Good for Kim Ng, vice president and assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers
Good for De Jon Watson, who was named the Dodgers assistant GM about a month ago.
And big ups to Joe Torre, the new manager of the Dodgers and no doubt the most qualified managerial candidate on the market, until today.
I’m happy for them all. But not so happy about the Dodgers receiving an exemption from baseball commissioner Bud Selig’s 17-year-old edict that all clubs must notify him of any minority candidates the club was interviewing for managerial vacancies. Selig said the Dodgers were exempt because of their exemplary record of hiring non-whites throughout the organization. While he didn’t name names, many media reports cited Ng and Watson as Exhibits A (Asian) and B (Black) as primary examples of the Dodgers’ we-are-the-worldness. (And Lord knows, the Dodgers have built up chips with black America. My parents, like almost every black of that generation, were unwavering Dodger fans, simply because of Jackie Robinson. Rooting for the St Louis Cardinals, the major-league team closest to my Tulsa home, was almost heresy.)
The rule was created to provide non-white baseball people with better opportunities to become managers. The theory was that if clubs were required to at least interview one non-white candidate then more non-white baseball people would have the chance to impress those hiring for baseball’s upper echelon.
Has it worked? Well, today, there are seven non-white managers (along with four GMs, if you’re wondering). That’s not a yes, and it’s not a no – which is exactly why the Dodgers should not have been granted an exemption.
Sure, they were going to hire Joe Torre. Heck I would have too. But they should have at least spoken to someone else.
Critics say such interviews are a sham. Willie Randolph endured more than a dozen interviews for years before landing with the Mets. Even he knew he was never going to be hired for most of the gigs. But he went anyway. He made his case. He met key baseball people. He honed his interview skills. And in time, he got a great gig, one of the best in baseball.
Last week, Yankee coach Tony Pena got more ink for interviewing for the vacant Yankee job that he ever got during his years as a coach. From what we heard, he also gave an impressive interview. Not a soul in baseball thought he’d get hired, but no doubt others in the game noticed that Pena did well in the process. Had not the Yankees been required to interview a non-white, who would have viewed Pena as a viable managerial candidate in the future?
Whomever the Dodgers interviewed, if they followed the rule, would have been written about and spoken about and blogged about – at least until Torre landed in LA. But at least they would have gotten some light.
Such interviews are non exclusive to sports. Non-whites throughout America have been “interviewed” for gigs they stood no serious chance of getting. But someone broke through occasionally. Then another. Then someone else. In time the interviews became more regular and the opportunities more real. Just over a decade ago there wasn’t a single African-American CEO of a major U.S. corporation. Earlier this week, Stanley O’Neal, a black man, got shoved out as CEO of Merrill Lynch – with a $160 million parachute. In a weird way, that’s progress. And today the New York Times leads its business section with a grid of black faces that almost made me fall out of my seat during my morning commute into Manhattan. The grid featured 12 black faces – men and a woman who were either CEOs or about a heartbeat away from the corner suite.
Baseball is not even close. In fact they are the worse among the three major sports when it comes to non-whites in the top on-field position – manager or head coach.
The rule wasn’t about front office hires. It was about managers. And until baseball reaches the point where non-white managers are no longer an anomaly, there should be no exemptions. None.
I doubt even Jackie Robinson would disagree.
Here are the non-white managers: Manny Acta (Washington), Dusty Baker (Cincinnati), Ceil Cooper (Houston), Freddie Gonzalez (Florida), Ozzie Guillen (White Sox), Willie Randolph (Mets), Ron Washington (Texas)
The non-white GMs : Michael Hill (Florida), Omar Minaya (Mets), Tony Reagins (Angels), Kenny Williams (White Sox)