Let the fire sale commence! Kidding. I really am kidding. All weeklong I truly felt like there was no way we were going to win our first game, and honestly I’ll be surprised if we win one out of the next four games. They won’t be blowouts…at least I don’t foresee them being blowouts. They’ll be close, and one miscue or bad pitch or questionable defensive move will be the cause. A lot of nerves, a lot of hype, and a squad that’s still figuring each other out will always lend itself to disappointment. Not long term, mind you, but mild disappointment, like you just had the best ravioli of your life, then stubbed your toe on the way to your car.
Game one is in the books, and the only thing that went wrong was the thing that nobody thought would go wrong: the bullpen. We battled back with the bats, and our starter kept us alive. That sentence wasn’t said very often last season. However, “the bullpen blew it” was another sentence that wasn’t said very often last season. Oh, well. It happens. We have a great bullpen made better two days ago, so honestly we all need to just sit back, kick up our feet, and be glad we had expectations to begin with.
So, did we learn anything from game 1 of 162? Yes, we did. The smarter sportswriters, and bloggers, and talking heads all saw this season as make or break for pretty much one person, and that person is the one person who actually looked more frazzled than anyone else on Monday – Bud Black. I’ve written extensively for several sites over the years that I don’t think Bud Black is a big-game manager, and I don’t know if I ever will think that. I do believe Monday’s opener helps me prove that point, but it won’t be the apex of his eventual firing, or raise. Game One was a game we were supposed to win. A game most Padres fans (and brass) will tell you we needed to win, but ultimately it was a game we needed to look really good in. Win or lose, we needed to look mid-market, and we didn’t. There are not a lot of things a big league manager can actually do these days to control the outcome of a game. He basically ensures the preparation of his players, and then asks his players to trust that he will make the right decisions during the game. Bud Black has never struck me as the kind of manager who totally does this. He likes to tinker. He likes to change the lineup constantly, and play the odds. In years past this has mostly been out of necessity, but he still does it. I’ll be absolutely shocked if we see the same lineup twice in the first six games. By all accounts, this isn’t necessarily good or bad, but I’ve yet to see it work on any kind of consistent and successful basis for Buddy. He likes to shake things up, but only when it looks like it’s the absolute worst time to do so.
Bringing in Nick Vincent wasn’t the worst idea he’s had. It wasn’t the best either. You’re in a big spot. Opening Day, up by a run against your biggest rival, and against the best pitcher in Baseball. The decision to bring in one of your few holdovers from the last couple of seasons, instead of Benoit or Kelley, guys who have big-game experience in high-pressure situations, is kind of a mystery. It’s the move of a tinkerer. A guy who likes to shake things up when only he thinks they should be shaken. He’s the anti-Taylor Swift. And, I know Vincent has been good the last few seasons. He’s a good guy, a great young reliever, and is going to have a good to great year, but it was just the wrong moment. Of course Kelley had his issues yesterday as well, and ultimately got the loss, but I’d rather give a long time veteran like Kelley the ball, then head straight to a young kid, like Vincent, still finding his spot on a team that suddenly matters. Maybe it was a test to see how Vincent reacted to his eventual success or failure. I don’t know, but my biggest problem is that sometimes I don’t think Bud Black knows either.
Make no mistake, we lost one game, and I am in no way calling for Bud Black to be fired. I like Bud Black. I bought Bud Black a beer one time, and he ordered a Coors Light, and I knew he was a real man. I want him to succeed, and I want him to lead this team to success. Most people say about Buddy what they said about Bochy: Give him some talent, and he can put together a winner. Well, AJ gave ya the talent, Buddy; now show us what you can do. We’re all watching.
For more expert sports stuff, and things you probably won’t care about, follow me on Twitter @dallas_mc