Writers from around Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Check back throughout the day for more responses, and feel free to leave a comment of your own.
Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune
On opening day, the biggest question surrounding the Padres was when they would trade Adrian Gonzalez.
With Jake Peavy in Chicago, their No. 1 starter was Jon Garland, whom they had signed after he lingered on the free-agent market until late January. Their lineup had Tony Gwynn Jr. and David Eckstein as the 1-2 hitters, and Kyle Blanks batting cleanup. No, they weren’t scaring anyone.
And things got worse when Chris Young experienced more trouble in his shoulder after a strong start in the second game of the season. But the Padres nevertheless won eight in a row to get off to a 15-8 start in April, and on Aug. 25 held a lead of 6 1/2 games in the National League West.
Rookie General Manager Jed Hoyer did a terrific job providing midseason reinforcements, adding Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada, among others, but Bud Black deserves a ton of credit for getting the Padres off to a fast start and building such an impressive bullpen.
Updated at 9:10 a.m.
Mandy Housenick, The Morning Call
There shouldn’t be anyone other than Bud Black mentioned in this conversation.
I can’t imagine that Black’s team, the San Diego Padres, was on anyone’s to-watch-list in the preseason; I know it wasn’t on mine. Yet Black, with a couple of no-name starters -- who had even heard of Mat Latos? -- and an offense with only one legitimate star in Adrian Gonzalez, managed to keep his team in the heat of the playoff race until the season’s final weekend.
Black’s bullpen, anchored by closer Heath Bell, has been stellar. But perhaps what’s most notable about Black’s relief corps is that he has three pitchers (Edward Mujca, Luke Gregerson and Mike Adams) all making less than $450,000 and all with ERAs below 3.62. Black did one heck of a job.
Updated at 12:34
Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times
Is this a trick question? Of course the answer is Bud Black.
Yes, the San Diego Padres have a terrific pitching staff, and they play in a pitcher's park. But Chris Young, their most decorated starter entering the season, has pitched 20 innings.
Black, a standout pitching coach with the Angels before the Padres hired him as manager, has done his best work by keeping his pitchers in the right frame of mind, in persuading them to continue to attack the strike zone instead of nibbling around the corners in the fear that one fat pitch could cost them the game. That would have been an entirely reasonable fear.
The Padres entered play Friday with the fewest runs of any team in the National League West, but they're still alive for the division title. They had won 28 games in which they had scored three or fewer runs. And their pitching staff had held opponents to the lowest on-base and slugging percentages of any staff in the majors.
Their opening day leadoff hitter, Tony Gwynn, has a .304 on-base percentage. Their opening day cleanup hitter, Kyle Blanks, hit .157 in 33 games of an injury-shortened season. Their opening-day shortstop, Everth Cabrera, is below .300 in both on-base and slugging percentage.
Photo: Members of the San Diego Padres. Credit: Jody Gomez / US Presswire