Padres general manager Kevin Towers figured the first step toward digging out from a 99-loss season was to bring back Bud Black as manager.
"This is still the right guy to lead this organization," Towers said during a news conference in the home dugout at Petco Park on Tuesday. "I don't think based on the record we could hold him fully responsible for the outcome of the season."
Towers also said the Padres are leaning toward exercising the $9 million option for right fielder Brian Giles, and there's interest on both sides to bring back Trevor Hoffman, baseball's career saves leader who turns 41 on Oct. 13.
The Padres had their worst finish in 15 years, dropping to last in the NL West at 63-99, 21 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. San Diego won the division in 2005-06. Last year, in Black's first season, the Padres fell one loss short of clinching the wild card.
"As we look at this season, I think we all should be held accountable, from players to front office to the coaching staff on why we ended up where we're at," Towers said. "I don't think Buddy got stupid in one year. He did a very good job for a first-year manager, took us one pitch away from making the postseason. I kind of chalk this up to a bad year."
Black, who has one year left on his contract, had several meetings with upper management during the last week, including with CEO Sandy Alderson.
"I guess I'm willing to put my neck in the noose with him going forward that he's the right guy to help us turn this thing around," Towers said.
Black, a former big league pitcher, is 152-173 in two seasons.
"Anytime you go through a season like this, there's going to be speculation," Black said. "But I was never given any indication from Sandy or Kevin about not coming back. So, I knew that I had another year left on my contract and I assumed that they wanted me back.
"But I've been around the game long enough to know that hey, when seasons happen like this, there's bound to be changes."
Towers said there haven't been discussions about extending Black's deal beyond 2009.
"Verbally I'll tell you we're committed to him. He's not walking the plank here," Towers said.
Towers took the blame for not providing more depth in the bullpen and on the bench. He said the team missed outfielders Mike Cameron and Milton Bradley, although he added that the Padres did everything they could to re-sign the two veterans.
In May, after the Padres dropped to 16-30, Towers said: "We're bad, no question about it."
By September, the Padres had several players who started the season in the minor leagues, including top prospects Chase Headley, Will Venable, Nick Hundley and Matt Antonelli.
"We're young," Towers said. "I mean, at the end of the season we were a completely different ballclub. I actually probably enjoyed the last month of the season more than the prior five just because we've been touting a lot of these young players and they're finally up here getting a chance to get their feet wet and play."
But, he added: "At the end of the season, we were bad. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we'd we be trying to save our bacon in the last series of the season to prevent ourselves from losing 100 games."
Towers, who has guided the Padres to four division titles and one World Series in his 13 seasons, said he's had less-talented teams perform better than this club.
"It was disappointing. Now the challenge that lies ahead for Buddy and I and the front office is to fix it," he said.
Towers anticipates doing it with less than the 2008 budget of $75 million.
Although the Padres have almost a month to make a decision on Giles, Towers said the 37-year-old right fielder "really makes the offense go. He's the type of hitter that we'd like to have, especially in this ballpark. It's a very weak free-agent class and we don't just know if we have a Brian Giles in one of our young guys, with the type of production he gave us this year."
Giles' .398 on-base percentage was one of the best in baseball. He had a team-high .306 average, hit 40 doubles and 12 homers, had 63 RBIs and 87 walks.
Hoffman had 30 saves in 34 chances. It was the 13th time he saved at least 30 games, extending his own big league record. He extended his big league career record to 554.
"If we're talking about adding depth to the bullpen, I don't know how you can take away Hoffman," Towers said. "I know he'd like to be here. We'd like to have him back. It's just if financially we can make the deal work. That's the only hurdle."