By Nate Ryan
When the Atlanta Braves started their season with a Major League Baseball worst 9-28 record, it did not come as a surprise when the team fired manager Fredi Gonzalez on May 17.
But in a league where nearly 30 percent of players hail from Latin American countries, Gonzalez’s firing left the MLB without a single Latino manager, provoking widespread calls for more diversity at the helms of professional ball clubs.
“How can it be possible?” Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, a Venezuela native and two-time MVP, told the AP on Monday. “It appears strange to me that there are so many Latino players and not a single manager. Maybe something needs to be done in order to give them more opportunities.”
Though Gonzalez’s termination marks the first time since 1991 that the MLB lacks an active Latino manager, only 15 of the 697 men that have served as MLB managers in the league’s 113-year-history have been of Latin American descent, according to baseball-reference.com.
And they’ve been successful. Lou Piniella won MLB Manager of Year three times for his work with the Seattle Mariners and the Chicago Cubs in the 1990s and early 2000s. Other winners include Felipe Alou, in 1994 with the Montreal Expos, Tony Peña, in 2003 with the Kansas City Royals, and Ozzie Guillén, in 2005 with the Chicago White Sox. That year, Guillén was also the first Latino manager to win a World Series title.
Despite this season’s poor showing, the Cuban-born Gonzalez holds an impressive track record, having guided the Braves to the postseason in three consecutive seasons from 2011 to 2013.
During a press conference with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred responded to the lack of diversity. “The absence of a Latino manager is glaring,” he said.
Manfred says the current lack of a Latino manager has to do with the overall limited pool of qualified managers. “There are 30 jobs and there are 30 high-turnover jobs where you’re talking about field managers,” he said.
But others point to qualified coaches like Chicago Cubs bench Davey Martinez and Cleveland Indians first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr., as well as Chicago White Sox bench coach Rick Renteria, St. Louis Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo, and former MLB players Alex and Joey Cora.
The MLB Players’ Association (MLBPA) agreed on Tuesday that more diversity would benefit the entire baseball community.
“I firmly believe that having as diverse a system as possible from top to bottom is beneficial to the industry, not just on the field, but off it as well,” said Tony Clark, union chief of the MLBPA. “And to be in a position where we don’t have those that reflect our membership in positions of leadership is disappointing.”