Winter Meetings interview with Bud Black
Q. Bud, it's been kind of a quiet week for you guys so far, considering all the stuff you did before you got here. What do you feel like you need to do?
BUD BLACK: Like you mentioned, I think that a couple of things were addressed prior to the meetings; Josh Johnson signing and acquiring Seth Smith. Those were two things that we had on our list to accomplish. Getting a starting pitcher.
And with Josh we're getting a guy we believe is going to be healthy and give us the quality work that he can give us. And a left handed bat that we felt we needed came in the name of Seth Smith, who has been noted, experienced bat who can hit right handed pitching or right handed pitching where we had a little trouble with last year.
With that, losing Luke Gregerson is going to be tough. But as we speak we're trying to fill that void. And Josh and his guys are working awfully hard to do that. You'll probably see some different names in the bullpen to shore that up.
Q. Do you feel like you need maybe somebody for the later innings?
BUD BLACK: I think we need somebody for the later innings, whether that's left or right, we'll see how that plays out. We're going to try to acquire a lefty, as well. That's an important piece in a bullpen and they're hard to find. When you have them, they're extremely valuable. We felt we had one in Joe, and Joe did good work for us. But Ian Kennedy, you have to give up some quality, and that trade was made.
We're going to look out there, whether it's a Minor Leaguer coming from another club or if somebody inside our organization on the free agent market, we're going to try to get that done.
Q. Do you feel like you're set with the lineup?
BUD BLACK: The lineup we feel pretty good about it. Again, you look at the names, Ron, Cabrera, Headley, then the five outfielders, counting Maybin, Maybin being healthy, pretty solid.
Q. There's a couple of other guys in that mix
BUD BLACK: Yeah, they're all in the mix. And again, the depth Guzman, Blanks, Medica, who came up for us, will give us some right handed help, Amarista, he'll be back, Lexi is in the mix. So the players that you've seen over the last couple of years are still intact.
So, again, health is such a big part of professional sports and staying healthy, we need that more than anybody.
Q. You also have a fairly deep rotation, what is that going to shake up?
BUD BLACK: It's going to be a good battle. I think again there's some I think there's some battling that some individual pitchers have to fight within themselves, coming back from injury. And we have some guys who are far along in their recovery, Casey Kelly is on his way, Joe Wieland, he's pitching in the Arizona Fall League, Corey Luebke made great strides in October and November. We look forward to him in Spring Training, those three guys, specifically.
Robbie Erlin, Burch Smith, who are healthy pitchers for us late in the year, valuable Major League innings, they're going to do they'll be in Spring Training competing for jobs.
But the depth of the starters is something that we feel good about, if they're all healthy. We felt good about it last year. Things sort of went the other way for us. But the younger kids, like I mentioned, the guys coming back from Tommy John, these guys are close, if not Big League pitchers, and if they don't make the club they're guys we feel good about, if we have to go get them.
Q. Could any of them make their way into the bullpen if not?
BUD BLACK: Yeah, we'll have to look at each guy. And I think there are certain starters, I think can pitch effectively out of the pen. I think there's other starters who can't. They're starters or nothing. But we've got a couple of guys that we think could go into the pen and contribute.
BUD BLACK: Wieland for sure, and Luebke real close. It's going to depend on what happens in January, when he starts his throwing program. But as of now he feels pretty good about being as close to a normal pitcher as possible.
Q. And then what's realistic for Kelly?
BUD BLACK: Kelly, again, I think that he's real close to being part of the regular group. But we'll probably slow him down a little bit, just to make sure. Where he is in his progression on the rehab is right on the mark and again he'll start throwing in January, preparing to pitch his bullpens and batting practice. He'll probably be on a little bit of a monitored program just to make sure.
Q. And the other injury thing, you mentioned Cam?
BUD BLACK: Cam's doing well. The combo injury of the knee and the wrist. The wrist surgery, I think, was successful. The knee didn't require surgery, just needed rest. And he's fine.
So, again, I think come February Cam is going to be a hundred percent, ready to play. He's indicated to me that he wants to play and play a lot. Get a lot of at bats. He didn't get a lot of at bats this year. We hoped that his injuries would have healed sometime in early December, he wanted to play winter ball. That's a great sign that Cam wanted to play in either Venezuela or the Dominican. The injuries weren't quite healed yet. But he should be ready for spring.
Q. Have they started baseball activities at all?
BUD BLACK: Cam? He doesn't need to now. There's really no need for Cam to get in the batting cage right now and hit. Come January he'll be ready to go. And again, I think it will be a program I think he's going to spend most of the time in San Diego. He'll be monitored by Phil, our hitting coach. And in his work as he gets closer to spring.
Q. Measurable metrics in baseball, whether it's the chronological age, why he's struggling, guys coming off of injuries, everybody laments spring being really long, while it's not Major League stuff, is that a chance to sort of figure out makeup and get to know guys and know what buttons to sort of
BUD BLACK: Well, I think anytime you can see a player you get to know that player. Spring Training is the time to get to know the players that you don't know. But in our case we have a lot of players that are coming back. But to your point, there's a lot of factors that go into making a great player, and a lot of those are the intangibles you talk about, makeup and character.
Q. You just passed Brad on the way out of here. Can you talk about the evolution of this job, and going back, you guys coming off the Angels staff. Is it changing rapidly? We're seeing a whole different approach with younger guys, guys without experience?
BUD BLACK: You know, I think there are some guys now, currently managing, that definitely have the skills to manage. Brad being one of them. Matheny coming from where he was with the Cardinals. Walt Weiss. But on the other hand you have Rick Renteria, who spent a lot of time in the Minor Leagues, six years on the Major League staff. There's different paths for different guys. I think it's more individually based than anything. I think a manager can come from a lot of different directions. And I think they're all individually speaking, deserving. But so much depends on who that person is.
Q. Has the job changed with the information that's available to you guys, more interaction with the front office in terms of that information? It seems like the relationship with the GM or some of the people in the front office might be more important or as important as the bench coach?
BUD BLACK: Right. Not thinking back to my playing days, and not really analyzing managers that I had or even when I was a kid watching baseball I was watching players, not so much managers. But now looking at the managers that I played for and the dynamics in the game, in the late '70s when I signed, through the '80s and '90s through now. It's a different set of I don't want to say it's completely different skill set required, but there might be some skills that maybe are required now that maybe weren't required then, to a certain extent. But as far as the game and in handling players, that hasn't changed. I think that's still the basis of managing, of leading. And that hasn't that will never change, because this game we're about the players.
But there's a lot of interaction that the manager has to have now with a variety of people, whether it's the media, whether it's the ownership, like you said, the front office ownership, that maybe wasn't as required years ago.
Q. That's the difference in the skill between managers?
BUD BLACK: Communication, but there's so much information out there being talked about, whether it's coach/manager, player to media, the media relationship is a communication skill. A communication skill with the front office is real. With the fans. With the ownership. It's real. I think that's a huge part of in our profession, the communication ability for the manager, because he has to hit a lot of people daily.
Q. Are there times when you think about it still has to be feel, instinct, gut?
BUD BLACK: I think it's a combination. Again, we talked about this a lot, but I think the analytics are very useful. I think the information that we get as managers, the information that organizations gather is very helpful. But also what we see with our eyes, what we feel in our gut and our heart comes into play, too. And that can only be known by those people closest to the players. We know these players. But again, the analytics definitely have a place in this game because stats do tell a story. Numbers tell a story. Trends tell a story. They don't tell the whole story.
Q. What went into the decision to move Davey over to bench coaching?
BUD BLACK: A couple of things. We felt that this move involved two moves, to replace somebody at first base where Dave was leaving. And Dave's ability to come in and see the game from a different perspective from the bench. And do what we needed him to do as a bench coach. When we went through the checklist of the things that I needed, the things that the team needs, Dave checked off all the boxes for me, what we needed.
And with that Jose Valentin who replaced Dave checked off a lot of the boxes that we needed to fill that coaching position, that Dave held for three years.
To Dave specifically, I definitely feel and our front office, Josh, and his group, feel that Dave has the skills to be a bench coach and contribute his way to our club, from that position. He's ready for it. I think he was ready for it, he was ready for something different. He was doing a great job at first, handling our outfield, handling our base running, teaching our players, from Spring Training all the way through the season, he did a great job. And he'll continue in a lot of that, he'll continue in a lot of those areas as a bench coach. But his role changes a little bit on a daily basis, his responsibilities, and he has the aptitude and the skill to handle what we need.
Q. Do you view him ultimately as another managerial candidate?
BUD BLACK: I do. I think that it's something that Dave as a presence going, he connects with people. He knows the game. I think this will be another step for him getting closer to that, which I think at some point I think he wants to think about. He'll be the first to tell you he's going to concentrate on this. That was the great thing about Rickie, too. I think Rickie had the makings of a Major League manager, but as soon as you asked him about it he'd defer, hey, this is my job, this is what I'm going to do, be a bench coach. And this is my role for today.
And I think Dave feels the same way. But I think Dave will continue to progress towards being a Major League manager.
Q. The are you aware how many people work in the organization as opposed to now. As an outsider, I would think the number of people is a lot larger?
BUD BLACK: An a lot more. When I got to the Major Leagues I'm not sure how many people were in the front office connected with baseball operations. I knew that Joe Burke was the president. I knew that John Schuerholz was the GM, I knew some guys I didn't know what they did.
And now you look at front offices, and I can walk up the hallway of Petco, and there's a lot of great landscapes across our industry, there's a lot of great people. I can only imagine it's multiplied by how much since 1981.
Q. Back in those days Dick Howser didn't have a bench coach, either?
BUD BLACK: No.
Q. When did that
BUD BLACK: I don't know when that we were talking about it the other day. We were talking about our Kansas City staff. And I'm not sure who the first bench coach was in baseball.
Q. I'm not either.
BUD BLACK: I don't know.
Q. You have not only the bench coach, but the assistant hitting coach, and many other coaches that you deal with on a daily basis, what's that change been like for you?
BUD BLACK: I think that's been a change that has been needed, necessitated by a number of factors. I think specifically to the hitting coaches, you look now at, again, let's go to the new ballparks and the time the players arrive at the park. A generation ago a lot of guys took the team bus into the park and got there on the road at 4 o'clock or 4:30 for a 7:00 game.
Q. Except for Gwynn?
BUD BLACK: Yes, except for Tony, he was one of the first guys that used video.
Q. He used to carry that beta with him?
BUD BLACK: He'd do a lot on his own. But he would talk to the hitting coach. But with that said there's so much video. There's so much time spent in the cage. In our park we have two batting cages, and we've got players in there starting at 1:00, 1:30. Hitting off the tee. Soft toss, doing drills. And we have if everything goes according to play, you have 13 position players on the active roster, a guy or two you might have 15 or 16 guys in the cage at certain points in the day from 1:00 until 7:00. And the hitting coach is going from the cage and here comes Adam Berry, can you flip me some soft toss, I want to work on my front side. And here comes Stan McNeal, and boy, you know what I'm saying?
By the time the game starts the hitting coach is worn out. So I think because of what's happened with technology and modern architecture, with cages right next to the clubhouse, you can't do it all by yourself. And on the pitching coach, same thing. Another set of eyes on pitchers. Used to be you had the pitching coach and the guy in the bullpen was maybe an ex player, ex catcher, most of the teams are going toward two pitching coaches who work in tandem. A lot of information to dissect with all the resources we get on data.
Q. What do you expect Trevor to hit he's the upper level pitching coach?
BUD BLACK: We have two pitching coordinators. It's becoming extremely specialized. I think with Trevor, this is something that I think is a great thing because I think it's going to get him more involved on a daily basis. He's going to be in contact more with our players, our upper level pitchers. He'll be in contact with our front office. He's going to get the Big League team. I think he wanted to bite a little bit more off to make a little bit of impact. He was making an impact before, in his role, but now he took a little bigger step to make more of an impact. I think it's great.
Again, you're talking roughly 75, 80 pitchers in the Minor Leagues, one coordinator and some pitching coaches. To really get accomplished what you want to accomplish, sort of divide that responsibility up.
Q. Those hours that you were talking about, have those belied the perception that players don't work as much as they used to?
BUD BLACK: A little bit, sure, yeah. And it could be a bad thing, also. Too much of a good thing is bad for you. There's that theory.
I think you've got to make sure the work is productive. You've got to make sure the work is productive. That's all. There are a lot of guys that work hard, don't work the right way, and it can be counterproductive.
Q. Would you have liked as much video as these guys have?
BUD BLACK: Yeah, I would have. But, again, that's just me. And I've known some great players who wouldn't need video. That might confuse them. The old paralysis by analysis. I've known some great modern day hitters who use very little video. Some great pitchers who don't use a lot of video. But on the other hand there's great ones that use a lot of video. And there's some pitchers who should use more video.
Q. A couple of managers have talked about the fine line, day to day winning and losing, almost kind of plays into this, have as much information as you can, try to decipher it and use it the right way, because the fine line, then, a few times, one game a month, six games over the course of a season, could be whether you go to October or not. I think it comes back to the idea that if you win one more, two more a month, have as much information at your disposal, use it the right way. Like Boston, do you think those turnarounds are possible in a lot of people say it's who you get in the offseason, but 12, 13, 16 game turnarounds possible without acquisitions. Finding a way to win two more times a month?
BUD BLACK: Do I think that's possible to turn around a season without making a lot of acquisitions?
Q. Finding a way to get those two extra?
BUD BLACK: However you want to describe it. But, again, I think there's a lot of teams that can make that turnaround without turning over their team, sure.
Q. For you guys that would almost be
BUD BLACK: With us specifically, yes. If we could every team has injuries, there's no doubt about it. There's been some crippling injuries that players on certain teams have had happen to them. We've had our share, too. We've had quite a few.