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Sport 'It's just getting worse': MLB's 'disgusting' minority hiring woes continue as job candidates shut out again

17:20  04 december  2019
17:20  04 december  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

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Major League Baseball has the power to discipline front-office personnel for egregious acts.

Dave Stewart wearing a suit and tie: Dave Stewart, fired in 2016, was the most recent African-American general manager in baseball.© Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports Dave Stewart, fired in 2016, was the most recent African-American general manager in baseball.

The league can fine players for anything from wearing the wrong type of shoes to throwing their helmet after a strikeout.

It can suspend players for using performance-enhancing drugs, executives for illegal signings, and perhaps those involved in the Houston Astros’ cheating allegations, too.

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“But what (MLB) can’t do is make owners hire someone they’re not comfortable with,’’ former GM Dave Stewart tells USA TODAY Sports.

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"They just can’t. Nothing has changed."

“It’s the same as it’s always been.’’

There were eight managerial and three GM vacancies after the 2019 season, and only one was filled by a person of color – manager Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets.

Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers, hired in 2015, remains the lone African-American manager in baseball.

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“I don’t know where it’s going,’’ said former manager Dusty Baker, who has had only one job interview since leading the Washington Nationals to back-to-back division titles in 2016-17, “but we’ve gone backwards in a lot of ways. I get guys calling me asking how to deal with the system, saying things aren’t fair or equal. Well, it’s a whole lot less than equal now.

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“I don’t know what the solution is, but very few people seem to really care.’’

Stewart, hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sept. 25, 2014, but fired just two years later, is the most recent African-American general manager in Major League Baseball.

“To me, it’s just getting worse,’’ Stewart said. “It’s disgusting. No offense to anyone doing their job, but some guys leave one position to do a bad job, go to another job and do a bad job, and keep getting hired.’’

There are currently six minority managers in baseball, the most since 2011, but Roberts is the lone African-American manager. Alex Avila of the Detroit Tigers and Farhan Zaidi of the San Francisco Giants are the only minority GMs, while Ken Williams of the Chicago White Sox and Michael Hill of the Miami Marlins are the only African-Americans in charge of their baseball departments.

“I’ve had a unique position sitting in different rooms and watching people come and go since 1993,’’ said Williams, a former major-league outfielder, farm director, GM and now vice president representing the White Sox with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf at the owners’ meetings. “There have been years where I felt progress was really being made, and I didn’t feel so alone in that respect. Now, there are times that well, I’ve never been easier to spot in a room in executive meetings.’’

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Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the dearth of minorities in key positions last month, pleading with owners to open their doors to those who aren’t white males with Ivy League educations. He has no power to mandate hires, but is trying to make sure the interview pipeline is filled with persons of color.

“Manfred expressed his frustration in a very emotional way,’’ Williams said, “not an angry way. But the frustration is very real. And I trust it. That’s big for me.’’

There have been only five African-American GMs in baseball history, and five franchises still have never hired a minority to be their GM or manager: the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics, and San Diego Padres.

Deputy commissioner Dan Halem and Tyrone Brooks, MLB’s senior director of the front office and field staff diversity pipeline program, are hopeful there will be an increase in minority hiring simply because more candidates being interviewed.

There were 13 minority candidates interviewed for the managerial openings and six for the first time: Eduardo Perez, Johnny Washington, Will Venable, Luis Rojas, George Lombard and Rod Barajas. And with the hiring of Hensley Meulens by the New York Mets, there will be six minority bench coaches in 2020, and in position to be considered for future managerial openings.

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“Individuals are now getting themselves on the radar,’’ Brooks said. “It was great for them to have the opportunity, get them into the preparation process, and what to expect going into it.

“Ideally, you want to have depth in your search, and that’s what we’re encouraging each club to do. And we automatically remind clubs of our minority interactive policy.’’

It’s simply called the Selig Rule, adopted in 1999 by former commissioner Bud Selig, requiring teams to interview minority candidates when filling a top-level position. Brooks’ office also provides assistance for those wanting to prepare or go through mock interviews, just as Charlie Montoyo did when he landed the Toronto Blue Jays’ managerial job a year ago.

“We want as many diverse GMs and mangers as possible,’’ Halem said. “We need to develop a strong group of candidates whether it comes from the scouting world or the front office to compete for these jobs, and develop the next generation of future leaders.

“We have a very structured program, formal training programs and resources. We’re not leaving anything to chance. I think our numbers are going to improve. I think we’ll see more success in the future. It’s just going to take some time.’’

The San Francisco Giants interviewed four minority candidates when searching for a GM this winter before hiring Scott Harris of the Chicago Cubs. The Boston Red Sox, who hired Chaim Bloom from the Tampa Bay Rays, did not interview anyone else outside the organization. The Pirates bypassed assistant Kevan Graves and hired Ben Cherington from the Blue Jays.

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It was merely the continuation of baseball’s long and ugly history of minority GM hiring. Except for Omar Minaya, who was appointed by Major League Baseball to be general manager of the Montreal Expos in 2002 when MLB operated the franchise, Stewart is the only minority to be hired as a first-time GM who wasn’t promoted from within his own organization.

“And the only reason that happened,’’ Stewart says, “was because of my relationship with Tony (La Russa). If I didn’t have a relationship with him, it wasn’t going to happen.’’

La Russa, the D-backs’ chief baseball officer, had known Stewart for 30 years and was his manager with the Athletics. Stewart was a player agent when La Russa hired him, and previously had been a special assistant with the A’s and San Diego Padres and the assistant GM of the Blue Jays. Stewart hasn’t had a job interview since, and has returned to being a player agent.

Go ahead, maybe you don’t want to believe it’s racism, but certainly, Baker said, there’s institutional discrimination in baseball.

“There’s big-time discrimination of age and salary, along with the intellectual thing,’’ Baker says. “It’s not a question of whether you went to school, but where you went to school. Now it appears they’re just hiring their friends.

"Nothing against the Ivy League, but how many minorities are friends and fraternity brothers of those who went to those schools? Most of us weren’t at those schools, or if we played baseball, we weren’t in that fraternity."

The frustration and resentment from baseball’s minority community is growing louder believing the industry has turned its back on those who have prepared their whole lives for the opportunity to become a GM or manager, only to be shut out.

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“The natural assumption is that it’s a racial problem,’’ Williams said, “and it’s easy to jump to that. But there’s much more to it. The Ivy League-educated, analytically-based, Power Point-savvy individuals are being hired because they speak the same language as ownership groups. They’re hiring people in the limited circle that are new to the industry because they can relate to them and are comfortable with.

“That’s their prerogative, and their right. In turn, those that are hired in the president and GM roles are doing the same thing.

“That doesn’t lend itself to the exclusion of race, that lends itself to the exclusion of people. Good people, people who have long-term successful in development and scouting, are getting left out. And that’s why you hear and see the frustration.’’

It makes no sense that Athletics assistant GM Billy Owens, 48, one of the brightest scouting minds in the game, isn't  a GM. How can Nationals special assistant De Jon Watson, 53, not be running his own team, or even get an interview for a GM job this winter? How about Colorado Rockies special assistant Danny Montgomery? Pirates scouting director Steve Williams? Peter Woodfork, MLB vice president of baseball operations? Minnesota Twins senior adviser Deron Johnson?

That said, MLB executives are convinced that Kevan Graves, 39, is on the fast-track to become a GM. An African-American, Graves has been the Pirates’ assistant GM the past four years, and interviewed last month for the GM vacancies with the Giants and Pirates.

But yes, he is a graduate of Dartmouth.

“There’s unfounded assumptions that the scouting people, the player-development people,’’ Williams says, “don’t know math. They don’t know analytics. That’s not right. I think coaching, player-development and the scouting ranks are becoming more efficient in applied analytics.

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“If you have the experience of managing and working with people, along with the analytical knowledge, you have the best of both worlds.’’

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“No matter what your analytic skills are, or what type of programs you have in place,’’ Williams says, “at the end of the day you need people that can evaluate talent. When you’re making $100 million, $200 million decisions, you need people who you can have a conversation with. But when I look at guys like Billy Owens, there are a lot of people that aren’t being heard.

“It’s not just the pipelines that need to be filled and paid attention to, it has to be done at the executive-level positions. If you bring people in at those positions, then we will have a natural diverse group that can be talked about.

“We’re all waiting for that day.’’

Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter: @BNightengale

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'It's just getting worse': MLB's 'disgusting' minority hiring woes continue as job candidates shut out again

Trump on brink of impeachment as House readies historic vote .
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is on the cusp of being impeached by the House, with a historic debate set Wednesday on charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress ahead of votes that will leave a defining mark on his tenure at the White House. Trump, who would be just the third U.S. president to be impeached, on Tuesday fired off a furious letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi denouncing the “vicious crusade” against him, but he also acknowledged he was powerless to stop the expected outcome.

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