MLB has work to do in minority hiring

BY Ken Rosenthal • November 20, 2011

The good news is that baseball is redoubling its efforts on minority hiring.

The bad news is that the sport considers such an undertaking necessary.

“We can really get after it,” said Frank Robinson, a senior vice president for baseball operations in the commissioner’s office. “We haven’t done that.”

Commissioner Bud Selig, after discussing the issue with Robinson and others, said he endorsed an initiative to identify more minority candidates for teams hiring top decision-makers.

Robinson and two other senior vice presidents for baseball operations, Peter Woodfork and Kim Ng, will provide Selig with lists of candidates from each club for each job.

A deeper pool of candidates would give Selig the leverage to apply greater pressure to clubs.

“I asked some of the people the other day who raised that question (of minority hiring) with me, who has been passed over that you’re aware of?” Selig said. “Nobody can ever give me an answer. You ask people who we should talk to, they give you a blank stare.”

Selig didn’t say that as an excuse. He said it because he is frustrated by the problem.

“I think the clubs have done all right,” Selig said. “If you would say to me, do we need to do better? Yes, we need to do better.”

Just check the offseason scorecard.

Of the six teams that changed GMs, only two announced interviews for minority candidates – the Angels, who met with Ng and Omar Minaya, and the Orioles, who met with DeJon Watson.

Meanwhile, only five minority candidates are known to have interviewed for the six managerial openings. That includes the Nationals’ job, which went to Davey Johnson, who had been the team’s interim manager.

The minority candidates were Ozzie Guillen, who landed the Marlins’ position, plus Bo Porter, Sandy Alomar Jr., DeMarlo Hale and Jose Oquendo. Porter and Alomar each interviewed for two jobs – Porter with the Nationals and Marlins, Alomar with the Red Sox and Cubs.

Selig indicated that additional interviews of minority candidates took place for both manager and GM vacancies; teams are not required to disclose whom they interview, he said.

The lack of transparency by some clubs might fuel the perception that they are lax in their approach to minority hiring. But Selig said that each team has been in compliance with his 1999 decree requiring clubs to interview minorities for the positions of manager, general manager, assistant GM, farm director and scouting director. The NFL did not adopt a similar rule – the Rooney Rule – until 2003.

Selig, according to the New York Times, wrote a letter to owners in April ’99 saying that clubs must notify him of openings and provide him with lists of candidates. Those lists, he said, were expected to include minority applicants. Selig said that he would discipline clubs that did not “aggressively pursue equal opportunities and initiatives.”

At the time, no team had a minority GM, and of the previous 36 full-time managerial hires, only one had been Hispanic or African-American.

“Nobody is more serious about this than I am,” Selig repeated in an interview Friday.

Yet, none of the six recent GM openings went to minorities. One of the five managerial openings did, with Guillen moving from the White Sox to the Marlins. The Red Sox have yet to name a new manager.

In November 2007, Selig granted the Dodgers an exemption from minority interviews when they wanted to hire Joe Torre as manager, saying the team’s record on diversity was the best in the majors and that he didn’t want to put minority candidates through a charade.

He takes a similar view on clubs that promote from within, as the Red Sox, Padres and Twins did with their recent GM hires.

“When it’s in-house, you have to be careful,” Selig said. “You don’t want to create a sham.”

No, genuine opportunity is the goal.

Baseball currently has three minority GMs (the Phillies’ Ruben Amaro Jr., the Marlins’ Michael Hill and White Sox’s Ken Williams) and five minority managers (Guillen, the Reds’ Dusty Baker, the Indians’ Manny Acta, the Braves’ Fredi Gonzalez and the Rangers’ Ron Washington).

Both Ng, who was assistant GM of the Dodgers from 2001 to '11, and Woodfork, who was assistant GM of the Diamondbacks from '05 to '10, are familiar with baseball personnel in each organization. They will help Robinson form lists of minority candidates for Selig.

“I told the commissioner, ‘We are already up and running on this. We’ll give you some names in a short period of time,’ ” Robinson said.

“When people call, (Selig) will have the names right there available. But he still can’t make teams hire people. As long as the clubs are willing to open up their minds, to look more past certain people ... if they do that, we’re going to be all right.”

This shouldn’t even be a concern, not 12 years after Selig issued his initial edict on minority hiring.

Time for teams to wake up.

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