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On the ever-growing list of problems Major League Baseball is facing, there is one major issue that has seemingly outlasted them all.
Teams are still not hiring African-American managers.
In fact, as we turn the calendar to 2020, Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers remains as the only black manager among the league’s 30 franchises.
It's a trend that is both startling and troubling. Or, as former MLB manager Dusty Baker termed it in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea, it's a trend that is 'very dangerous' for the game.
Based on this offseason, it's one that's not showing any signs of reversing.
No African-Americans hired
Eight MLB teams entered the offseason with a managerial opening. Only one hired a minority — Carlos Beltran with the New York Mets.
Last winter, there were six managerial openings. None of those vacancies were filled by an African-American.
Overall, there are only six minority managers in MLB, with five of those being Latino.
In 1999, then-commissioner Bud Selig mandated that every major league team had to interview at least one minority candidate for a managerial vacancy. All 14 teams seeking a manager over the last 15 months adhered to the ‘Selig Rule,’ but in some cases it might be fair to wonder whether they did so in good faith. Baker, who has 1,863 career wins with the Giants, Cubs and Nationals, and Ron Washington, who also has extensive managerial experience, were considered as finalists for some of those openings. But the bottom line is neither man was hired.
Even more concerning. There were only a handful of other black candidates who were even interviewed or considered, and their overall lack of experience likely played a role in them being overlooked. That highlights how far the league has to go to get this turned around.
Nearly 45 years after Frank Robinson became baseball’s first African-American manager, baseball has a problem with its hiring practices. Blacks are disproportionately overlooked. White owners tend to hire white general managers who tend to hire white managers, and the results are clear.
Just 8.2% of players on 2019 Opening Day rosters were African-Americans, which is in line with recent years but a drastic drop from 19% in 1995.
Perhaps it’s not surprising. There are no African-American majority owners — the only one of color is the Angels’ Arte Moreno — or chief executives. At last month’s general manager meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz., when teams made their executives available to reporters in a hotel ballroom, just one African American was present: Michael Hill of the Marlins.
‘Very dangerous trend’
Some will argue the only responsibility owners and general managers have is to put the best and most qualified people in the right positions. While that much is obviously true, what's also true is that becoming qualified and earning a spot is difficult to do when you’re not getting a chance.
"I told somebody about 10 years ago that I saw this coming, with the decline of the African-American players,” Baker told the Chronicle. “I've lived long enough to see trends, and this is a very dangerous trend. Everybody talks about it, but who's doing anything about it?”
Unfortunately, there hasn't been a strong enough movement from within baseball to make the managerial ranks more diverse. Baker also believes black managers are held to a higher standard, stating that “unless you win it all, then you’re considered a failure.”
Former Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston remains the only black manager to have won a World Series. Baker, Washington and Roberts have since come close to joining him. But the odds both were forced to overcome just to get that close were enormous.
That has to change. It’s absurd to think there are not more African-Americans who are qualified and capable of running a major league clubhouse. The less chances they are given to prove that, the more baseball misses an opportunity to truly diversify and perhaps discover someone who can truly change the game.
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