- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 29, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Jerry Hairston played 16 years in the major leagues, and saw a lot of good managers close up — guys like Joe Girardi and Buck Showalter.

If he gets a chance to manage someday, he will take what he learned from those managers.



What he learned from Bud Black, reportedly the new manager of the Washington Nationals? How to communicate with players.

“I loved playing for Bud,” said Hairston, who played for Black in 2010, when the San Diego Padres won 90 games and Black was named National League Manager of the Year. “He is a very good communicator, and he is fair. He will tell you the truth.

“It’s not about him. It’s about the team.”

Black will succeed Matt Williams as manager of the Nationals, numerous outlets reported late Wednesday night. Williams supposedly didn’t communicate very well with his players during this recent disappointing 83-win season. He must have communicated better in 2014, when the team won 96 games.

Now, it will be up to Black — who has a career record of 649-713 over nine seasons managing the Padres, including just two winning seasons — to communicate the Nationals to a World Series title.

Hairston believes they made the right choice, although he said that Black’s competition for the job, Dusty Baker, would have been a great choice as well.

“They couldn’t go wrong with either guy,” he said.

In 2010, the Padres were supposed to be a last-place club, but wound up winning 90 games and leading the National League West until the final days of the season. Black’s team blew a 6 1/2-game lead in September with a 10-game losing streak and was beaten out by the San Francisco Giants, who would go on to win the World Series.

Black would be named National League Manager of the Year that season, edging out, of all people, Baker with the Cincinnati Reds.

“The team we had in 2010 was supposed to lose 100 games,” Hairston said. “We were supposed to be a bad team. But we had like, myself and David Eckstein, we were kind of like a family.

“We were able to win 90 games with good pitching and good defense,” he said. “Bud Black was great at managing the pitching, the starters and the bullpen. Bud made sure everyone was involved, whether you were the star player or the 25th guy on the roster. He had a really good coaching staff and incorporated the coaches into the decision making.”

A California-born lefthander, Black, 58, won 121 games pitching for six teams from 1981 to 1995, including the Kansas City Royals, with whom he won the World Series in 1985. He would become a pitching coach for Mike Scioscia and the Angels from 2000 to 2006, winning another World Series ring in 2002.

He interviewed for the Giants’ managing job in the winter of 2006, but San Francisco hired the man the Padres fired, Bruce Bochy. Black then replaced Bochy in San Diego.

Former Nationals manager Davey Johnson once told me that he didn’t believe pitchers made good managers, because they couldn’t relate to position players. There are exceptions to every rule, and Hairston said Black is the exception.

“Even though he was a pitching coach, he could relate to all the players,” Hairston said. “He was so hard on opposing pitchers, riding them like he was a hitter. It was funny to hear sometimes. Bud would be yelling and barking at the opposing pitchers, ‘We’re going to light you up,’ and all that. It was hilarious to listen to. We used to ask him, ‘Do you want to get up to hit?’ and he would respond, ‘Give me a bat, give me a bat, I’m a baseball player. I’m not just a pitcher.’

“You knew he was passionate not just about pitching, but about the game of baseball,” Hairston said. “That’s what you want if you’re a player to see from a manger. It’s not fake. It’s a real genuine passion.”

This team could use some passion. Sometimes, it played as if it didn’t have a pulse — a cool, detached style, taking a cue from its leader in the clubhouse, Jayson Werth, who clashed with Williams and, before that, Jim Riggleman.

Hairston, who played with Werth on the Nationals in 2011, believes Werth will love Black.

“I know there were issues with communication with the last manager,” he said. “I was in that clubhouse in 2011. I know those guys, like Jayson Werth. They’re going to love playing for Bud.

“Jayson being the leader of that team, and it looks like Bryce Harper is becoming more of a leader — the one thing that Bud Black will do a good job of is making sure you bring everyone together, the veterans, the rookies, guys from different cultures,” Hairston said. “That is what it is really about. When you get to the big leagues, guys know how to play. The key is getting them to play together.

“Bud Black brings that old-school mentality to a team, a grinding team, ‘We fight you every single at bat and we fight you with every pitch on the mound.’”

That would be a welcome change for players who have seemed unwilling to fight anyone — except themselves.

• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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