A Managerial Travesty

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.

Ron Washington: 5th in Wins Among African-American Managers

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.

2 Comments

Interesting, and often forgotten these days, now that there’s the “perception” of equality. I’ll have something more to say about this on my blog soon.

By the way, the most commonly incorrectly answered baseball trivia question is who was the first African-American to manage an MLB game. It wasn’t Frank Robinson, it was actually Ernie Banks. Not quite spelled out here, but when Lockman was ejected, Banks took over managerial duties the rest of the game: http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1973/B05080SDN1973.htm

As an A’s fan, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Wash. I so wanted him to get a World Series ring this year, but it didn’t happen. I think your point is well-taken about the dearth of people of color managing in the Major Leagues. I don’t think we need any kind of affirmative action to correct the problem, but I would hope that the GM’s in the league would keep an open mind about anyone applying for a managerial job. Color should NOT be a factor.

As for Retrosheet’s comment that Ernie Banks was the first African American to manage in a game, he may have been first, but there have been a significant number of bench coaches who are people of color who have stepped in when the manager got tossed. In fact, on the several occasions in recent years when the A’s former Manager, Bob Geren, goejected, his bench coach, Ty Waller, stepped in and did a fine job. So competent was he that the A’s won most of those games after Geren left with the game either tied or the A’s behind. There were many of us who wished fervently that Geren would be shown the showers more often or permanently. We got our wish last year. It will be great to see what Bob Melvin can do with a full season with the A’s.

Thanks for writing about this subject. Let’s see if the Rangers can get to the WS for a three-peat next season.

Bee Hylinski
Author, “Contract Year: A Baseball Love Story” to be published soon
Blog: http://contractyear.mlblogs.com

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