The New York Yankees have a chance to make franchise history and put a dent in Major League Baseball’s (MLB) leadership diversity problem whenever the game’s most successful professional franchise names its new manager. The Bronx Bombers decided on Thursday to part ways with former player-turned-manager Joe Girardi, who led the team for the past decade and came within one game of this season’s World Series.
While most tried and true Yankees fans weren’t happy with the move, Girardi’s exit made room for the team to consider any number of eligible Black candidates, a prospect that seems more ideal than realistic when presented with the statistics. If the Yankees did hire a Black person to be its manager, it would be the first time in franchise history.
As it stood now, there was just one Black manager in the league, and he has been busy guiding the Los Angeles Dodgers to the current World Series.
Diversity among MLB’s managers has only come into focus in the recent past, just about 30 years since Frank Robinson became the league’s first Black manager for the Cleveland Indians. And while progress has been made, it’s been scant and inconsistent. There were two Black managers to begin the 2016 season, and now just one of them remains after the Washington Nationals fired Dusty Baker last week. And after the Seattle Mariners fired Lloyd McClendon after the 2014-15 season, there wasn’t a single Black manager for any of the 30 MLB franchises.
After being fired, McLendon seemed to hint that the dearth of Black managers is proof that racism plays an active role in the hiring for the position.
“When are we going to get past this? When you, me or anybody else is looked at for the content of their character, to paraphrase Dr. King, not the color of their skin,” McLendon said at the time. “To me, that’s the bigger issue, not so much that there is a lack of us in the game of baseball. That we have to sit here and talk about it.”
If the Yankees decide to consider Black candidates, they need not look any further than several of its African-American alumni, such as Willie Randolph, who managed the Yankees’ rival New York Mets for four winning seasons. He also placed second in Manager of the Year voting in 2006, losing out to none other than Girardi.
But if history is any indication, fans and observers alike hoping the Yankees go with a Black manager probably shouldn’t hold their collective breath for it to happen.