Why I Still Think About Rick Renteria

In 2015, 29.3 percent of players on Opening Day rosters were Latino and 8.3 percent of players were black or African-American. Of their 30 managers, however, exactly one was Latino (Fredi González) and one was black (Lloyd McClendon). This means that only 6.7 percent of all managers were black or Latino, despite over a third of players identifying as one of those races/ethnicities. America’s pastime has some ways to go before it accurately reflects the demographics of either the United States (17.1 percent Latino, 13.2 percent African American), or its own player pool.

Latino Managers African American/black Managers
Opening Day 2015 1 1
Opening Day 2016 (Expected) 1 2
Proportional to US pop. (Hypothetical) 5 (5.13) 4 (3.96)
Proportional to player pop. (Hypothetical) 9 (8.79) 2 (2.49)

Now, this is by no means a new issue, but it’s a necessary discussion considering the problem is not going away.  For Cubs fans who desire more diversity among MLB managers, it’s even become a personal struggle considering the events surrounding Joe Maddon’sw hiring. Of course, I’m talking about the unceremonious firing of Rick Renterial after one season at the helm. Let me be clear — my aim is not to denounce the Cubs’ front office (or Joe Maddon, for that matter), nor do I even necessarily plan to focus on the Cubs. This is just a recent example of an ongoing situation, and it’s important for us to start tackling this issue at home (or at least with our hometown teams). You can rest assured knowing that I appreciate Joe Maddon’s 97-win, NL Manager of the Year Award-worthy season as much as the next Cubs fan.

I’m not here to argue whether or not Renteria would have been a better manager than Maddon, and it probably would have seemed like the obvious move to trade up to Joe Maddon no matter who the current manager was. When a guy with that kind of experience and reputation became available, it must have been impossible for the Cubs to not pursue him. But how did he accumulate that experience, and how did he come into that reputation? That’s a question worth pondering. Let’s.

Well, the short answer is that he was given a chance to. Let’s examine Joe Maddon and Rick Renteria’s respective first full seasons as major-league managers. You’ll notice they started off in pretty similar situations:

Joe Maddon Rick Renteria
Age in First Season 51 (2006) 52 (2014)
Team Tampa Bay Rays Chicago Cubs
Team’s Record the year before Hiring 67-95 66-96
First-year Record 61-101 73-89
Improvement Over Previous Year -6 wins +7 wins

Both men were in their early fifties when first given a significant chance to manage a team. Both inherited teams that had performed similarly poorly the year before, and both had a lot of work to do. However, you can see that they had pretty different first-year experiences, as Maddon lost six wins from the previous year while Renteria improved his team’s record by a solid seven wins. The biggest difference, however, is that Renteria was fired after his first season while Maddon was kept on, allowing him to later win the division in just his third season.

You could argue that despite the similar records, Maddon started with a worse situation in Tampa Bay than Renteria did in Chicago. Remember, though, that my point has nothing to do with whether Renteria is or is not a better manager than Maddon. My point is that Maddon was given a real opportunity to prove himself as a manager (and he did so in a big way by the end of 2008), while Renteria was never afforded such an opportunity. A year after his firing, Renteria was neither managing a major-league team nor (seemingly) being seriously considered for any available positions.

As I’ve done research into the dearth of black and Latino managers, I find this comparison to be illustrative of one of the problems. That is, the fact that new minority managers are often given less of an opportunity to prove themselves than their white counterparts. After all, it’s hard to build up an impressive resume and reputation when one was barely given a chance in the first place.

The fact is, most managers have lukewarm beginnings in the Major Leagues, and many managing veterans struggled through a rocky first few seasons before hitting their stride.

Take Terry Francona’sw introduction to the big leagues. In 1996 the Phillies went 67-95, prompting them to replace Jim Fregosiw with Francona. His first season, he just improved on their record by going 68-94. The next two years they improved again, first to 75-87 and then to 77-85, before slipping back to 65-97 in 2000, his final season with the Phillies. Despite these unspectacular seasons, Francona was given another chance in 2004 in Boston, where he won the World Series in his first year.

Tony La Russa’sw origin story is also interesting. In 1979 the White Sox started with a 46-60 record under Don Kessingerw, who was replaced midseason by La Russa (marking his first managerial experience). He went 27-27 the rest of the way to finish the season with a 73-87 record. In his first full season as a major-league manager, La Russa led the White Sox to an uninspiring 70-90 record. Nevertheless, the White Sox stuck with him for 6 more seasons, allowing him to compile the resume which ultimately impressed the Athletics enough to give him a call once he was fired. La Russa, of course, ultimately went on to win World Series rings with both the A’s and the Cardinals.

Clint Hurdlew was also given time to get his bearings with the Rockies. In 2002 Colorado started 6-16 before replacing Buddy Bellw with Hurdle. He went 67-73 the rest of the way and the Rockies finished 73-89. The Rockies went 74-88 in 2003, 68-94 in 2004 and 67-95 in 2005, seemingly indicating a downward trend. Colorado’s patience paid off, however, as the Rockies improved to 76-86 in 2006 and 90-73 the next year, their then-franchise-best season record. The Rockies stuck with Hurdle through five years of unimpressive finishes before this, crucially giving him a chance to prove his ability.

These three managers all went on to find great success, but they would never have been able to without the patience they were afforded when first given an opportunity. It’s hard to gauge any manager’s skill right when they’re starting out, especially because most new managers inherit teams out of contention. It seems that black and Latino managers are often not given an appropriate amount of time to figure out their style.

If you didn’t know Juan Samuell ever managed in the big leagues, you’re not alone. In 2010, after Dave Trembleyw led the Orioles to a 15-39 start, he was replaced on an interim basis by Samuel, who went 17-34 before being replaced by Buck Showalterw. Juan Samuel has not managed in the Major Leagues since, and it seems unlikely he will have another chance.

Several black coaches have gone through the Houston Astros in recent years, starting with Cecil Cooperb. In 2007 he replaced Phil Garnerw (who had led them to a 58-73 record) midseason, and finished off the year with a 15-16 stretch as the Astros ended with a 73-89 record. In his first full season as manager, Cooper improved on that by 13 wins, finishing 86-75. The next season he slid back to a 70-79 record before being fired late and replaced by Dave Clarkb, who finished 4-9 as the Astros ended up with a 74-88 record. Cooper has not since managed another team.

Brad Millsw took over for the Astros in 2010 and slightly improved their record to 76-86. The Astros then plummeted to 56-106 in 2011, but Mills was kept on for 2012 until he started 39-82 and was replaced by Tony DeFrancescow (who finished 16-25, giving the Astros a 55-107 overall record). Bo Porterb then took over before the 2013 season started and did 4 games worse, finishing with a 51-111 record. He showed improvement in 2014, starting 59-79 in 2014 before being replaced by Tom Lawlessw in September.

Cooper, Mills and Porter (the three longer-term coaches of those above) had the following winning percentages: 50.1 percent, 38.4 percent, and 36.7 percent, respectively. However, while Cecil Cooper was only given 341 games to prove himself and Bo Porter was given 300 even, Brad Mills (despite showing the worst season-to-season downward slide of any of them) was given 445 games before getting fired. While it’s possible that none of these guys would have taken the Astros anywhere, it’s clear that they were not given equal opportunities.

It seems as if many minority managers need to show instant (or near-instant) excellence to hang around in the major leagues. See Dusty Bakerb, who took the San Francisco Giants from 72-90 in 1992 (the season before he started managing) to 103-59 in 1993, good for an astounding 31-win improvement and NL Manager of the Year honors. Around the same time, Felipe Aloul was taking the Montreal Expos from 71-90 the year before him to 87-75 in 1992, making for a 16-win improvement in one year.  If these are two of the most prominent Black and Latino managers in recent history, does a minority manager need to start with a bang to ensure his job security?

Well, sometimes proving oneself early is still not enough for a minority manager to hang around. Take the extreme case of Cito Gastonl. After going 87-75 in 1988 the Toronto Blue Jays started 12-24 in 1989 under Jimmy Williamsw. Cito Gaston took over and went 77-49 the rest of the way as the Blue Jays finished 89-73 and first in the AL East. They went 86-76 in 1990, 91-71 in 1991, and then won back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. Gaston then managed the Blue Jays through three-and-a-half years of sub-.500 baseball, bottoming out at 56-88 in 1995 before being fired midseason in 1997. Despite back-to-back World Series titles, the next team to give Gaston the reins was… the Blue Jays in 2008.

A more familiar story might be that of Ozzie Guillenl, who lost 3 wins for the White Sox from their 86-76 record in 2003 to 83-79 in 2004, his first year. The White Sox kept their faith in him, however, and he won the World Series the next year, going 99-63 in the regular season. He followed the title up with a few winning seasons and a few losing seasons until being let go before season’s end in 2011. He was signed by the Marlins in 2012, where he failed to improve upon their previous record of 72-90 in finishing 69-93. Guillen was fired following that season and has not managed since.

Despite never winning a World Series, Lloyd McClendonb is another manager who has had undue trouble finding work. He took over the Pirates in 2001, after they’d gone 69-93 the year before. McClendon led them to season records of 62-100 in 2001, 72-89 in 2002, 75-87 in 2003, 72-89 in 2004, and 55-81 in 2005 before being fired. Although McClendon was not quite impressive in his time in Pittsburgh, he did perform somewhat admirably considering the Pirates were mired in a decades-long streak of finishing under .500 and Andrew McCutchen was still a few years away.

McClendon was not given another shot at managing until the Mariners hired him 9 years later. There he improved the team from 71-91 to 87-75 in his first year before slipping back to 76-86 and getting fired. While McClendon was not an outstanding manager in Pittsburgh, it’s hard to believe he went 9 years without another managing job. Compare his first managing stint with the Pirates to Francona’s in Philadelphia, for example:

Terry Francona Lloyd McClendon
Age in First Season 38 (1997) 42 (2001)
Team Philadelphia Phillies Pittsburgh Pirates
Team’s Record the year before Hiring 67-95 69-93
First-year Record 68-94 62-100
Second-year Record 75-87 72-89
Third-year Record 77-85 75-87
Fourth-year Record 65-97 72-89
Fifth-year Record N/A 55-81
Total Record (winning percentage) 285-363 (44.0 percent) 336-446 (43.0 percent)
Time before Next Managerial Job 4 years 9 years

Both managers inherited sub-70-win teams, failed to significantly improve them over four to five years, and were fired. Francona, however, was hired by the Red Sox four years later, while McClendon had to wait over twice that length of time to get his second chance. In this case, both managers were given (roughly) equally fair chances to prove themselves by their first teams, yet despite similarly mediocre results it appears they were not given equally fair chances by the rest of the league to prove themselves a second time.

Finally, for a very recent example, take the Washington Nationals’ search for their next manager, where they interviewed Bud Blackw and Dusty Baker. Consider how each had performed in their previous positions:

Bud Black Dusty Baker
Team San Diego Padres Cincinnati Reds
Team’s Record the year before Hiring 88-74 72-90
First-year Record 89-74 74-88
Second-year Record 63-99 78-84
Third-year Record 75-87 91-71
Fourth-year Record 90-72 79-83
Fifth-year Record 71-91 97-65
Sixth-year Record 76-86 90-72
Seventh-year Record 76-86 N/A
Eighth-year Record 77-85 N/A
Ninth-year Record 32-33 (fired midseason) N/A
Total Record (winning percentage) 649-713 (47.7 percent) 509-463 (52.4 percent)

Baker finished all six seasons with a better record than the Reds had the season before they hired him, while Black only did so with the Padres in two of eight full seasons. Baker also had three 90-win seasons out of six, while Black only had one 90-win season out of eight. Nevertheless, Dusty Baker was only offered the Nationals job once talks with Bud Black (Washington’s first choice) had fallen through.

Ultimately, it seems that Latino and black managers are given shorter windows to prove themselves, and are judged more harshly when they fail to immediately improve a team. Even when they do prove their ability in their first jobs, they are still too-often passed over for future managing positions.

Black and Latino managers need to be allowed the same trial windows afforded to their white counterparts, and front offices need to be more patient with minority managers (that is, as patient as they are with white managers) once they’re hired. Furthermore, mediocre first stints should not preclude black and Latino managers from consideration for future positions, just as they do not preclude white managers from the same consideration. These could be helpful first steps in increasing the amount of minorities managing major-league teams, so that more levels of Major League Baseball start reflecting the racial and ethnic makeup of the US population.

So what about Rick Renteria? Again, I can completely understand why the 2015 Cubs would choose Joe Maddon over Renteria to helm their young squad. I just want to make sure that Renteria has more chances to manage in the (ideally near) future, so that one day the prospect of hiring him might be as tempting as the prospect of hiring Joe Maddon was. Some of the history I’ve highlighted above indicates he might not be given that chance. While it is no substitute for exhaustive statistical analysis, I hope it may convince some people to begin further examining the issue.

In order to preserve the clarity of the argument, superscript w denotes a white manager, superscript l denotes a Latino manager, and superscript b denotes a black manager.    

Lead photo courtesy Matt Marton—USA Today Sports.

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14 comments on “Why I Still Think About Rick Renteria”


This is a great article; thanks for writing and posting it. I’ve heard people point to the presence of Dusty Baker or Fredi Gonzalez as evidence that managers of color can make it in baseball, and this isn’t an issue. But it will only cease being an issue when totally mediocre Black and Latino managers get the same shot as totally mediocre white managers (e.g. Buddy Bell, who amazingly had three different jobs despite only have one .500 season). When we see managers of color who have .400 records get new job offers, we’ll know they’ve reached some level of parity with their white peers.

Joaquín Selva

I’m glad you enjoyed reading, David, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. Call me once Edwin Rodríguez gets another shot to manage, and maybe then we’ll be closer to parity.


Fantastic piece, thanks Joaquin.

Joaquín Selva

Thank you, I appreciate you saying so.

Excellent article. It slcertainly makes one think where the issue is, and whether it’s a subconscious racial driven thing, or something else? Thinking back to Ozzie Guillen here in Chicago, his attitude and personality were as much of the reason he was let go as the team’s failure to compete at a championship level again. Additionally he was let go in Miami for very similar reasons. Likewise I’ve heard front offices souring on Dusty Baker before team performance drops, but he continues to get shots. I love that you opened this up for debate and hopefully the conversation helps to get Latinos or African-American coaches more opportunities.

Joaquín Selva

Thanks Jamie, I’m glad you enjoyed it and I also hope it opens up the conversation further.
That’s a great question, and I think that’s where it gets murky. I will say that personality issues alone cannot explain the almost total lack of minority managers, and I’m almost certain that some white managers have personality issues that are overlooked as long as they’re doing alright in the dugout. It is a complicated issue, though, and you’re right that it does warrant looking into more than just wins and losses.


I don’t know d*ck about baseball but this article lays out the issue at hand so well I really don’t have to know much about the sport (or the statistics) to follow along. Great debut for a talented writer, can’t wait to read the next one!

Joaquín Selva

Haha, thanks man, I’m glad it was accessible!

Zack Moser

One thing I’ve thought about for a couple of years now is the shift front offices have taken towards being stables of white, Ivy League-educated wunderkind, and the effects they’ve had on managerial hires.

We’ve seen a recent spike in former players being hired as managers (though I suspect that will subside), but the *real* trend is FOs hiring the one guy who they trust will implement their plan without complaint. And so, those GMs and Presidents of Baseball Ops go to the guys who look like them and who reinforce their baseball world views, constricting the hiring process and further reifying white, male gatekeeeping.

Dave Roberts is the one important and interesting exception here. I think there are two good, recent pieces that touch on these thoughts, but there’s a lot of development left to be done.

Meg Rowley on “clubability”

Craig Calcaterra on Roberts and “Baseball Men”

Joaquín Selva

You’re absolutely right, Zack. Gatekeeping occurs in several steps of your thought, from the Ivy Leagues to MLB organizations. A big part of the initial barrier for managers is, like you said, the tendency of GMs to hire managers who remind them of themselves, and it’s just hard (for obvious reasons) for black and Latino managers to remind white GMs of themselves.

Craig Calcaterra’s point about “baseball men” and Dave Roberts is also interesting. Inscrutable terms like this are often just ways to avoid admitting that a subjective decision was made in hiring. I fear Dave Roberts is just an exception to the rule rather than being indicative of the term’s expansion, but I also hope I’m wrong.

I think Meg Rowley is also right on about clubability and the fact that measures need to be taken at all steps of an organization before real change starts happening, and that mere “suggestions” have clearly not been enough. Until there’s diversity among several levels of decision-making, we’ll keep seeing these laughably low numbers of non-white managers.


Renteria might be heir apparent to the White Sox job if they move on from Ventura. Who knows.

Joaquín Selva

That’s a really good point, let’s hope so! I think he’s definitely shown enough to earn a real chance.


Good article, but taking only major league managers doesnt tell the entire picture. What are the numbers when you include minor league managers and all coaches. I dont disagree theres a problem, as dave Martinez really probably should be a manager by now. Maddon was a clear upgrade from rentaria at this point in their career, but i thought rentaria did a pretty good job with the team he was given. He should get another shot. Hell duaty baker probably shouldn’t have gotten another job, so wgo knows what gm’s are thinking

Joaquín Selva

Hey John, thanks for taking the time to read and engage. I agree, looking at minor league managers and taking all coaches into account would be a good next step to paint a more complete picture of the situation. I still think that the numbers among major league managers are crucial, because these jobs are the ones at the top and most likely the ultimate goal for managers. Even if there is more diversity at lower levels, there will still be a problem until there is diversity in the highest level of baseball.

I agree that Joe Maddon was an upgrade to Rick Renteria for the 2015 Cubs, and I’m glad you agree that Renteria deserves another shot for what he did considering what he started with. I think Dusty has also earned the Nationals job, but I see what you’re saying. I think because he’s one of the few who has “broken through”, GMs are more comfortable offering him the reins than perhaps less-proven black and Latino managers.

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