DENVER, Colo. -- Bud Black sat in the visitors dugout for the greatest game in Rockies history. He watched in disbelief as Colorado riddled San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman in the play-in game. Outfielder Matt Holliday scored the winning run, his slide providing the Rockies' version of John Elway's The Drive in Cleveland. The mystery remains on whether Holliday touched the plate.
Black, 59, returned to Coors Field on Monday trying to solve another mystery -- how to make the Rockies winners again. Colorado hasn't finished above .500 since 2010, and is asking a third manager to solve the riddle in the past six seasons.
Black brings unique experience as the first Rockies manager with a pitching background. He won 121 games as a left-handed pitcher, and worked his way through the coaching ranks with his mound expertise. He receives ample time, given a three-year contract with an option, according to MLB sources.
"I got a lot of congratulatory texts. But a lot were about the team. People realize this team is a great spot," said Black, who managed the Padres for nine years. "I know where the players are mentally. They feel they are ready. Good things are ahead."
When Black's Padres lost the breathtaking play-in game, it propelled the Rockies to the World Series. Black identified that as his goal in his introductory press conference.
"There are a couple of teams we have to chase down, but I think we are gonna," said Black, who was a candidate for the Nationals and Braves' vacancies over the past two years. "This is a real team. I was pumped to get this call, to get this chance."
The Rockies finished 77-85 last season, contending until August for a wild card spot. The bullpen dissolved, leaving Colorado lost in the wake of the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants in the National League West. Rockies General Manager Jeff Bridrich said Black's expertise "will help us off the bump."
"There's a breadth of experience there and was a defining part in our final decision," Bridrich continued. "But, it's not what Bud has done, but what he will do. One of the things that came to light during this process is the shared excitement we have for the future of the organization. The near future especially. We think this is a great match."
Black, who will select the rest of the staff along with Bridich, insists he will embrace analytics, something the Rockies tilted heavily toward over the last two seasons. Black has managed nearly half of a season in Denver due to all his road trips with the Padres to Coors Field.
"I like that part of it. I like discussing it with staff members, scouts," Black said. "In the simplest terms, it's a blend."
For the Rockies to take that next step, they must pitch better. Black forged his reputation in San Diego around blue-collar, effective bullpens. The challenge is daunting in Colorado because of the nature of the beast that is Coors Field. Black, however, has the benefit of inheriting a starting staff to form a foundation with Jon Gray, Tyler Chatwood, Chad Bettis and Tyler Anderson.
"You look at teams that win. You have to pitch. It's a different game here. But it's still baseball," said Black, who was also drawn to this job because he has family living in the area. "In this day and age, you can't outslug teams. The depth of the pitching staff has to be solid. You can't have a weak line one through 13. We will get through it."
As Black interviewed for the job in the suite level of Coors Field, his past and future collided. He won over the front office, and he wondered as he stared at a picture of Holliday crossing the plate if he had won one more game.
"To this day," Black said to laughs, "I don't think he touched the plate."