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Bucking a trend (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday January 23, 2007 12:51PM; Updated: Tuesday January 23, 2007 1:25PM
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Larry Dierker won four division titles with the Astros but has yet to find another managing job.
Larry Dierker won four division titles with the Astros but has yet to find another managing job.
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(Think of managers as you do restaurants. You know how you hear that most restaurants go out of business in the first year? A similar truth exists for managers: successful ones keep their jobs, while losing ones don't last and add to the churn.)

Consider Dierker. The poor guy can't get even a sniff of another managing job, even though he posted a .556 winning percentage as manager of the Astros, taking his team to the postseason four times in five years.

"The way I've always looked it," Towers says, "it's not that pitching coaches have failed [as managers] as it is they just might not have been given the opportunities. And actually, I don't know that there have been a lot of pitching coaches who wanted to manage. I don't know too many who have even interviewed."

Give Towers credit for making an inspired choice in Black. (Towers also gave some consideration to Oregon State baseball coach Pat Casey as his replacement for manager Bruce Bochy, who signed with the Giants.) Black has front office experience with the Indians and attracted some interest from the Red Sox as the replacement for manager Grady Little in 2004.

"Playing in Petco Park, we play at least 81 games where runs are hard to come by and about one-third of our games overall are decided by one or two runs," Towers says. "So the manager has to be very good about knowing when to leave a starter in and when to go to the bullpen. Buddy gives us that. Plus, he's a progressive thinker who's not afraid to think outside the box."

For instance, Black mentioned Brian Giles as "a possibility" as his leadoff hitter because of his excellent on-base percentage. Black more likely will choose from among Marcus Giles and Terrmel Sledge for the job, but even giving consideration to Brian Giles atop the lineup is an inspired bit of thinking among his fraternity.

Black says he intends to stress "pitching and defense" to his players and in organizational meetings, which plays to his strength and the way Petco Park plays. But no doubt he will be watched closely on how he runs the offensive side of the game and communicates with his everyday players. Asked to name the managers who influenced him, Black mentions Dick Howser, Craig, Dusty Baker and Mike Scioscia.

"But the most important thing, and this is the advice I've heard the most, is to just be yourself," Black says. "You've got to be who you are. If you try to be something that you're not, with baseball being the everyday sport that it is, it's going to become very transparent."

Craig Colbert, San Diego's Triple-A manager the past four seasons, will be Black's bench coach. Third base coach Glenn Hoffman will coordinate the team's spring training program. But the spotlight on Black will shine more closely on him than for most rookie managers only because he is a former pitcher, the first one to manage in six years. If Towers is right about this hire, the question about hiring pitchers as managers might no longer be "Why?" but "Why not?"

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