MLB struggling to find next Dusty Baker, Dave Roberts

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Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker Jr., and the Houston Astros celebrate their 4-1 World Series win against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6 on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

LAS VEGAS – When the Houston Astros wildly celebrated in the dugout Saturday with manager Dusty Baker after he finally broke through to win a World Series, the scene was notable for several reasons.

Baker had been close so often, going to the postseason 11 prior times and the World Series twice. But also notable, Baker became just the third Black manager to win the championship, joining Cito Gaston in 1992 and 1993 with the Toronto Blue Jays and Dave Roberts in 2020 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Baker and Roberts are the only active Black managers in the major leagues.

“The problem isn't solved," Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said at this week's GM meetings, which concluded Thursday at a Las Vegas Strip resort. "What's the solution? Clearly we haven't gotten to it.”

Baker knew what the moment meant, expressing his feelings before the Game 6 clinching victory.

“I do know that there’s certain pressure from a lot of people that are pulling for me, especially people of color," he said. "And that part I do feel. I hear it every day … and so I feel that I’ve been chosen for this.”

Even though Latino or Hispanic players make up about 30 percent of rosters, Boston's Alex Cora, the Chicago White Sox's Pedro Grifol, St. Louis' Oliver Marmol and Washington's Dave Martinez are the only Latino managers.

Black players made up only about 7.2 percent of opening-day rosters. It was the lowest figure since 1991 when the data was first recorded and Black players accounted for 18 percent of rosters.

Because those numbers are so low, the carryover effect in later years is a much shallower managerial pool.

“It’s a question we’ve all been thinking about the last few years and particularly recently," said Farhan Zaidi, the San Francisco Giants’ president of baseball operations. "There’s an element of opportunities for Black coaches and staff who are already in the game. There’s a question of the pipeline and making sure that people coming into the game represent a diverse group.

“I think we’re doing better as an industry, but I don’t really have a straight-forward answer to your question. I don’t think there is one," he said.

Baseball has attempted to increase the number of Black players through its RBI program. Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities began in 1991, but this year's World Series included no Black players for the first time since 1950.

“I know it’s been talked about for years,” Anthopoulos said. “I know that it’s something that MLB’s very conscious of.”

Going back to their days in Brooklyn when Jackie Robinson in 1947 broke MLB's color barrier, the Dodgers have been at the forefront of providing opportunities for minorities.

The man in the manager's chair, Roberts, is the latest example of that commitment.

The latest rare example.

“I think we all hope that it's happening as soon as possible and that there's more opportunity for diversity, growth and having different mindsets,” Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes said. “It's definitely something that's being emphasized and focused on for all of us in the industry. We can and will do better, and it will get to the point where we keep pushing those initiatives and get to a diverse group.”


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