Why?

That seemed to be a good question for what took so long for the Padres to announce manager Bud Black would return in 2009. By not announcing earlier in the month that Black wouldn’t be the fall guy for 99 losses in 2008, the Padres allowed speculation to fester.

Would the Padres’ brass really let him go because he didn’t follow a so-called manual of the organization’s philosophy on how many pitches to take before swinging?

Black had some fun with the philosophy question when it was finally announced on Monday he would return and Black and general manager Kevin Towers met with the media in the dugout at Petco Park.

Black recalled a philosophy class he took at San Diego State in which the professor asked students on an exam just one question.

“He wrote on the chalkboard, ‘Why?’ Black said. “One guy turned in his answer in about 15 seconds. I asked him later what he wrote. He said he wrote ‘Why not?’ And he got an A. I wrote four or five pages and got a C.”

It turns out Towers — and by extension team president Sandy Alderson and owner John Moores — isn’t a nutty professor. He had more than one question for Black when the two talked Sept. 21 in Los Angeles during the series against the Dodgers.

“We met for about four or five hours,” Towers said. “I told him what I thought went wrong this year and asked him what he thought. I was comfortable with the responses I got back from him that we’re on the same page about where the breakdown was.”

“That was enough for me to go back to Sandy and John and tell them we need to keep this guy.”

Black says the issue is whether he buys into the so-called “moneyball” philosophy of working the count for the right pitch and getting walks to increase on-base percentage.

“We want to develop pitch recognition throughout the system,” Black said. “We want aggressive hitters ready to hit their pitch, and that’s especially true in rookie ball and low A ball. We want to ensure they hit strikes and take balls.”

So why fuel the speculation there was a rift between Black and the organization? Even after hitting coach Wally Joyner resigned Sept. 22 and expressed a difference in philosophy on how to coach hitting, they left the issue in doubt.

We know the Padres aren’t a knee-jerk reaction organization, so I think it has more to do with the Padres deciding they were going to follow a certain procedure, and speculation in the media wasn’t forcing them to move up their time schedule.

It might have been the smart thing to do, especially with all the doubt surrounding the franchise’s future with the owner’s divorce proceedings. But maybe it just made them more stubborn to wait until after the final game.

There really isn’t a mystery as to why the Padres weren’t very good this year. They didn’t have good players. Or more specifically, too many players that didn’t to play up to the front office’s best-case scenario.

They were hoping for big years from Scott Harriston, Khalil Greene, Jim Edmonds, Tadhito Iguchi and a bullpen to get the ball to Trevor Hoffman in the ninth inning.

They struck out on all five counts, but I don’t blame them for trying to squeeze one more year out of contending for a National League West title with their core players.

First baseman Adrian Gonzalez is an All-Star, outfielder Brian Giles is a pro’s pro and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff is a No. 6 hitter with 20-plus homeruns miscast by default as a No. 5 hitter by necessity.

Towers said discussions have begun to bring Hoffman back for another year.

The gamble didn’t work, and now they begin re-tooling the lineup with younger players in their minor leagues in 2009 instead of wondering if they pulled the plug too soon in 2008.

“The challenge is to get this turned around like we did from ’03 to ’04,” Towers said. “I think we’re in a better position now than we were then. We have more young players in our system and we have our core players. We have young people other teams want in trades.”

— TOM SHANAHAN

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