Terry Pluto’s latest article on the Indians’ managerial job raises an interesting question:
A native of the Dominican Republic, Acta does bring something to the Indians that they desperately need. He is a strong Latino presence, a baseball man respected south of the border.
That is not reason to make him the manager. But it’s a driving force to add Acta or someone like him to the new coaching staff. Baseball has a huge Latino influence. The young players from the Dominican, Venezuela and Latin countries need baseball role models.
Because this touches on race and ethnicity, some people are probably going to fly off the handle — and if you doubt it, just Google what people say about Omar Minaya and the ethnic makeup of the Mets’ roster — but I think Pluto has a great point here.
Isn’t it true that you want a manager to whom the players will respond? Isn’t it true that Latin players make up a large and growing percentage of the baseball population? I won’t suggest for a minute that (a) one has to be Latin to relate to Latin players; or (b) that relating to the Latin players is the most important consideration for the job, but it does strike me that once you determine whether or not a given candidate meets the baseline qualifications for the job — smart, sufficiently experiences, an overall good fit for general reasons as opposed to the specific ones — that taking such factors into account is smart baseball, even if it may be seen as controversial.
Put more simply: it’s probably not good policy to start your managerial search by asking which of any dozens of candidate will best relate to a given minority on your team. It seems smart however — and may be essential — to ask which of the small number of guys you find to be already qualified to manage would best relate to that minority and make it a consideration in your final decision.
Among the named finalists — Valentine, Fryman and Acta — I like Acta for the Cleveland job best because I think he best fits where the team is on the success cycle: he has experience rebuilding, but also has enough overall experiece to where he could probably do well if the team suddenly finds itself in contention. The same can’t be said for either Valentin or Fryman.
If Acta’s relationship and interaction with Latin players isn’t matched by that of the other candidates, I think it’s perfectly legitimate to consider as well, and may very well put him over the top.