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|
|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|
|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|
|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.