David Laurila of FanGraphs asked a bunch of major leaguers a really good question: which current players do they think would be or could be future managers?
Laurila asked 20 players and/or managers and they listed 31 different players. Many named a handful. A few — A.J. Ellis and Dustin Pedroia — were listed by multiple respondents. David Ross was named, like, a gabillion times.
The most striking thing about the list: the overwhelming majority of the potential candidates are white guys. A ton of them catchers. The non-white/U.S. players mentioned: Adrian Beltre, Alex Cora, Jose Molina, Henry Blanco, Melky Cabrera (?!) and Russell Martin, who is mixed-race.
Which isn’t to say that anyone here is racist or prejudiced or anything of the sort. The guys the interviewees listed, I am certain, were just those they know well or know well enough to weigh in on their qualifications as managers. Indeed, it’s worth noting here that, with only a couple of exceptions, those asked the question were white too. Given how clubhouses and baseball friendships often break down along racial and ethnic lines themselves, the fact that they named guys like themselves is not shocking or malevolent or anything of the sort. If the 20 interviewees were Latino or black, I’m sure the breakdown would be somewhat different too. If you were asked to name the three people you’d be most likely to ask drive you to the airport, your answers would likely be people of your own race as well. That’s just how informal relationships tend to go in our society.
It’s still nonetheless telling, because a lot of baseball hirings are made on the basis of personal relationships and familiarity too. Front office people hiring people they know best. The ones with whom they are the most familiar and about whom they are least uncertain on some personal level. But then you remember that front offices themselves are overwhelmingly white. And then you remember that almost every single manager in the game is white too, and you start to realize that it’s not really an accident.
Again, given how so many baseball relationships break down along racial and ethnic lines themselves, it’s not shocking or malevolent or anything. But it’s certainly illustrative of how a certain historical selection of people in power can lead to a perpetuation of similar people being in power, even with the most benign of current intentions. And that, in turn, speaks to how important it is for Major League Baseball to increase diversity up and down organizations so that these patterns will not be perpetuated rather than relying on empty and toothless proclamations like “The Selig Rule” and the like.