MLB IS GETTING WHITER
The White Sox have the only black GM in the game in Kenny Williams. It was talked about this week throughout the series. Maybe that will change with the White Sox winning it all. But why stop there? While watching the Astros I realized that they were a rather pasty bunch. Not to mention their crowds. I’m not sure I saw a shot of a black person in all of the many crowd shots Fox provided us. But what do I know. Well I know how to look things up. And it turns out the Astros do not have one black player on their roster.
Hall of Famer Joe Morgan: “Of course I noticed it. How could you not? But they’re not the only ones. There are two or three teams that didn’t have any African-American players this year. It’s a daunting task to get African-American kids into baseball, and I don’t see the trend changing,” he said.
The linked article above also informs us that the last World Series team without a black player was the 1953 New York Yankees. It wasn’t until 1955 — eight years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 — that Elston Howard became the first black in Yankee pinstripes. Black players accounted for just about 9 percent of big-league rosters this season.
Will MLB try to increase this percentage? According to the NCAA, only 6% of Div. I baseball players were black. How can that be? And what can or will be done about it? There are clinics and extensive scouting in Latin America. The clinics are run and I think also funded by MLB. There are MLB scouts working the entire globe. Is MLB doing enough for young Black Americans–right here in the U.S.?
There’s another matter that should be of concern. I admire the work Phil Garner did last year and this year–to a point. But his career record was terrible until he hooked up with the Astros. Some may say that last year’s salvage job and this year’s World Series appearance validates his skill level as a manager. Perhaps. But there is no denying that it pays to be a good ‘ol boy.
If Phil Garner was black or hispanic I doubt he would have ever managed again after Detroit. Can someone think of a black or hispanic manager with a losing record that was given a second chance? Garner is on his third. We see retreads of white managers all the time. Garner and Buddy Bell are the current prime examples. Bell is also on his third managerial job. He has one season over .500–82-80 with the Rockies in 2000. He was 56-106 this year with the Royals. Apparently he is no Tony Pena. Frank Robinson is the only black manager I could find with a career losing record that has been given a second chance. And he’s Frank Robinson, one of the greatest players ever.
Let’s consider a recent manager who was let go. Lloyd McClendon. Will he get a 2nd shot? Is his record much different than Garner’s pre-Houston record? Both were under .500. While I don’t think Jerry Manuel was a very good manager here with the Sox, his career winning percentage is .515. It is now 2 full years he has been out of managing. Do you hear his name mentioned at all?
Lloyd McClendon is a fiery, former player–Little League World Series hero back in the day. He’s a baseball lifer. He was in the playoffs as a player with the Cubs and the Pirates. Lloyd can blow up pretty quickly and he seems to be in little spats frequently. No different than Garner was with Milwaukee and Detroit. I remember when Garner was with the Brewers he came out on the field and fought with Sox manager Terry Bevington. Not just verbally, but physically. I wonder what would be said if McClendon did that. Phil Garner got another job. Will McClendon?
So why do these stereotypes that still exist in MLB? Maybe Lloyd McClendon is a bad manager. He certainly had a decent amount of time (but not the payroll or players) to prove himself capable of running a club. But it seems that the black manager that has a losing record is looked at much differently than the white manager. And that’s wrong–on many different levels. I don’t have to spell it out.
Quick now–name some black managers, successful or not, who have had a 2nd managerial gig in MLB. Felipe Alou. Dusty in Chicago. I mentioned Frank Robinson. Maybe you can think of a few more. So far this year there have been 7 managerial vacancies. The Tigers quickly scooped up Jim Leyland. Fine. Solid MLB manager, proven track record and has worked with the GM in Detroit before. OK, I get that one, even if he did bomb in Colorado. And after much hubbub, Ken Macha will be back with Oakland. Understandable too. They had a better season than anyone predicted. But there are still 5 openings to fill. And you hardly hear of any black or latino candidates being mentioned. Roy S. Johnson, author of the linked article above, calls it the “White Guy Merry Go Round”.
About 15 years ago, I had a notebook that I would write songs in. Punk and Rap songs mostly. And mostly terrible. One song I remember writing–I don’t want to remember most of them–I titled “I Don’t Know Why There Aren’t More Black Quarterbacks”. It was catchy, it was true and I am the white Chuck D. That song would be obsolete today. If I substitute managers for quarterbacks, will the same be true 15 years from now? It doesn’t look that way.