Bud Black’s contract extension last August occurred at a good time, particularly after Kevin Towers was fired as general manager following the season. It assured he would be managing the team in 2010 since you knew the penny-pinching San Diego Padres wouldn’t let a new general manager come aboard and short-circuit the agreement.

Move ahead 11 months later and Black has earned another contract extension and this one comes at a great time – with the Padres possessing the best record in the National League more than 90 games into the season.

A .500 record this season would have been fantastic. But 17 games over .500 in mid-July – let that sink in, the Padres would need to lose 17 consecutive games to fall to .500 – is phenomenal. Only the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays have better records than Black’s club.

So Black was awarded with a three-year contract extension through the 2013 season on Monday by first-year general manager Jed Hoyer that includes club options for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

It’s a great move by the Padres to lock up Black, who is on his way to winning National League Manager of the Year honors. Only Dusty Baker of the Cincinnati Reds has a chance at winning the award over Black.

Black has been a miracle worker in 2010 with a hitting-challenged team that would rate as one of the least potent offenses to ever win a division title if the Padres maintain their lead. They currently lead the NL West by four games over the Colorado Rockies.

Pitching and defense have fueled the Padres’ surprise rise in 2010. Young ace Mat Latos has been one of the best pitchers in baseball and the bullpen led by Heath Bell has been terrific. The defense makes all the routine plays and has a knack for making exceptional ones at the right time.

All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is having another big season and will likely be a top-five finisher for NL MVP honors. In fact, Gonzalez could find himself with a solid chance at winning the award if the has a big second half and the Padres win the division.

It will be hard for voters to overlook that he’s been a one-man band. Why teams ever pitch the ball to Gonzalez when men are on base is beyond me.

The ironic thing is that the Padres have gotten a large number of clutch hits from their less-than-scary hitters in the later innings of game. Guys like Scott Hairston, David Eckstein and Jerry Hairston Jr. aren’t intimidated by tough situations.

Players like playing for Black and that can’t be underestimated in the Padres’ unforeseen season. The former major-league pitcher relates well to other pitchers but has also easily mixed with hitters.

Black has a supportive even-keel approach that works and, now in his fourth season, he has gotten significantly better at running a game. If this group were to advance to the National League Championship Series this October, just watch how high Black’s reputation soars.

That’s partly why it made sense for Hoyer and Padres ownership to lock up their skipper now. And the fact that Black has meshed well with his new boss is a bonus that can’t be underestimated.

This was the right move whether or not the Padres hang on to their lead. Hoyer recently said the Padres will be adding payroll for a pennant push so they might soon have another bat to help out down the stretch.

The Padres have been leading the NL West nearly the entire season and they certainly have a great chance at prevailing. The Rockies and San Francisco Giants are up-and-down clubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers aren’t clicking in what might be Joe Torre’s final season as manager.

Even if the Padres were to go .500 the rest of the way, they would win 90 games. Counting a strong final two months of the 2009 season, San Diego is 91-62 (.595) over its last 153 games.

That’s nine games shy of a full season with a winning percentage that usually is associated with money-rich teams like the Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies.

But Black has gotten it done with one of the lowest payrolls in the majors with a team that was forecasted to be one of the worst teams in baseball.

Suddenly, September games at Petco Park are going to carry a lot of importance instead of being a month of playing out the string.

That in itself is worth an extension.

Black has definitely earned his new deal.

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