Moneyball Making Baseball Managers Whiter
October 27, 2015, 07:19 PM
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From the NYT:

With Managers, Major League Baseball Is Forward in Thinking but Backward in Hiring

by Michael Powell

OCT. 26, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Last week, Jerry Dipoto, the new general manager of the Seattle Mariners, engaged in the time-honored practice of cashiering his team’s manager.

So Lloyd McClendon went tumbling out the door and Major League Baseball’s 30 teams were left with a single minority manager, Fredi Gonzalez of the Atlanta Braves. …

This is an industry sliding backward, its emergency brake not engaged. In 2002, and again in 2009, there were 10 black or Latino managers.

Now, just to repeat, there is one.

Ken Rosenthal wrote a thoughtful column the other day for Fox Sports, and suggested that some of this owed to the current front-office vogue for managers who have no experience whatsoever. The smart young men in the front office, so goes the thinking, desire managerial empty vessels into which they can pour their statistics and equations.

The new manager of the Mariners, Scott Servais, for instance, has not coached or managed at any level.

When Seattle got its first major league baseball team in 1969, the short-lived Seattle Pilots, the manager was a baseball lifer named Joe Schultz, who, according to Jim Bouton’s classic diary Ball Four, was definitely not a sabermetrician avant la lettre. Schultz’s tactical advice to his pitchers generally took the form of “Throw him low smoke and we’ll go pound some Budweiser.”

Since his big league career ended, Servais been a front-office executive with the Texas Rangers and California Angels.

In general, ballplayers aren’t as broke when they finally age out of playing baseball as they used to be, so the appeal of 9 hour bus rides between minor league burghs isn’t as great as it used to be. These days, the frequent flier executive lifestyle where you and your family live in a major league city and you jet around to oversee your franchise’s minor league operations is more appealing to the higher potential ex-ballplayers like Servais or Gabe Kapler who is being talked about for the Dodgers’ job.

This hurts and devalues a longtime white veteran in the minors no less than a black or Latino candidate. Although it is worth noting that of the empty vessels so far chosen as managers, all are Caucasian.

Manfred was asked whether an “old boys’ club” in the front office might account for the lack of diversity. He smiled genially.

“There has been so much change in the general manager rank,” he said. “It’s hard to look at our group of general managers and talk about it as an old boy network because they ain’t very old.”

It also ain’t diverse.

It’s salutary that baseball’s front offices are throwing open doors to young men with excellent degrees. A change of the demographic guard can be refreshing. Based on their hiring record, however, this new guard is deeply inclined toward hiring people who look quite a bit like the faces they see in the mirror each morning.

General managers have gotten smarter over the decades, in part due to the moneyball trend, so they hire smarter managers.

In general, baseball statistics have become a kind of Safe Space for White Guys.