An Erroneous Exemption

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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.

Postscript:

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)

 

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7 thoughts on “An Erroneous Exemption

  1. Derek Wright says:

    Hey Roy:

    Saw you on SNY yesterday. Good comments on the issues. It’s good to finally see a man of color on that show with an ‘unbiased’ perspective.
    Roy, I have to tell you: You need to fire your editor on this column. The grammatical errors are ridiculous.

    Best Regards

  2. kevin says:

    I think that the rule is a bit of a sham, too. Teams are going to hire who they’re going to hire, and I think more than anything it gives false hope to people that may not even be considered seriously.

    More importantly, I think, is the screening process that the magnates go through before being allowed to purchase a team. If a person is inclined to be open-minded, progressive, and interested in diversity, bring them on. But people who are closet racists, whose track records indicate a refusal to hire minorities, should be kept out.

  3. deansguide says:

    Roy,

    I just found your blog on wordpress and I love it!

    The sorry state of progress leaves major league baseball in another serious “What did we do now” predicament. The reality is that there is a network of tired retread managers who continually get jobs as managers. These men are predominantly white, often former players or coaches who are kept around as “proven” veterans.

    Reality says otherwise. Most of this pool of “talent” is made up of guys owed favors by their former clubs, backroom deals, or guys who are often viewed as the “safe” bet.

    I am sick of seeing guys like Lou Pinella (I’m white and Italian too, continually bounce around the league after their best years are beyond them.

    Baseball suffers from a lack of young fresh talent. In other sports younger coaches are being given chances. Yet baseball sits back and continues to hire these relics.

    Baseball is no longer the most popular game in America as it attempts to hold onto the past. The “apple pie” “generations” and “family” appeal of the sport no longer can compete.

    The best way for MLB to relate to kids and young adults is to hire some young talent at the manager’s position. While changing their demographic age it would be great to see them include some of the fantastic African American and Latin American talent that is out their waiting their turn to manage.

    dean

  4. Irv B. says:

    You’re right. About baseball, about Jackie and about Stan O’Neal. I would question your devotion to that team in St.Lou. I guess you did have it hard growing up!?

  5. Wyndell Patterson says:

    Roy,
    I’ll have to sleep on this one. I’ll get back to you in a day or two.

  6. Lee says:

    Couldn’t agree more with this blog, Roy. Good job.
    By the way, I happened to have met Stan O’Neal a couple of times during my tenure at Merrill. As an African-American, I was proud of him ascending to the rank of CEO of the world’s largest brokerage. His risk-taking and the mortgage crisis meltdown blew up on him in the end, but he made Merrill A LOT of money before the recent blowup. And 7 out of 8 of Merrill’s divisions were profitable last quarter.
    Anyway…shame on MLB for giving the Dodgers a free pass!

  7. Wyndell Patterson says:

    I’ve had to think on this one for some time. I like Joe Torre. I’m torn about his decision because I think some of it was made based on ego and pride; never a good reason for doing or not doing a thing. However, best of life in LA for he and his family. I also think that the Steinbrenner family has alot to learn about dignity and respect of other people. It is these very attitudes towards others in general that will someday lead to their demise. Winning is very important but it is and never will be “everything”.
    As far as the screening process? It is the process that is extremely important. Bogus or not, sham or not, phony and shallow or not, the process must be maintained. This is the one thing I had to medidate on. Often in life the results of a process are manipulated to some influential individual or powerful organization’s advantage. And although unfair and deployable, it is progress to have some system in place in an effort to equalize the playing field. God knows there have been far too many years past with nothing or no mechanism to build upon. IT IS THE PROCESS THAT IS VITAL. Besides, who can say for sure that there was not a better candidate out there for the Dodgers! Only time will tell.

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