FanPost

The 100 Greatest Royals of All-Time - #33 Bud Black

I was going to save this for later, but since today ended up being an off-day, let us finally proceed with the Greatest Royals countdown. The 33rd Greatest Royal of All-Time is left-handed pitcher Bud Black.

56-57 3.73 ERA
977 2/3 IP 508 K 16 CG

Harry "Bud" Black was a very solid left-handed starting pitcher for two Royals playoff teams including the 1985 Championship ballclub. He is now the manager of the San Diego Padres following a stint as pitching coach with the Anaheim Angels where he was credited with much of their success during their championship season of 2002.

Not many former pitchers become managers. I am not certain as to why this so. In the last decade, it has become much harder to find good pitching. Having a manager that can relate to pitchers and tutor them would seem to be a valuable asset. More importantly, most of a manager's most crucial decisions seem to revolve around handling the pitching staff. Who should start? What roles should each reliever play? How long should the starter remain in the game? Which pitching matchup is most favorable? It would seem a former pitcher might have a better sense for these things.

I think of all the current Royals, Brian Bannister has the best chance of being a good MLB manager. He seems to be a cerebral fellow, open to statistical analysis, yet still able to relate to baseball common-sense. I am not privy to his leadership skills, if he has any, but he seems to be a likeable guy. Perhaps John Buck could be a managerial candidate someday, as many catchers are, or perhaps Tony Pena Jr. follows his father's footsteps (Junior certainly hits like a Hall of Fame manager). But my money is on Bannister.

Royals Players Who Became MLB Managers
Bob Boone 1989-1990 - Royals (1995-1997), Reds (2001-2003)
Bucky Dent 1984 - Yankees (1989-1990)
Clint Hurdle 1977-1981 - Rockies (2002-present)
Buck Martinez 1969-1977 - Blue Jays (2001-2002)
Hal McRae 1973-1987 - Royals (1991-1994), Devil Rays (2001-2002)
Bob Melvin 1992 - Mariners (2003-2004), Diamondbacks (2005-present)
Lou Piniella 1969-1973 - Yankees (1986-1988), Reds (1990-1992), Mariners (1993-2002), Devil Rays (2003-2005), Cubs (2007-present)
Luis Pujols 1984 - Tigers (2002)
Cookie Rojas 1970-1977 - Angels (1988), Marlins (1996)
John Wathan 1976-1985- Royals (1987-1991), Angels (1992)

Bud Black was born in southern California, but went to high school in Washington state. He was the son of Canadian immigrants, and his father had played in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks. After pitching at Lower Columbia Junior College in Washington, Black transferred back to sunny California for San Diego State University where he played with a local kid named Tony Gwynn. In the 17th round of the 1979 Amateur Draft, his hometown Seattle Mariners selected him.

Black pitched mostly as a reliever in the Mariners system, reaching the big leagues in 1981 for a cup of coffee. That October, the Mariners picked up 3B Manny Castillo from the Royals for a player to be named later. That player was named the next March. It was Bud Black.*

*-I haven't done an exhaustive search, but I'd say this is probably the best "player to be named later" in Royals history. Manny Castillo was a light hitting infielder the Royals acquired from St. Louis in the Rule 5 Draft. The fact Seattle let a good pitcher like Black go was a pretty good illustration of how the Mariners were run in those days, as well as how great the Royals were at identifying talent.

Bud made the Royals squad out of spring training in 1982, but struggled out of the pen, earning him a demotion to Omaha in May. In the minors he became a starter, and after four successful starts, he was back in the big leagues. He dazzled the Twins in his return, giving up just one run in seven innings in a victory, then threw five shutout innings against the Athletics for another victory his next time out. Black would pitch well until missing most of the month of September. He would finish his rookie campaign with a 4-6 record and a 4.58 ERA.

"I was traded to a veteran pitching staff. Basically, I was the only left-hander in the organization under 30 years old. A left-hander who can throw strikes is a valuable commodity."

The Royals made Black a full-time starter in 1983, although he would make his first five starts for Omaha. Bud would earn a promotion by Memorial Day, and would allow just seven earned runs in his first five starts, winning three games. He finished the season with a promising 10-7 record and a 3.79 ERA.

"My philosophy was just go in and get the batter out. Don't get cute; just get the ball over and get rid of the guy."

1984 was a transitional year for the Royals. In 1983, the rotation was made up of over-30 starters like Paul Splittorff, Larry Gura, Steve Renko and Vida Blue.* In 1984, Bud Black would anchor a rotation of young, promising pitchers like Mark Gubicza, Danny Jackson and Bret Saberhagen.

*-As well as fourteen starts from a 44 year old Gaylord Perry!

Bud got the opening day assignment against the Yankees and allowed just two hits over seven innings in a 4-2 win. He would win his first three starts and fired a complete game six-hit shutout on May 23 against Chicago. He was lit up for seven runs in one inning in a 15-3 loss to Cleveland in July, but bounced back to go 7-3 and a 2.57 ERA over August and September as the Royals caught the Twins and surged into first place. The Royals would clinch the Western Division Title, but would be flattened by the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series. Bud would start and lose Game One. Despite the postseason setback, Bud had enjoyed a career season. He finished sixth in the league in wins (17), ERA (3.52) and innings pitched (257).

Percentage of Starts that were Quality Starts, Royals History (min. 100 starts)
1. Bret Saberhagen 1984-1991 - 64.2%
2. Kevin Appier 1989-1999, 2003-2004 - 61.1%
3. Dick Drago 1969-1973 - 60.0%
4. Charlie Leibrandt 1984-1989 - 59.9%
5. Bud Black 1982-1988 - 57.8%
*-64.7% of Gil Meche's starts have been "Quality Starts", but he has just 68 starts as a Royal

Black once again got the opening day assignment in 1985, allowing just four hits in a 2-1 win over Toronto. The entire Royals rotation was under the age of 30, with only Black and former Reds reliever Charlie Leibrandt the only starters over the age of 23. The twenty-eight year old Black was considered the "ace" of the Royals young rotation.

''I still don't consider myself an ace like a (Steve) Carlton, (Jack) Morris or (Mario) Soto.'When you call a guy an 'ace,' I think of someone who has been in the league a number of years and is a proven winner year-in and year-out -- a guy who gets the ball 35 times a year and gets his innings."

Black found a groove in May, winning three straight starts and giving up just three runs in twenty-six innings in the process. But he hit a wall after Memorial Day, dropping seven straight decisions.

"I wouldn't go so far as to say Black is horse-bleep. But he's sure had a horse- bleep year. A couple times I saw him, he had trouble with just about every pitch he throws. And I'm talking September . . . not back in the spring."

-Anonymous scout

The Royals found themselves again in a pennant race. Despite being mired in a lousy season, Black would come up huge for the Royals by tossing a three-hit shutout against the rival Angels in the last week of the season to tie up the divisional race. The Royals would surge ahead of California the next night and would never look back en route to their second consecutive Western Division title.

Despite finishing the regular season with a disappointing 10-15 and a 4.33 ERA, Black was tapped to start Game Two of the American League Championship Series against Toronto. The Jays had struggled against left-handers all season, and Black had twice beaten the Jays with a 2.28 ERA in three starts. Black would pitch well, allowing just three runs over seven innings, but the Royals would fall in extra innings.

Black would face just a few hitters in relief in Game Three (on just two days rest!), but was huge in Game Six, providing over three innings of shutout relief as the Royals won 5-3 to even the Series. The Royals would take Game Seven and advanced to take on the cross-town Cardinals. Black would face just three hitters in relief of Game One, but started Game Four, giving up three runs in five innings for the loss.

Black had apparently impressed Toronto that October so much that his name surfaced in trade rumors between the Royals and Jays. His relief performance in the ALCS, and the Royals loaded rotation caused manager Dick Howser to move his lefty not to Toronto, but to the bullpen. Bud had a few unsuccessful starts to begin the 1986 season in place of the injured Danny Jackson, but was soon sent to the pen.

"Dick pulled me aside and said he thought I could help the club more in the bullpen. I wasn't very happy about it. I didn't believe I was relief pitcher -- not a guy who won 17 games as a starter the year before. But what are you going to say to the manager? `No Dick, you're wrong, I won't go?' Or, `Don't you think we should talk about this a little bit, Dick?'"

Black would finish 1986 with a 3.20 ERA overall, but a 2.34 ERA out of the bullpen. In 1987, he would split time between the rotation and the pen as the fifth starter in 1987, winning eight games with a 3.60 ERA despite missing a month with arthroscopic knee surgery. That winter, the Royals shopped him around to teams desperate for left-handed starting pitching. The Blue Jays, Brewers, Indians and Yankees inquired, but no deal was made. Black would pitch out of the Royals pen, but struggled mightily the first two months. On June 3, he was traded to the Indians for first baseman Pat Tabler.

Black would win thirty-six games over the next three season in Cleveland, before being dealt to the Blue Jays in a late season push for a pennant. In 1991, he signed a huge four year $10 million contract with San Francisco. He would win just thirty-four games in four seasons with the Giants. He would play one more year in Cleveland before joining the front office as a Special Assistant to the General Manager. In 1999, he was named pitching coach for the Anaheim Angels. In 2002, under his tutelage, the Angels posted the best ERA in the league and won the World Series. In 2008, he was named manager of the San Diego Padres.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.

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