Commissioner says strategic innovations could help minority candidates
By Paul Hagen
CHICAGO -- Commissioner Rob Manfred encouraged Major League teams to improve minority hiring practices this week at the quarterly Owners Meetings.
In fact, Manfred said it was the most important of all the topics he addressed during the two-day session, which wrapped up Thursday. And he did more than talk about the issue -- he unveiled a project that he hopes will help identify qualified candidates.
"We're going to take some high-profile baseball operations positions, starting with field manager, and try to do a study about qualifications and characteristics that may be predictive of success," Manfred said. "I think a little science in that area may be helpful to us in terms of identifying candidates who will be particularly appealing to clubs."
That came after Manfred urged the owners to "comply religiously" with the Selig Rule, which requires that minority candidates be interviewed when managerial and front-office vacancies occur.
"We don't know exactly how we want to do the study," he continued. "But the idea is that it's not uncommon in business ... to try to determine exactly what qualifications and traits are predictive of success. It's something we haven't done on an industry basis, and I just think it might be a useful experiment for us. It's one of those things where maybe nothing comes of it. But it's something worth trying, because we have not done it historically."
The goal is to shine a spotlight on candidates -- especially minority candidates -- who might otherwise be overlooked.
"In my mind, it has everything to do with that," Manfred said. "I think certain perceptions develop as to what people are looking for in particular positions. And then people write stories saying, 'Oh, that's the problem on the minority front, because minorities are less likely to share those characteristics.'
"I think a first step in addressing those concerns is identifying which ones really matter. Then you start to identify candidates who have all those qualifications and say, 'Hey, this may be the perfect guy for you, and I have some science behind it to demonstrate that he or she is the best candidate.'"
There are currently three minority managers in MLB: Dave Roberts of the Dodgers, Dusty Baker of the Nationals and newly hired Rick Renteria of the White Sox. Roberts won the National League Manager of the Year Award on Tuesday, while Baker was a finalist for the award.
There are two minority general managers (Mike Hill of the Marlins and Al Avila of the Tigers) and one club president (Kenny Williams of the White Sox).
The Commissioner wields a lot of power. The reality is, though, that teams ultimately must fill those positions with the candidate they believes gives them the best chance to win.
"My life would be easier if the demographics of those hired were different," Manfred said. "But I am encouraged by the fact that I think in a lot of places clubs undertook not only a Plan A, but a Plan B in an effort to make sure we make progress on the minority hiring front.
"I think Atlanta's a great example of that. They had a number of minority candidates in the manager interview process. They made the selection they felt was the best-qualified person. But a number of those candidates then surfaced not only on their field staff, but in the front office. That's a good outcome from my perspective. I find that to be encouraging."
The Braves replaced Fredi Gonalez with Brian Snitker on an interim basis at midseason. Snitker was given the position full-time at the end of the year, but only after the team interviewed four minority candidates: former big league managers Ron Washington and Bo Porter and current coaches Terry Pendleton and Eddie Perez.
While none was hired as manager, Porter was named a special assistant to the general manager, Washington became the team's new third-base coach, and Pendleton and Perez had the options on their coaching contracts picked up.
Manfred is also encouraged by the fact that many teams are adding a position often called president of baseball operations to their front office. That, he said, will only increase the number of opportunities that are available.
Other topics covered during the Meetings included two teams -- the Phillies and A's -- changing the control person who represents their club, as well as an update on collective bargaining, with the current Basic Agreement expiring on Dec. 1.
Manfred declined to provide specifics on the negotiations except to say he remains optimistic that an agreement will be reached and that an international draft, which MLB favors, remains on the table.
Paul Hagen is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.