A GOOD POLICY IN NEED OF REVISION

By Murray Chass

November 13, 2011

Bud Selig thinks his minority interviewing and hiring program is working just fine, thank you. I think he needs to take another look at it.

The commissioner sees the hiring of mid-level and low-level club employees as a sign of the success of the program. Maybe that’s true for that part of the program. But I see the absurdly paltry number of minorities being interviewed for jobs as general managers and managers as a sign that the program is not successful.Bud Selig Listening 225

“I’m quite satisfied that all the clubs have done what they’re supposed to do,” Selig said on the telephone Friday after telling me what he thought of a recent column I had written, in part about him. But he would offer no specifics on this off-season’s interviewing process. “We don’t talk about it,” he said.

Selig gets and takes credit for the program, and I suppose he deserves it because he was the commissioner who implemented it, and he did it before the National Football League instituted a similar program, the Rooney Rule.

However, the impetus for the Selig rule came from Len Coleman, as did most initiatives involving black matters, such as the baseball-wide retirement of Jackie Robinson’s number 42 and the celebration in 1997 of the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s major league debut.

Coleman was the National League president when the leagues had presidents, before Selig put them out of business by centralizing all of the baseball offices.

Speaking on Friday about the minority-interviewing policy, Coleman said in response to a question about it, “I wrote the original guidelines.”

At the start of the 1999 season Selig issued an edict, based on Coleman’s guidelines, that when hiring people for decision-making positions, such as general managers and managers, clubs had to include minorities among the people they interviewed.

He didn’t go so far to say clubs had to hire minorities because he didn’t feel he should dictate clubs’ hires, but at least interview blacks, Hispanics, women, whomever, someone other than white American males, so that they would have a chance to be hired for significant jobs.

When the program began, it was welcomed by organizations devoted to expanding opportunities for minorities. But time has passed, and the program has become stagnant. Perhaps it’s time for Coleman to write a new set of guidelines.

This off-season clubs created openings for six general managers and five managers. A total of seven members of minorities were interviewed. White male interviewees numbered at least three times that number.

Clubs don’t always include minorities in their interviews, and the commissioner often shrugs it off, offering some lame excuse for the team.

When the Detroit Tigers hired Phil Garner as their manager in 1999, they interviewed no minorities. Selig did not discipline them, as he had threatened in his 1999 letter, because the Tigers bought their way out of a penalty by establishing a community program for minorities.

The commissioner exempted the Los Angeles Dodgers, too, when they named Joe Torre manager for the 2008 season. The Dodgers, who didn’t want to risk losing Torre, asked Selig if they could skip other interviews, and he said yes after reviewing the Dodgers’ history of minority hiring system wide.

But when Selig exempts teams, he misses the point of his own policy. The idea is to allow minorities to be exposed to the interviewing process and to enable themselves to be exposed to other teams for possible future consideration. No interview, no exposure.

Ozzie GuillenThis off-season Selig reacted angrily when I asked about what I had been told was the absence of minority interviews by the Chicago White Sox in their search for a manager to replace Ozzie Guillen.

”What,” Selig exclaimed, “you think Kenny Williams suddenly became a racist?”

Williams, who is black, is the White Sox general manager, and I have no reason to believe or suspect he is a racist. He has been the White Sox general manager for 11 years and had Guillen as his manager for eight stormy years. Their joint employment made the White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, the majors’ most diversity-minded owner.

But does that recent history exempt the White Sox from adhering to Selig’s policy? It shouldn’t, but it apparently did. The White Sox, apparently without interviewing anyone else, hired Robin Ventura, whom Williams identified as his overwhelming No. 1 choice.

A year earlier the New York Mets were looking to replace their minority tandem, Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel, and they interviewed Dana Brown (special assistant to the Toronto general) for Minaya’s job and Don Wakamatsu and Jose Oquendo for Manuel’s.

None of those gentlemen got the job they sought; most minorities don’t. In doing research for this column, I came across a column I wrote for The New York Times in 2006 in which I noted that Minaya and the man he named the Mets’ manager that season, Willie Randolph, had gone through a combined 23 unsuccessful interviews before landing the jobs they sought.

Non-whites seeking these jobs have long said they just want the opportunity to be fired just like their white colleagues. This is happening, and the minority population of general managers and managers has suffered a sizeable hit the last two years.

Since the end of the 2009 season baseball has had nine subtractions and only three additions among minority general managers and managers. But two of the additions, Guillen and Fredi Gonzalez, also count among the subtractions, and the third addition, Edwin Rodriguez, became a subtraction when he resigned last season from his managing job with the Marlins.

In other words, no new minority appears on baseball’s landscape.

Last year the annual Richard Lapchick report on minority hiring in professional sports said: “Bud Selig has helped make MLB’s central and team front offices look like America. The Commissioner and his team in the league office that creates programs on diversity have led MLB in a remarkable period of improvement in the last three Racial and Gender Report Cards.”

Lapchick, however, is missing the same point as Selig. It’s terrific if minorities have an equal chance of getting low and mid-level jobs, but how are they supposed to attain the top jobs if they can’t get interviews for them? And they have to be legitimate interviews, which many of them are not. Some teams interview minorities because Selig says they have to interview minorities.

From what I have been able to piece together – Major League Baseball will not disclose lists of candidates for each team – three members of minorities (one each Hispanic, black and female) were interviewed for six general manager openings, two for the same opening, and four (three Hispanic, one black) were interviewed for five managerial vacancies, one candidate by two teams.

That’s not exactly a torrent of candidates. If Selig is “quite satisfied that all the clubs have done what they’re supposed to do,” he needs to set a higher standard. How can Selig be satisfied that Major League Baseball has only seven people who are considered worthy of being interviewed for top jobs? He shouldn’t be satisfied; he should be embarrassed.

This development reminds me of another time Selig should have been embarrassed.

In his 1999 letter to the clubs about minority interviews, Selig wrote that he and his aides will ”aggressively recruit and hire diverse candidates for all open central office positions.”

However, in the previous two years, the commissioner had filled four new, major positions in his office, and all four appointments were white males. As far as I know, no minorities were interviewed for those positions.

More recently, last year, Selig had a senior vice president of baseball operations named Frank Robinson. Right, that Frank Robinson, Frank Robinson 225the Hall of Famer and lifelong baseball player, manager and executive. Selig wanted to name someone his executive vice president of baseball operations, but it wasn’t to be Robinson.

In fact, Robinson didn’t even get an interview. Selig named Joe Torre, a white guy, to the position. Robinson, of course, is black.

Moving to the present, the six general managers’ jobs have been filled with seven white males. I say seven because the Cubs wanted Theo Epstein so badly they named him president of baseball operations, and he hired Jed Hoyer as general manager.

Others who will appear as general managers at the general managers meetings in Milwaukee this week are Jerry Dipoto (Angels), Ben Cherington (Red Sox), Terry Ryan (Twins), Josh Byrnes (Diamondbacks) and Dan Duquette (Orioles).

The Angels interviewed Minaya and Kim Ng but hired Dipoto. The Orioles interviewed DeJon Watson, but he withdrew from consideration before Duquette got the job.

Watson is the Dodgers’ assistant general manager for player development. Ng, who had been the Dodgers’ assistant general manager, is in the commissioner’s office as senior vice president of baseball operations. Minaya, fired a year ago as the Mets’ general manager, took this year off with the Mets’ $1.1 million but is expected to join another team soon while collecting another year’s salary from the Mets.

Sandy Alomar Jr., the Indians’ bench coach, has been the minority managerial candidate of choice this off-season, interviewing with the Cubs and the Red Sox, whose jobs remain open.

Jose Oquendo interviewed with the Cardinals, whose third base coach he has been for a dozen years. Bo Porter, the Nationals’ third base coach, interviewed with the Marlins before they named Guillen. The Porter interview appeared to be questionable because Guillen knew when he asked the White Sox to release him from his contract that he had the Marlins’ job.

The White Sox, whom Selig vehemently defended when I asked about them, appear to be the only team seeking a manager that did not interview a minority candidate. The White Sox were reported to have received permission to talk to Dave Martinez, the Rays’ bench coach, but there has been no indication that they talked.

Four teams, on the other hand, apparently hired new executives without interviewing anyone else, let alone minorities. A major league official told me if a club wanted to promote someone internally, it didn’t have to interview any minority candidates, but when I asked Selig, he said, “It depends on the circumstances.” Then he added, “They all have to interview minorities.”

The Red Sox, the Twins and the Padres named executives already in their organizations. The Cubs went outside for Epstein and Hoyer without interviewing minorities, presumably a clear violation of the commissioner’s 13-year-old policy.

Don’t hold your breath, though, waiting for Selig to fine the Cubs, the Red Sox, the Twins and the Padres, and certainly not the White Sox.

Comments? Please send email to comments@murraychass.com.