Wayside Mandate

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What happened to the rule in baseball that minority candidates had to receive interviews for high profile jobs as managers and general managers?

Is it no longer in effect?

Does it receive a waiver when a club decides to hire a “star” executive or field boss or promotes from within using the “next in line” approach?

Why is it that Theo Epstein was essentially rubber-stamped to go to the Cubs with the Cubs not fulfilling the requirement of interviewing a minority?

Or that Ben Cherington was promoted as Red Sox GM without so much as a peep from MLB that they had to talk to other candidates to satisfy the rule?

Initially I felt that the rule was a half-hearted attempt to appear progressive in name only; I didn’t think it would do much good; if a club has a specific person in mind for a job—and that may have race as a part of the subconscious exclusionary process—there’s not much that can be done to change their minds.

But what if a candidate walks in and wows the prospective employer? And what if that candidate’s reputation is boosted by the fact that teams were forced to interview them when, short of the mandate, they might not have done so?

Executives chat regularly; it’s a relatively closed society. They complain about players’ behaviors; their bosses; the media; and other mundane aspects of doing a job that many think is the pinnacle in baseball.

Doesn’t it make sense that if a Demarlo Hale or Bo Porter go in for an interview as manager and doesn’t get it for whatever reason that doing well will boost them for another opportunity?

But baseball has given a pass to clubs like the Cubs who hired Epstein away from the Red Sox; watched silently as Epstein hired Jed Hoyer from the Padres; and may look the other way when he hires his next manager whether it’s Ryne Sandberg (the “Cubs institution” excuse—which can be altered to make light of the Cubs being something of an institution) or Terry Francona (Epstein and Hoyer know and have worked with him before) to replace the fired Mike Quade.

The Padres promoted Josh Byrnes to take over for Hoyer.

No interviews?

Why?

Of course in some situations there is a “token” aspect to interviewing a candidate because of his or her racial profile, but it’s a means to an end.

Ten short years ago, there was one minority GM—Kenny Williams of the White Sox, who is black.

The minority managers from 2001 were Dusty Baker, Don Baylor, Jerry Manuel, Tony Perez, Davey Lopes, Felipe Alou, Hal McRae and Lloyd McClendon.

Failed retreads Buddy Bell, Bob Boone and Jeff Torborg were also managing that year.

Today, we have Manny Acta, Ron Washington, Ozzie Guillen, Fredi Gonzalez and Baker on the job with three openings with the Cardinals, Red Sox and Cubs.

Journeyman manager Jim Riggleman has been mentioned as a possibility for the Cardinals.

Jim Riggleman? The same Riggleman who quit on the Nationals in a self-immolating snit because they didn’t want to exercise his option for 2012? That guy? Teams want to hire him to manage?

I wouldn’t even consider him after what he pulled with the Nationals.

The Athletics hired Bob Melvin as interim manager after firing Bob Geren and gave him the full-time job. No minority interviews.

The Nationals hired Davey Johnson—their interim manager and a supremely qualified candidate with a terrific resume of managerial success, but someone who appeared tired at times in 2011 and may have lost his managerial fastball—no minority interviews.

What about Willie Randolph? Is he toxic? His strategic skills weren’t great when managing the Mets, but he had control of the clubhouse and deserves another chance.

Today Ruben Amaro Jr. and Michael Hill are working GMs; Tony Reagins was just fired by the Angels; and Kim Ng is an Asian-American woman who’s interviewed to be a GM and is currently an executive with Major League Baseball—the same MLB that is tacitly allowing clubs to selectively bypass the the mandatory minority interview rule to hire “names”.

Progress has been limited, but it’s progress nonetheless.

A rule that has helped make positive improvements in this realm is being dispatched out of convenience due to the recognition of those that are currently getting those jobs.

Epstein was going to be the Cubs boss one way or the other, but that doesn’t render the requirement meaningless.

At least it shouldn’t.

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White Sox Hire….Robin Ventura?!?

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Baseball’s James Bond Villain, White Sox GM Kenny Williams, has seen his evil schemes in recent years turn out…well, like those of an actual James Bond villain, meaning that they didn’t work; in fact, they were overwrought (taking Alexis Rios‘s contract from the Blue Jays); expensive and miserable (Adam Dunn); and undermined by a treacherous second in command (Ozzie Guillen).

Now he’s done something for which “outside-the-box” doesn’t even fit by hiring Robin Ventura as the new White Sox manager.

In theory and as a person, Ventura would be a fine managerial candidate; but he’s never managed anywhere and only joined the White Sox as special assistant to director of player development Buddy Bell last June. The understated, thoughtful and happy-go-lucky Ventura is the opposite of the manic and combative former manager Guillen. The media at large will be pleased in the sense that they won’t require a translator or repeated re-typing of their stories to counteract spell-check trying to manufacture Guillen’s quotes into something intelligible. (Yes. That’s what he really said! It’s supposed to be: “I didn’t know nothin when I brung Floyd off ‘da game.”)

Ventura’s never managed at any level, but we see managers all over the place with loads of experience who do endlessly ridiculous things, so what’s the difference? He’ll handle the media, be respected in the clubhouse and if he gets a veteran bench coach who preferably has managerial experience, it could work.

There are things to be concerned about. He’s never done it, so he might not like it; and the strategic issues cannot be ignored. But the White Sox are decisive in their maneuverings and they decided that the former White Sox star player Ventura was the guy.

Why not? Give it a shot and see. If it doesn’t go well, they’ll get someone else.

On another note, former Mets GM and connoisseur of interns and underlings for sexual thrills Steve Phillips, said that he doesn’t feel as if Tampa Bay Rays bench coach and suggested candidate for several managerial jobs including that of the White Sox, Dave Martinez has the “presence” to be a big league manager.

I’m not sure how Phillips would know this, but it’s a bit irresponsible for the man who hired Art Howe—not exactly Mr. Personality—to run the Mets in replacing the larger-than-life and ego as big as Neptune Bobby Valentine to be publicly denigrating someone he doesn’t even know.

But with Phillips there’s always an agenda and presumably there’s one at work here.

He hired Howe because the club’s first choice, Lou Piniella, was going to cost compensation in terms of players and, more importantly, would’ve usurped Phillips’s power. Howe wasn’t going to do that.

The funniest bit about that whole episode was Valentine’s reaction when told he was fired by the Mets; referring to Phillips he said, “And he stays?!?” in disbelief.

Yes. He stayed. Until May the next year when Phillips was fired too.

Maybe it was his presence that was the problem. The Mets didn’t want it around anymore and they made it disappear early the next season.

Valentine must’ve been amused.

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