There’s a carousel that’s ever-present in professional sports. The members are underperforming coaches — a group Bud Black has become a part of.
Would the Colorado Rockies actually consider moving on from their skipper? It’s complicated.
Just last year, following the second of back-to-back playoff appearances, he was a finalist for National League Manager of the Year. The accolade went to the Braves’ Brian Snitker, but the sentiment was clear that several believed Black was a top manager last year.
Black led a rotation that rallied the second-best earned run average in club history. This year, that same rotation saw their work result in a 5.35 mark. Each of the five also had their seasons cut short by injuries.
It’s a business nonetheless. If Boston firing President Dave Dombrowski — only a year after winning a World Series — showed anything, it’s that triumph only carries so much weight. The current year largely outweighs the past.
It’s fair to question the reasoning for the decline though.
Did Black suddenly become a poor manager, or did the same rotation merely hit a predictable speed bump? The latter makes more sense.
No matter what Black does, his lessons can’t keep Kyle Freeland from opening up too quickly on his windup. He can provide tips, but on the mound, his power is gone. The same goes from German Marquez struggling to the tune of a career-high 29 home runs allowed.
All of the teachings that Black can pass on after 15 years in the majors and 12 years managing can only do so much.
At a certain point, players are responsible.
On a day-to-day basis, Black has meetings with players, but assistant coaches are in charge of bullpen matters. On occasion, the skipper is present but routinely leaves the responsibility to his colleagues – similar to other managers across the majors.
Maybe that’s a problem.
With the Padres, Black found moderate success leading the club. In nine years, he had two seasons with 89-or-more wins. The other seven campaigns, he failed to tally more wins than losses.
There’s a reason the Rockies were able to bring Black on board. If he’d never been fired before, he naturally never would’ve been available.
So the second question is: if the Rockies did fire Black after a single bad year, who could replace him?
A name like Vinny Castilla comes to mind after their history with the club, including his latest role as an advisor. Joe Girardi and possibly Joe Maddon – if he’s not retained by the Cubs – could also make sense given their extensive winning backgrounds.
Neither Girardi or Maddon was able to succeed with teams that were more talented at the end. None of the three make the Rockies better swiftly and drastically. That’s up to the front office.
Ian Desmond’s playing time could be argued as a sign of Black’s incompetence. More logically, it likely has to do with the team treating veterans the right way. If Desmond was mistreated, the market for the Rockies in free agency would likely take a hit.
The bullpen also stands in the way of Black. Numerous high-prices veterans were brought in to serve as ammo in the chamber of the manager, but have merely been obstacles in his way.
While it’s easy to blame the manager, Black is largely innocent in the team’s downtrodden year. Blaming him for mistakes made by others is scapegoating.
The players, when asked about their skipper, have maintained throughout the year that the responsibility lies on them. Black can’t swing a bat anymore, nor can he dial it up on the mound.
If they were to let Black go, it’s a near certainty that another club would happily scoop him up. As of now, the Rockies appear content to stick with their manager – as they should.