Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo could not be reached to comment.
Despite a late-season collapse that left the Padres out of the 2010 playoffs despite leading the division most of the season, Black, 58, was named the National League manager of the year, edging out Cincinnati’s Dusty Baker, another finalist for the Nationals’ job. A small-market team with a low payroll, the Padres posted two winning seasons under Black: 2007 and 2010. Prior to San Diego, Black was the Angels pitching coach under Manager Mike Scioscia for seven years and won a World Series ring in 2002.
Born in California and raised in Longview, Wash., Black spent 15 years in the majors as a pitcher, playing for the Royals, Giants, Indians, Mariners and Blue Jays. He won 121 games and posted a 3.84 ERA, and was part of the rotation of the Kansas City team that won the 1985 World Series. He finished his collegiate career at San Diego State, also the alma mater of Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg.
After Matt Williams was fired by the Nationals the day after the disappointing 2015 season ended Oct. 4, Black was instantly seen across baseball as a top candidate because of his personality and skills.
Williams had no managerial experience when he was chosen by Rizzo, and this time, the Nationals conducted a more extensive search, admitting that previous experience would be a priority. They interviewed at least seven candidates, a few with many years of minor league managerial experience but none in the majors. But the Nationals focused more on veteran coaches, such as Giants longtime bench coach Ron Wotus, and managers such as Black, Baker and former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.
The choice came down to Black and Baker, a skipper with old-school tactics who has 20 years of managerial experience, an NL pennant and three manager of the year awards. Baker, 66, impressed the Lerner family so much earlier this month that the Nationals asked him to return Washington on Monday for a second interview. So did Black, and the Nationals opted for the younger candidate who is also open to advanced statistics that have become prominent in the sport. Black played under Baker in San Francisco in 1993 and 1994, and also beat him out for the Padres job in 2006.
Black will be tasked with restoring relationships in the clubhouse and leading the Nationals to the playoffs again after a disastrous 2015 season. Considered a preseason World Series favorite, the Nationals sputtered because of injuries, under-performance, roster holes and managerial issues, finishing 83-79 and missing the playoffs. Williams’s relationships with some players frayed deeper into the season, and his handling of the pitching staff often was questioned.
Black joins Boston’s John Farrell and Cincinnati’s Bryan Price as the only active managers who are former pitchers. With the Padres, Black was scrutinized for his struggles in developing young hitters and for never reaching the playoffs. But in Washington, Black inherits a team that won division titles with strong pitching in 2012 and 2014, and that has a more capable lineup headlined by presumptive NL MVP Bryce Harper along with Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth.
The shape of Black’s coaching staff is unclear. When the Nationals fired Williams, they also dismissed all his coaches, some longtime Nationals instructors. A few were told they would be recommended to the new manager, and some, such as popular former bench Randy Knorr, took other jobs within the organization. Rick Renteria, who managed the Cubs for one season in 2014 and was Black’s former bench coach in San Diego, is an early favorite to serve as Black’s right-hand man again.
Chelsea Janes and Adam Kilgore contributed to this report.