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.
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.
Texas Rangers’ skipper Ron Washington finished 3rd in the AL Manager of the Year voting. That’s not a travesty. He actually did a little better than I expected. I thought maybe even Joe Girardi of the Yankees would finish ahead of Wash. It’s the nature of the Manager of the Year voting that the winner is usually the manager of a team that did surprisingly well, which the Tampa Bay Rays did, so Joe Maddon was deserving of the honor (I sadly forgot to put Maddon on my ballot in the BBA voting for AL Manager of the Year, an omission I regret).
The headline does say “A Managerial Travesty”, though, and there is one to write about, but it only has to do with Ron Washington in a tangential way. When the Rangers made the post-season for the second consecutive season, it occurred to me that not many African-American managers have been to the post-season in consecutive seasons. I decided, therefore, to look up where Wash stacked up on the list of African-American managers. The results both surprised me and filled me with dismay.
I checked online and didn’t find a single source listing all the African-American managers in MLB history on one page (if there is one, I didn’t find it), so I had to look up every major league team’s managerial history separately.
Frank Robinson was the first African-American manager in major league history, when he became player-manager of the Cleveland Indians in 1975. That was 36 years ago.
Here’s what surprised me: In his five years as manager of the rangers, Ron Washington already ranks fifth in wins among African-American managers with 427 regular season wins. The only ones ahead of Wash on the list now are Dusty Baker (1,483), Robinson (1,065), Cito Gaston (913) and Don Baylor (627). That’s the good news if you’re a Wash fan like me.
The bad news hit me shortly thereafter. It only took five years for Wash to rank fifth in all-time wins? That’s when it hit me. Unless there’s someone I’m missing, it appears that in the 36 years since the color barrier was broken in the MLB managing ranks, there have been a grand total of 12 African-American managers in baseball. Twelve in 36 years. Only four of them (Robinson, Baker, Baylor and Hal McRae) have managed more than one team in the managing careers. Gaston managed the same team, the Toronto Blue Jays, twice. That means the other eight were given one chance and one chance alone at managing and were never given a second opportunity.
Every business uses networking in their hiring practices. At its worst, networking is known as “The Good Ol’ Boy Network”, which has been used to hire the overwhelmingly Anglo-American group of managers, many of whom seem to easily recycle from one job to another to another. MLB has seen more Hispanic managers hired in recent years, to which they should be applauded. Don Wakamatsu was the first manager of Asian-American heritage to be hired when he skippered the Mariners in 2009 and part of 2010. Yet the dearth of African-Americans vying for managerial positions continues to be abysmal.
Washington and Baker are the only African-American managers in the majors right now. The Cubs and Cardinals have both hired Anglos as their new managers. The only other available slot as of this writing is in Boston, where the candidates seemingly at the top of the list are Anglos as well.
Twelve African-American managers in 36 years. MLB has to do better.