have seen their bats awaken a little bit over the last couple of weeks, they have spent the majority of the season below .200. In addition, Will Venable continues to struggle offensively but continues to see playing time despite Maybin’s return.
There is no doubt Black’s strength is pitching. Alongside pitching coach Darren Balsley, the two have put together a formidable rotation and bullpen that is near the top of league in ERA despite nagging injuries to the rotation for a good chunk of the last two years. This is partially contributed Petco Park, but it has a lot to do with Black’s strength as a former pitcher, but his strength is not offense.
Since the departure of Adrian Gonzalez after the 2010 season, the Padres’ have continually been at the bottom of the league in most offensive stats. Whether it is his own philosophy or one gained while a pitching coach under Mike Scioscia, Black cannot seemed to stay with a consistent lineup year-in and year-out. The constant switching of players throughout the batting order over the years wreaks havoc and doesn’t give stability to the lineup.
For example, over this past weekend in the Padres’ series loss to the Colorado Rockies, Black’s sitting down of NL Player of the Week Seth Smith in Friday’s 3-1 loss against lefty Jorge De La Rosa is a reflection of Black’s offensive philosophy based on match-ups.
Smith has been the Padres’ only real threat this season offensively, and whether it is against leftes or right-handers, there is absolutely no reason he should be on the bench. He has shown repeatedly this season he is the spark plug for the Padres’ lineup. The loss squarely falls on the shoulders of Black. Smith would have came to the plate with the chance to tie the game when Chris Denorfia led the inning off with a triple, but they were unable to get him home.
Further, Venable has no business in the starting lineup and needs to spend sometime in the minors to gain back his old form. This allows Maybin or Denorfia to see every day playing time in center field while Smith and Quentin (when he returns) to fill the outfield corners. The dealing of Kyle Blanks to Oakland while Yonder Alonso continues to be run out there each night baffles the mind.
Injuries are a part of the game, but they cannot solely be the excuse every time the Padres are shutout. Despite a lack of payroll, the Padres’ are more talented than radio personalities are giving them credit for, but sometimes, player’s managers may not always be the right answer to a struggling lineup.