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Ethnicity and the Indians job

Oct 21, 2009, 9:55 AM EDT

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.

  1. Old Gator - Oct 21, 2009 at 10:55 AM

    It’s funny, in a way, to see the issue of ethnicity being seriously discussed in the context of a sport with two teams whose names and logos are degrading insults to Native Americans. If MLB is so concerned about the ethnic factor, why not rename the Indians the Wetbacks and the Braves the Coyotes and just get it over with? It’s not like you’ve had Leslie Marmon Silko or Vine Deloria or Russel Means over to sing the Star Spangled Banner lately anyway. From a pure marketing standpoint, why bother addressing your offensiveness to a practically exterminated minority from whom you’ve already stolen just about everything you can steal except their slot machines, when you can target the fastest-growing ethnic group in the country instead?

  2. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Oct 21, 2009 at 11:04 AM

    [quote]From a pure marketing standpoint, why bother addressing your offensiveness to a practically exterminated minority from whom you’ve already stolen just about everything you can steal except their slot machines, when you can target the fastest-growing ethnic group in the country instead? [/quote]
    Good god man, stop posting. Your tinfoil hat is affecting the normal function of your brain.

  3. Old Gator - Oct 21, 2009 at 11:38 AM

    Is that the second or third time you’ve used that line today? Or is it an automated response while you’re away fishing for coelocanth?

  4. Grant - Oct 21, 2009 at 12:04 PM

    Doesn’t this quote: “The young players from the Dominican, Venezuela and Latin countries need baseball role models.” kind of reek of some of those other quotes we see/hear about Latin players lacking “focus” and various other euphemisms that suggest Latin players may be lazier or less team-oriented than their native-born counterparts? I don’t want to be an alarmist throwing the race card around all willy-nilly or anything, but you never see a story about how some well-known jerk like Jeff Kent needs the strong influence of a white manager. Maybe that’s because he already has a white manager and his personality is proven to be troublesome anyway. In which case, why should a Latino manager prove differently with a Latino player?
    Further, by the major league level shouldn’t guys have already encountered plenty of role models? Many players from the DR and Venezuela have been in team-run academies since their mid-teens. Seems like an organization with a strong, unified player-development philosophy should have instilled a proper baseball work ethic long before a player reaches the majors. The ML manager can’t be a band-aid for a poorly-unified organization.

  5. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Oct 21, 2009 at 1:22 PM

    Is that the second or third time you’ve used that line today? Or is it an automated response while you’re away fishing for coelocanth?

    Amazingly you know how to read my comment, but fail horribly at the post by Craig. Taking a legitimate argument and turning into an attack on the country’s history of treatment of Native Americans, while having nothing to do with each other other than it concerns “minorities”, means you either can’t read or something’s wrong with you. Since the former has been established as false, it must be the latter.

  6. Joey B - Oct 21, 2009 at 2:17 PM

    * I’m not quite sure why someone from Mexico, for example, would need someone from the DR, for example, to inspire him. It’s kind of like saying we’re going to hire the Italian guy to inspire the Irish guy.
    * It sounds kind of counter-intuitive to say hiring someone of a particular race, religion, or gender is okay because they ‘look like’ the rest of the employees. Should the ‘old money’ law firm only hire white males as directors simply because most of the lawyers in the firm are white males?
    * As the percentage of BB players that are black continues to decline, does that mean they need less black managers that they can ‘relate to’?
    * Do people like Tito Francona count as Latino? Doesn’t he come from SD or something like that, and presumably fairly well of as the son of a former player? Does a mechanism created for census purposes make it easier for a rich Latino from a white neighborhood to relate to someone from the DR than it does for a poor white kid from a mixed neighborhood in Brookly?
    * Simply hire the best qualified person. As a white person, would you prefer to report to a stupid, miserable white person, or bright, inspirational black person?

  7. Old Gator - Oct 21, 2009 at 2:33 PM

    And even more clearly, you have either forgotten how to free-associate or never learned how in the first place. Sorry you can’t see the connection between MLB’s contempt for Native Americans and its hand-wringing over currying favor with Latinos in the name of “balance.” Tinfoil hats and stereo dental fillings notwithstanding, it ain’t rocket science, as they say (although I admit to having no idea who “they” are). I live down here, happily bilingual, in a community that’s close to 70% Latino itself, where many of my fellow Anglos spend their time whining about how come “they” (that word again) don’t gotta learn English but we gotta learn Spanish? We proudly feature a baseball team that’s just snookered a community with an imploding school system out of half a billion dollars in development funds to build a stadium right smack in the heart of what they perceive as “the Cuban community” whose denizens wouldn’t drive fifteen or twenty miunutes north to go to their games before. In doing so they’ve relocated miles from their old home straddling the county line to the north and much closer to what surveys reveal is considerably more than half of their meagre attendance – mostly Anglo, of course. I find MLB’s absurd, peacock-tail displays of concern about Latino sensibilities facetious to the Nth degree anyway.
    And of course your first response to my comments was itself a classic model of relevance to be studied and from which all neophyte rhetoricians may hope to learn – especially those working down in the Department of Redundancy Department.
    Look, I was just joking around. Me, I certainly don’t begrudge my country a little bit of foundational genocide. What were my ancestors supposed to do, leave the residents in peace and treat them with respect? Gimme a break. Hell, when “those people” came across the Bering land bridge this land was chock full of succulent elephants, savory camels, juicy rhinos and tasty giant ground sloths (although the latter did require overnight marination in papaya juice to take some of the gaminess out of the meat). By the time they were finished, they had left nothing but millions of foul-tasting bison for MY ancestors. Ergo, as far as I’m concerned, MLB can go right on demonstrating its contempt for their feelings and interests while agonizing so patronizingly over the sensibilities of Latin Americans.
    Note to MLB: based on my careful observation over a period of more than forty five years of the south Florida dystopia, Latinos do quite well even when left to their own devices and without the helping hand of some smarmy Big Brother and its public relations advisors.

  8. Joey B - Oct 21, 2009 at 3:58 PM

    “Note to MLB: based on my careful observation over a period of more than forty five years of the south Florida dystopia, Latinos do quite well even when left to their own devices and without the helping hand of some smarmy Big Brother and its public relations advisors.”
    I was kind of going in that direction. People from every country in the world have been coming here for centuries. Nobody ever tried to give them a break. We didn’t ESL for the Poles and the Italians, or the Indians or Japanese. I don’t recall any campaigns for role models for the Vietnamese coming over after the war. I don’t remember the Yanks hiring an Italian manager so that Joe D and Yogi had someone to relate to.
    Here’s what I think. I think that Latinos don’t need Latinos. I think that, much like the Irish, German, Japanese, etc., they can pretty much relate to anyone that can help them improve their skills.
    What is it about the Spanish language that makes people think anyone speaking it needs a lot of help, and that those that have Japanese as their native language are pretty much okay by themselves? FWIW, I know plenty of English-speaking whites that could use some guidance.

  9. Michael - Oct 21, 2009 at 4:17 PM

    Craig, you forget we’ve seen this dance before:
    1. Uncle Bud gets on the horn and makes sure the team is at least making a show of interviewing minority candidates.
    2. When they settle on the retread white guy, Bud mentions something about investigating to ensure the hiring process was “fair.”
    3. Nothing more is heard on the subject.
    One sportswriter suggesting the Latino candidate would have extra value does not an enlightened team make.

  10. Old Gator - Oct 21, 2009 at 11:13 PM

    Joey – indeed. And juding from the spelling, grammar and inability of certain unnamed bloggers on this thread to read and interpret sentences in the King’s English (minus the “u” in words ending in “-or”), much less discern ironies or other forms of subtlety – what they seem to need guidance in most of all is gettling a handle on their own language.
    Meanwhile, I suppose we can only be so grateful that MLB’s hier to the tradition of Newton, Tesla, Einstein, Heisenberg and Hawking, Bud Selig, hasn’t installed a commissioner of Ebonics as well.

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