September 21, 2019

Washington Nationals: Hiring Bud Black Is A Smart Move At Face Value

Bud Black’s two greatest strengths were Matt Williams’ weaknesses.

An experienced manager with an extensive résumé, Black is known for his ability to manage pitching and maintain strong relationships with his players. In 2015, the downfall of the Washington Nationals came in the mishandling of the pitching staff and the schism in the clubhouse.

Entering the 2015 season, the Nationals boasted the best pitching staff and many picked them to get to the World Series. At that point, nobody thought Mike Rizzo would be searching for the franchise’s seventh manager since moving to D.C. while the Fall Classic is being played.

(Photo by Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports)

But, here they are and it’s time to move forward with a new era of Nationals baseball. Black brings in over 20 years of coaching experience in MLB, which is an enormous step up from the inexperienced Williams.

With the San Diego Padres, he spent nine seasons, leading them to a 649-713 record under his direction. He won the 2010 N.L. Manager of the Year Award, but that 90-win season is also remembered for San Diego’s late-season collapse that saw them squander their N.L. West lead to finish second. It was a collapse similar to the one in Washington this past season.

Prior to joining the Padres, Black served as the pitching coach for the Anaheim Angeles. In 2002, he was a part of a ball club that won the World Series. A pitcher for 15 years, Black won his first World Series title in 1985 pitching for the Kansas City Royals. He won 121 games and posted a career 3.84 ERA.

Two years ago, the Nationals wanted somebody young that would bring in a fresh mindset to the clubhouse. In Williams, that’s exactly what they got. They learned, however, that with inexperience comes an inability to maintain control when the going gets tough. With Black, Rizzo has a manager that has been through the paces of a MLB career.

To go along with his two World Series rings, Black has been in a losing clubhouse. In San Diego, just twice did his squad post an above-.500 record. Still, the Padres’ front office resigned him to several extensions. His ability to keep the clubhouse together through times of struggle will ultimately prove beneficial after what we saw at the end of the 2015 season.

Much like Williams, Black has been handed the keys to the Cadillac. The Nationals are by no means in a rebuilding phase, but there are several decisions he will have to make. On top of hiring an entirely new coaching staff — Washington dismissed those from the Williams era — he’ll have to decide on a course of action for several big names players.

Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Doug Fister and Denard Span have all grown into key roles for the Nationals in the past few seasons. They’re staples of the starting lineup, but their contracts are expiring. Desmond proved inconsistent throughout last season and Span has become fragile. The emergence of youngsters Trea Turner and Michael A. Taylor doesn’t help their causes.

Along with deciding on who to bring back, the 58-year old California-native will need to repair a broken bullpen that proved to be the Nationals’ Achilles heal far too often last season.

As James Wagner — who originally broke the story — of the Washington Post points out, Black is an old-school manager that is in touch with the new-school way of thinking. He understands the advanced statistics that rule the sport, more so than his leading competitor, Dusty Baker.

The hiring of Bud Black as the manager of the Nationals is one that does not surprise many. When Washington made it clear they wanted someone with managerial experience under their belt, all eyes turned to Black as the frontrunner.

At face value, this is a good decision by the Nationals. They replace an inexperienced manager that let the clubhouse fall apart with a hardened veteran that has seen a lot in his extensive tenure at baseball’s top level and understands how the clubhouse dynamic changes over the course of the season. He’s a player’s manager and that’s just what they needed.

While we certainly don’t want to get too high on this move until some real decisions are made, this certainly seems like a step forward for the Washington Nationals. As far as this offseason is concerned, they’re getting started on the right track.

About Brian Skinnell

Brian Skinnell is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins, Nationals and college football. He is a born-and-raised follower of Washington, D.C. sports, “The” Ohio State Buckeyes and auto racing. A graduate of Shepherd University in December of 2014, he has a degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies with a Concentration in Sports Communications. Prior to joining District Sports Page (for his second stint), he spent time with Rant Sports, Yahoo Sports and the Washington Redskins. For his day job, he is an Editor for Team Velocity Marketing. Follow him on Twitter @Brian_Skinnell.

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