Jay Allen Sanford 9:45 p.m., May 19
At the end of August, the afternoon following the morning press conference where the Padres introduced the new ownership group, I sat in the Padres dugout with the usual suspects from media and waited for Padres manager Buddy Black to emerge and give us all a generous chunk of his time for some casual questions and answers. This is routine, something that Buddy always does, and it is loose and relaxed and entertaining.
As a cub baseball reporter, I always wait for the senior reporters to fire off questions first, out of respect for the fact that they've been beating their brains out covering baseball and the Padres for so long. And they asked Buddy about new ownership and what it meant to the Padres and so on for the most part, which was to be expected. So did I, with a caveat.
In the morning press conference, among the questions launched at the face of new ownership Ron Fowler concerned the future of manager Buddy Black. It had to be asked, some readers and viewers want to know, regardless how ridiculous some of the silly questions asked appear to other readers and viewers.
So, in the dugout that afternoon, I let Buddy know that new ownership had given him the infamous vote of confidence (often times spelling the opposite ultimate result of such a vote), which brought a head-slap from one senior writer (delighting me greatly for reasons I care not to go into), and I told Buddy their reasons and asked him what his thoughts were. As Buddy is so adept at doing with media, he was eloquent and thorough and patient with his response, and he treats us hacks with the respect we don't always deserve.
And there was a reason I brought all of that up then and saved it back until now, just in case a case needed to be made for Buddy Black. I think it does today, especially after the Padres extended the contracts of Carlos Quentin and Huston Street and Chris Denorfia.
Quentin, Street, and Denorfia are good players and deserve extensions for various reasons, and certainly the new ownership blessed those extensions from behind the curtain of the purchase process (except for Denorfia, who was extended after the purchase was made official). These contract extensions were not a reach at all, they fit nicely into the Padres payroll, they are good ballplayers, and any team would be happy to have them at market value.
So, the Padres have come from horrible to somewhat respectable with a chance to finish even on the season. And there have been little changes in personnel additions from the outside, and all of this improvement happened without the help of ownership, and it happened under the watch of Buddy Black.
Last Saturday, the Padres honored Jerry Coleman, a former Yankees star, a sacrificing military serviceman, a former Padres manager, and a long-time radio voice for the Padres. It was a wonderful ceremony and after being honored (there is now a statue of Coleman at Petco, long overdue), Jerry said a few words.
Jerry said that Padres manager Buddy Black is probably the smartest baseball manager he ever met. This was not a statement that Jerry made speciously, he has told me many times before that Buddy was the smartest manager he ever met.
No argument from me, Buddy Black is a smart man, but to get that endorsement from Coleman is something special. Getting it from some writer doesn't mean a thing, nor should it. So I won't make that endorsement, but I'll simply point out that Black has taken a notoriously low payroll and made the teams that come from that payroll outperform their perceived potential.
And mainly, I'll point out the dichotomy that exists between Padres ownership and players/managers/coaches. The question I asked in the morning press conference to the new Padres ownership, regarding the statement they made about how focus should be on the play on the field and not on new ownership?
I asked Ron Fowler that if the focus was on the play on the field, then shouldn't ownership be held responsible for the play on the field. He told me that it should, and I got the impression that he thought it to be a silly question, something that was obvious.
Buddy Black is under contract through the next season, 2013, and then there's a couple of meaningless club options to extend him. So, why not extend Black now? Is there some other guy that could possibly do any better with a bunch of ballplayers that no one has ever heard of?
In other words, new ownership should do that extension either now or very soon and not leave that contract hanging into the last year of it, or they are being disingenuous to their commitment to the Padres. New ownership was very proud of the extensions of the players, all of the while dodging other questions from media or else flat-out refusing to answer them. Hey, what about the skipper who guided this mess of a club from absurdity in May to the respectable place it is here September?
What about Buddy Black, Mr. Fowler? Are you going to back that vote of confidence with a contract extension? Or else, care to explain how you can possibly claim that the product on the field at the moment has anything to do with new ownership and not everything to do with the guidance of Buddy?
Or, should we all pay attention to the product on the field and ignore the reasons behind it, regardless of how that product is performing? See my point now?
The Padres are back in action now after a day off, in Arizona, and the game starts shortly. Pitchers Eric Stults (6-2. 2.56) for the Padres will go up against the Diamondbacks Ian Kennedy (13-11, 4.21). If the Padres wish to break even this season, then this game is key as is this entire series because it gets even more tough after this series. Game time is 6:40 PM PSDT and tune into Fox Sports San Diego if you can or else XX 1090 AM if you just want to listen.