Last night, I was doing a head count on the number of African-American managers that will be starting the season in Major League Baseball and a startling realization hit me: This season will begin with three African-American managers in the big leagues and ALL THREE will be managing in the AL West!
Ron Washington begins his 8th season as the skipper of the Rangers in 2014. In that time, he has led Texas to three playoff appearances, two World Series appearances and came within, as we well know, a strike of winning the ultimate prize (twice!). He enters this season on the last year of his contract. GM Jon Daniels says he can’t imagine working with any other manager than Wash. He says he deserves an extension. Yet Wash has yet to be signed to said extension. Is he asking for too much money? Too many years? Or is ownership balking at renewing him? Who knows? Consider this, though. Among African-American managers, only Willie Randolph has compiled a better winning percentage than Wash. Only Dusty Baker and Cito Gaston have brought their teams to more playoff appearances. Sometime in early May (or late April if Texas gets off to a hot start), Wash will overtake Don Baylor to become the 5th winningest African-American manager. If the Rangers far exceed all expectations, he could pass Jerry Manuel for 4th place on that list, though it’s more likely to happen in April of 2015, IF he remains as manager of the Rangers. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s going to happen.
OK, here’s the good news. In 2013, there were seven managerial changes. Six of the jobs went to Anglos and one went to a minority, African-American Bo Porter of the Astros. Porter became just the 16th different African-American to hold an MLB managerial job since Frank Robinson became the first in 1975. As we get ready to begin 2014, there will be five new managers. Only three (Matt Williams in Washington, Bryan Price in Cincinnati and Brad Ausmus in Detroit) are Anglo, one is Hispanic (Rick Renteria with the Chicago Cubs) and, despite losing one African-American in Dusty Baker when he got fired by the Reds, African-Americans still hold three MLB jobs as Lloyd McClendon takes over the reins of the Seattle Mariners.
I’ll say the same thing in 2014 I said in 2013: In this day and age Major League baseball has not done a very good job in helping to increase minority hires among the managerial ranks. Major League Baseball is an international game, with a high number of Latin American players and more Asian players every year. I truly believe MLB needs more Hispanic managers today but I also feel any number of African-American coaches out there don’t seem to get that managerial interview in the first place. Every year, MLB honors Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier on the field, yet more than 50 years later, minority youth in America fail to see many African-Americans leading MLB teams. Ron Washington’s results speak for themselves, as do the results of Dusty Baker, Cito Gaston, Jerry Manuel and Willie Randolph. It’s an issue this white guy doesn’t want to let go. For as long as this blog remains, I’ll do an annual update.
I should say it LOOKS like a mismatch. If I were the Rangers, though, I would approach it as anything BUT.
First, the games are on the road. Texas took two of three to open the season against Houston, but surprised many that it wasn’t three of three, let alone the Astros would win the season opener handily. Second, the Astros are coming off a near-sweep at home of the Los Angeles Angels, who may not be as good as most expected, but certainly not as bad as the team behind them in the standings. Still, the Angels lost two of the three games and only late-inning heroics kept them from heading out-of-town as the first team in 2013 swept by Houston. Third, anyone who has watched the Astros play this season says they may not have much talent, but manager Bo Porter has them hustling and playing heads-up baseball from beginning of the game to the end.
Last, but certainly not least, I looked at the pitching match-ups for this weekend and I have to applaud Porter for the way he’s looking at this series. Porter may not know the MLB rule book about pitcher substitutions, but he does know the only way to beat Texas is to attack their vulnerabilities. Thus, his first two starters this weekend. Tonight, Alexi Ogando goes for the Rangers against the Astros’ Dallas Kuechel. No, not because his first name is Dallas. Keuchel has a rather unremarkable MLB career stat line of 3-9 with a 5.22 ERA, including 0-1, 4.96 in 2013. Keuchel hasn’t started a game in 2013. Why is this a good move by Porter? Not only is Keuchel a lefthander, which the Rangers have not been handling well lately, but he also made one of his 16 starts in 2012 against Texas, where he went 5+ innings and gave up only one run.
On Saturday, Porter is following up by throwing Erik Bedard against Yu Darvish. Bedard has failed so spectacularly as a starter for the Astros, Porter moved him into the bullpen a couple weeks ago. Now, suddenly, here’s Bedard back in the rotation. Huh?
Porter knows Bedard has pretty much sucked this year: 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA. Oh yeah, except against the Rangers. Once again, Bedard is a lefty. He also faced Texas on Opening Day, throwing the last 3.1 innings to get the save in Houston’s shocking win. For his career, Bedard is a decent 5-4, 3.36 against the Rangers.
The Rangers could very well sweep the series against Houston, but I’ll grant the Astros this: their manager is putting them into the absolutely best position to win that he can.
A year ago, I engaged in an exercise to determine where Texas Rangers skipper Ron Washington stood on the all-time wins chart compared to other African-American managers in major league baseball.
At the time, I was both intrigued and mortified to find that since the color barrier was broken in the managerial ranks in 1975, only 15 different African-Americans over a 27 year span were hired as a manager in Major League Baseball. Of those 15, only five: Dusty Baker, Frank Robinson, Cito Gaston, Hal McRae and Jerry Manuel were blessed to manage again after their first job (although Gaston’s second job was with the same team, the Toronto Blue Jays).
Meanwhile, between the start of the 1975 season and the start of the 2012 season, there were 338 changes in managers. Of those, only 23 jobs went to African-Americans, less than 7 percent. An additional 27 jobs went to Hispanic managers, just under 8 percent.
Updating for entering the 2013 campaign, there were two in-season managerial changes in 2o12 and six changes to start the 2013 season. I’m pleased to note another African-American has broken into the managerial ranks with the hiring of Bo Porter as the Houston Astros skipper.
As to where Ron Washington ranks, he remains the sixth winningest African-American manager with 520 wins entering 2013. He will likely stay there at the end of 2013, as he stands 107 wins behind Don Baylor for 5th place on the list. Dusty Baker is number one with 1581 wins and counting.
I still think in this day and age that Major League baseball has not done a very good job in helping to increase minority hires among the managerial ranks. Only five of this year’s 30 managers are from minority groups. What’s even sadder is how African-American representation in the player ranks continues to fall and how the Texas Rangers, managed by Ron Washington, are a prime example of that.
The 2012 Rangers did not have a single African-American player on the roster for the entire 2012 season. This was the first time since the 1960 Kansas City Athletics that an MLB team failed to have a single African-American ballplayer on their roster for a season.
Baseball as a whole is as popular as ever. People love going to the games. Yet baseball has a problem in getting African-American youth interested in the game, which is a shame. Baseball was the first major sport to break the color barrier. I’d hate to see it become the first sport to lose that representation altogether.