CHICAGO — Gary Jones came jogging over during a cool, autumnal batting practice at Wrigley Field. An athletic-looking man with a thin trace of a gray-flecked mustache, he is the infield and third-base coach on the Cubs’ roundhouse punch of a World Series team.
I mean to take nothing away from this fine moment by asking: Do you still dream of being a manager?
I ask because this 55-year-old man is a 15-year minor league manager with a winning record and multiple titles to his name. He has won four Manager of the Year Awards in the minors. Then he moved upstairs with the San Diego Padres and won three organizational awards for excellence in player development.
He whistles softly. “I mean, I haven’t thought about it for a while,” he said. “As the years go by, you kind of put it on the back burner. But I’m not going to say the door is closed.”
I have left out a salient detail here: Jones is a black man. And Major League Baseball remains a sport sliding backward in this regard. Last year baseball had one Latino and no black managers.
Now it has one Latino, the newly hired Rick Renteria of the White Sox, and two black managers, Dusty Baker and Dave Roberts. Those two men guided their teams, the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers, to the playoffs.
Twenty-seven non-Hispanic white men manage major league baseball teams.
A year ago, I asked Commissioner Rob Manfred about the dearth of nonwhite managers. As recently as 2009, baseball had 10 black and Latino managers. Manfred advised me to take the long view.
“There is a certain cyclical nature,” he said. “There are peaks and valleys.”
A year later baseball is still lost in that valley. So I put the same question to Manfred. When does that next peak come, Mr. Commissioner?
“We’re going to have ebb and flow,” he replied. “There is a certain cyclical nature to this.”
He’s good at this business of saying nothing. He talked of pipelines and entry-level programs and making sure that candidates from minority groups are prepared and effective in interviews.
That just left me more puzzled. Jones long ago passed the entry-level door. He sounds knowledgeable and voluble, and ready to take the helm of a team. Charlie Montoyo, 51, a Puerto Rican-born baseball man, has managed all over the Tampa Bay Rays’ system for two decades with a .526 winning percentage. At the highest level of the Rays’ minor league system, his team set a franchise record for wins in a single season. He was twice named manager of the year.
The Tampa Bay manager job came open recently. Montoyo was passed over in favor of Kevin Cash, 38, who served a couple of years as an advance scout and bench coach. Montoyo is Hispanic; Cash is white.
I don’t want to simplify, at least not too much. Cash may possess a fine baseball mind. The same might be true of Craig Counsell, who is white and was a nice enough major league infielder. He retired in 2012 and promptly took a job with the Milwaukee Brewers as special assistant to the general manager. Then he was hired by the team’s television broadcast team.
Then he applied to become manager. He got the job, avoiding the need to take an entry-level position.
This situation only gets worse in the front offices. There is not a single black or Latino in the positions of chief executive or president of a club. Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport issues an annual report on racial and gender hiring. The most recent report offers sad findings and a few oddly generous grades. It lists baseball as having four general managers who are “people of color.” This number curiously includes Jeff Luhnow of the Houston Astros.
Luhnow’s father and mother are white; his father was an advertising executive who moved to Mexico City. A year later, his wife gave birth to Jeff. He attended an American school in Mexico City and learned to speak fluent Spanish. This is great life experience, and he is a fine executive.
He is not, however, Latino or a “person of color.”
The picture at the granular level does not improve. The Mets’ board of directors is composed entirely of white men. The team has no black vice presidents, and only three women in executive positions.
A year ago, Jon Heyman, then of CBS Sports, put together a useful list of possible nonwhite candidates, among them: Chili Davis, Joey Cora, Alex Cora, Raul Ibanez, Roberto Kelly, Barry Larkin, Pat Listach, Tony Pena, Terry Pendleton. Oh, and then there’s Willie Randolph.
He managed the Mets for three and a half years and finished with a record of 302 wins and 253 losses. Then he got fired, as eventually happens to nearly all managers. The rap was that he could be testy and brittle.
Terry Collins, the Mets’ current and quite likable manager, often has spoken of his sometimes-troubled first managerial stint, when he was seen as a temple-throbbing Type A sort who drove players nuts. He got fired; now he’s seen as a player’s manager.
In other words, he reflected and matured. You wonder if Randolph, now 62, will ever get that chance?
Back on the field at Wrigley, the shadows grew long, and I asked Jones why so few blacks and Latinos get the chance to manage. He looked me in the eyes. “I mean, that’s a question that I really can’t answer,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting the opportunity, you know what I mean?”
I nodded. It’d be nice if the man who is the putative head of baseball could find his tongue on what surely counts as an embarrassment to his sport.
An earlier version of this article misstated the number of Latino managers in Major League Baseball. There is one, not zero, after the White Sox hired Rick Renteria earlier this month.