Sunday, February 25, 2018
Sports

MLB strikes out— again— on managerial diversity

And so the last Latino manager in Major League Baseball has said hasta la vista.

And why should we care?

I don't mean to be flip. But I assume that is the first-blush reaction from many passers-by, not overly concerned that Fredi Gonzalez was fired as manager of the Atlanta Braves last week.

That brings the count down to zero Latino managers in a sport where more than a quarter of the players are of Spanish-speaking origin.

That is unacceptable.

This isn't about affirmative action, obsession with diversity or a Hispanic columnist going on a rant protecting his own. It's about common-sense business practices, respecting the workplace and letting people know that we're not living in 1962 anymore.

The fact that more than one in four players have Spanish-speaking roots dovetails into a significant factor: The sport is now global. That is the arc of every sport in this country — witness the NBA's outreach to China and other parts of the world, and the NFL having a spot of tea to celebrate football games across the pond.

But there's this too: Communication.

A key to any business, is it not?

And while many Latino players have become fluent in English, there are a bunch who aren't.

And if a manager is having a conversation with a pitcher on the mound, he might want to know the difference between first base and second base, or ball and strike, in Spanish.

You might want to connect the dots to the fact that a key subset of successful managers over the years — including Tony La Russa, Lou Piniella and Joe Maddon — can speak Spanish.

"If you can't talk on a personal level with them, you take the risk of losing one thing you could fix if you speak his language," La Russa once said, addressing the issue.

Exactly.

You connect on a personal level. You forge stronger relationships. You gain respect. Your player has a great chance of succeeding. So do you. So does your team. Win-win-win.

Unfortunately, we're looking at lose-lose-lose here.

And, unfortunately again, we have not come very far from my reference point of 1962 when Alvin Dark, then managing the San Francisco Giants, told several Latin American players that they could not speak Spanish to each other in the clubhouse.

Now, 54 years later, MLB does has a window-dressing deal called "The Selig Rule," which mandates each club to "consider" minorities for executive positions and managerial and director openings.

After Rodriguez's firing, the minority-manager scorecard reads two (Dusty Baker and Dave Roberts). P.S.: Baker speaks fluent Spanish.

There are plenty of managerial candidates out there. Check out the resumes of guys like Sandy Alomar Jr., Dave Martinez, Jose Oquendo, Alex Cora, Eduardo Perez and Joey Cora.

Gonzalez — a good man and a Cuban native I knew from his days at Southridge High School in Dade County — got whacked in a bush-league way. Gonzalez found out he was fired because Delta sent him a text that he was booked on a flight back to Atlanta in the middle of a road trip.

Gonzalez deserved better. But so do fans, players and everyone else connected with the MLB brand.

The game has gone global. Meanwhile, baseball's top executives seem stuck in a time warp, doing business like it's 1962.

Unacceptable.

— Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

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Updated: 02/25/18