Bridging the Minority Manager Gap

fredi gonzalezMajor League Baseball currently has four minority GMs – Dave Stewart of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Farhan Zaidi of the Dodgers, Al Avila of the Detroit Tigers and Michael Hill of the Miami Marlins. Ken Williams of the Chicago White Sox is the only minority vice president of baseball operations and Fredi Gonzalez of the Atlanta Braves and Dusty Baker are the lone minority managers.

To many, this might not seem important at all. But with 41.2 percent of players in 2015 being people of color according to Sports Business News, it should be. It’s something that’s clearly gotten the attention of the commissioner.

“You’re going to have peaks and valleys in terms of representation within what’s a very small sample; there’s only 30 of them out there,” said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to the Associated Press back in October. “Having said that, we are focused on the need to promote diversity, not just African-American, but Latino, as well, in the managerial ranks.”

Prior to Terry Collins, the Mets had two ‘African-American’ managers: Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel. Randolph spent the final days of an illustrious playing career with the Mets in 1992, when then-GM Al Harazin won the winter meetings by acquiring Randolph, Bobby Bonilla, Eddie Murray and Bret Saberhagen.

He would only play in 90 games that season, opening the door for a young infielder named Jeff Kent, acquired in a trade with Toronto for David Cone. A six-time All-Star raised in Brooklyn, he was on Joe Torre’s staff for 11 seasons as the Yankees won four World Series champions. He had never managed before at any level, but brought the same calm self-assurance seen from Torre to the Blue and Orange and for as much deserved criticism for the 2007 collapse, the Mets were a winning franchise under Randolph.

  • 2005 – 83-79
  • 2006 – 97-65
  • 2007 – 88-74
  • 2008 – 34-35

He was replaced by Jerry Manuel, who was known as a communicator and great leader. On the staff since 2005, he was a bench coach for Jim Leyland in 1997 when the Florida Marlins won the World Series. He was tapped to take over the Chicago White Sox the following year and won the AL Central Division title and Manager of the Year in 2000. But three years later, Manuel was out in favor of Ozzie Guillen.

Despite going 55-38 after taking over the Mets for Randolph, the team lost two of the final three games including the final game at Shea to miss the postseason once again. The following year started well enough before a sorry 9-18 June paved the way to meaningless games in September and a 70-92 season.

Manuel lost his job along with Omar Minaya in 2010. Sandy Alderson took over, waited for many of Minaya’s draft picks to blossom instead of trading them and hired a manager within the organization to lead them in Terry Collins.

pedro lopezIf Collins sticks with his claim to walk away from the dugout in a couple of years, the Mets could have his replacement already within the ranks in Pedro Lopez. Currently the Mets Binghamton manager, Lopez was twice named the best manager prospect in the Eastern League by Baseball America in 2014.

He’s been in the Mets organization since 2008, working his way up from the Rookie League affiliate in Kingsport. B-Mets President and co-owner Mike Urda says Lopez’s even-keeled nature and knack for motivating players stands out.

“The most impressive thing I could say about Pedro is the players produce for him,” said Urda. “They like playing for him.”

Lopez managed Zack Wheeler, Juan Lagares, Jacob deGrom, Rafael Montero, Wilmer Flores and Dilson Herrera just to name a few and seems to have the mindset that protecting his players is essential.

“I’ve always said that the one thing I bring to the table is that I’m trying to keep an environment to work and have fun every year,” said Lopez. “I try to keep them relaxed, tell them that even if it’s a bad outing—or if it’s a positon player that has a bad day—it’s okay. It’s going to get better.”

Is he going to be the next manager in Queens? I think it’s important for our next manager to speak Spanish. He (or she) doesn’t have to be fluent, but with the number of Latin players in the League they should be able to directly connect with the entire team. Many on Jon Heyman’s list of possible candidates would fall into that category.

  • Sandy Alomar Jr.: Excellent persona, and fine playing and coaching resumes. Would be miscarriage of justice if he never had the chance.
  • Hensley Meulens: The hard-working hitting coach of the Giants has learned from the best in Bruce Bochy and speaks several languages.
  • Jose Oquendo: Long-time Cardinals coach obviously has been around winning, but he has been passed over so much now he seems almost ingrained as a coach.
  • Delino DeShields: Managed the last five years in the Cincinnati Reds’ organization

All of these minority candidates are seemingly hurt by the industry’s move towards analytic-loving, college educated and front-office friendly managers instead of actual managing experience. Lloyd McClendon wasn’t given much in Seattle and in two seasons is just two games over .500, but the new GM Jerry Dipoto has turned over the reins to Scot Servais, a former player and minor league scouting director.

If this trend continues, with the numbers of Hispanic players signing at 16 and the 8% black population in the major leagues and just 2.6% playing Division I college baseball, it’s clear that the future doesn’t look bright for minority managers.

Is this a trend that will eventually turn back to the past or one that’s here to stay? Should Manfred institute something like the NLF’s Rooney Rule or should the best person get the job regardless of their race?

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About Martin Kester 33 Articles
Since hanging from a street sign to watch the 1986 ticker-tape parade, I've enjoyed the Mets from a distance. Growing up, they were across the GW with Bob Murphy's voice bringing them close. I'm in enemy territory in Atlanta, but now I'm protected by Norman Seabrook and Howie Rose.