To say that I am a fan of baseball would be an understatement. If you’re reading this article not only do you know that statement is true, but you know that statement applies to you as well. Where I feel that I am somewhat different than your average fan is that I view the game as truly global. There is, literally, professional baseball taking place all across the globe. That means that baseball is a very diverse sport, with players of numerous ethnicities and backgrounds. In order for the MLB brand of baseball to grow beyond its present state, I firmly believe they need to embrace a level of diversity that reflects the global state of the game. Due to my growing up in a predominantly Latino neighborhood, I’d especially love to see the power structure of MLB be more accepting of what the Latino community has to offer.
On October 2, 2016 the Chicago White Sox announced the hiring of a new manager. Rick Renteria is a fine hire, well known within baseball circles, thought of highly by executives and players alike. He has managed in Major League Baseball once before, and while he only lasted one year with the Chicago Cubs in 2014, his tenure there carried no negative connotations. In typical White Sox fashion, the press conference that announced Renteria had garnered the job left far more questions than answers about the future of the particular franchise. Coming away from the press conference and that day one thing is certain though, and that’s the number 1.
The number 1 is important because out of 30 MLB teams, only one of them is currently managed by a person of Latino/Hispanic heritage, ancestry, or origin. To call such a number pathetic would be an understatement, but here we are in the year 2016 and the best that MLB can produce as far as Latino managers go is the number 1. There is the chance that as the season progresses, vacancies may open up that other Latinos could fill. But if we use history as our guiding light, those chances are very slim.
Coming into the 2015 season, the number of Latino managers in MLB was also a very lonely 1. Fredi Gonzalez of the Atlanta Braves entered the year as the lone example in MLB. He didn’t last the whole season, and when he was fired in May that meant the remainder of the season marched on without a single Latino man (or woman, but that’s an article for a different time) at the helm of an MLB franchise.
History is important, because the more one digs through the history of MLB, the more one realizes that a lack of Latino managers is a big problem within America’s pastime. In 2004 Richard Lapchik of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports began publishing an annual Racial and Gender Report Card for MLB. In all those reports, the number of Latino managers has never been more than four in a given year. Out of 30 teams, the most they could ever muster in a 12-year timeframe was four at a time. The 2016 season marked the second time there has only been one in a given season. Dig deeper into MLB’s past, and prior to 2004 there were fewer than 12 in the entire history of the league.
The other important number, maybe even more important than Renteria’s 1, is 28.5, that’s the percentage of Latino players on MLB Opening Day rosters last year. That equates to an actual number of 214. That’s 214 Latino players who, when the season began, could only look to one Latino manager. Contrast that with the 443 white players and the accompanying 27 white managers. There’s a glaring disparity present, one that the league itself has acknowledged. Yet, here we are at the beginning of another MLB season and while the number of Latino players will remain relatively the same, the number of Latino managers will remain steadfastly the same, one.
What can be done about this lack of diversity across the managerial ranks of the 29 remaining MLB teams? The easiest solution is for teams to give Latino interviewees more of a shot. That is too simple however, because if it were really that easy, we would have seen a change in the number of Latino players already. One of the most important things that MLB teams can do is to start talking to their players. I’m not saying that the players have to have a direct hand in who is hired for managerial spots. But, an open discourse with all players, especially those of minority backgrounds, could help the front offices to see how they need to change their hiring practices. Another possible solution would be for MLB teams to take possible Latino candidates and give them managerial experience in the minor leagues. If a Dave Martinez expresses an interest in being an MLB manager, then put him in the same position in a farm system as soon as possible. Let Latino managers gain needed experience so that when they do interview for the jobs, they are the very best possible candidates and well known within the system.
One is a lonely number, perhaps the loneliest number, and in the case of Major League Baseball and its Latino managerial problem it is an awful number that speaks to the lack of racial diversity present in a game that exists because of racial diversity. MLB acknowledging they have a Latino manager problem is a good start, but maybe, just maybe, something needs to be done about it? Perhaps it’s time that some of the qualified Latino managerial applicants are given a shot? The white managerial carousel has been in place for some time. It would be easy to think that it will never fall. But, life is about change and rising above. Renteria may be 1 right now, but as the winds continue to bring about change we can all hope that he will be 1, of many.Next post: Better Know a Ballplayer: Chipper Jones
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