By Michael Nam
On Sunday, May 17th the Miami Marlins baseball franchise made a curious choice to replace their manager, Mike Redmond. Rather than working with the current “Selig Rule” to review multiple diverse candidates for the role, the Marlins went with their general manager, Dan Jennings, another white guy, bringing the overall diversity of MLB’s manager population to dismal levels.
On April 14th, 1999, then-Commissioner Bud Selig of Major League Baseball instituted the rule designed to improve hiring practices for underrepresented personnel in some of the highest profile management positions. After it was put in place, there was a brief period of positive change, which resulted in 10 manager positions being filled by persons of color in 2009.
However, the consequences for not following the Selig Rule no longer seem to be in place. When Craig Counsell, a former player and special assistant to the Brewers was hired as manager, Major League Baseball gave notice to their teams, according to Yahoo Sports:
His hire prompted MLB to send out a memo reminding teams to consider minority candidates which was promptly ignored upon the next managerial opening.
When time came to hire the new Marlins manager, Yahoo Sports explained that the Miami franchise opted to take the unorthodox plan of hiring someone inexperienced and already an employee rather than doing the legwork of searching for a replacement:
Jennings last coached 30 years ago, at a high school in Mobile, Ala. His professional playing experience is limited to having been signed as a pitcher by theNew York Yankeesout of a tryout camp. He did not, by appearances, actually throw a professional pitch for the Yankees.
Baseball has been talking up a good game when it comes to desiring diversity in its customers, management and senior executive ranks to mirror the admittedly diverse ranks of players. Even though current Commissioner Manfred recently made some noise about doing more Latin America outreach, the lack of representation among its management and top leadership ranks among teams, or the MLB front office itself, is embarrassing for a sport that prides so much of itself on the legacy of Jackie Robinson.
In the most recent Race and Gender Report Card, researched by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, Major League Baseball has shown a downward trend in terms of its hiring practices for the fourth consecutive year:
The 2015 Major League Baseball season began with two managers of color, a decrease from five in 2014. The number of managers of color had been decreasing since the 2009 season, which started with 10 people of color and equaled the all-time record setin 2002 .
The two managers of color are Fredi Gonzalez, Cuban-born manager of the Atlanta Braves; and Lloyd McLendon, manager of the Seattle Mariners. Frustratingly, sitting next to Jennings when his hiring was announced was one of a handful of team executives who is also a person of color, Mike Hill, the only non-white president and CEO of an MLB team.
“I’d tell the clubs, ‘You’re hurting yourself when you’re just recycling these guys; you’re limiting yourself,'” Bud Selig said to his clubs when implementing his rule. “I believed we have such a great opportunity to do good and constructive work. I’m just asking people to be fair.”
In response to that optimistic notion, Yahoo Sports spelled out the future of the Selig Rule.
“MLB did nothing about it. If the league insists on keeping the Selig Rule in place, it must start enforcing it or run the risk of further alienating minorities who wonder when not if their ascent will stagnate,” wrote Jeff Passan of Yahoo. “The glass ceiling is real, and until baseball gives the Selig Rule some teeth and ends the farce, too many good baseball men will bang their heads unnecessarily.”