The Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers have advanced to the National League Division Series with the Nats making their third appearance in the past five seasons in the postseason. The series kicked off on Friday, Oct. 7 with both teams hoping to improve on recent failures in October matchups.
After a loss in the first game, the Nationals recovered on Saturday to even the five-game division series at one game apiece.
But no matter who moves on, the real story undoubtedly remains that for the first time ever, two Black managers have been pitted against each other in a division series playoff.
Dusty Baker and Dave Roberts, representing the Nationals and the Dodgers, respectively, following more than a century of postseason play with the 1903 World Series as the benchmark, have made history.
Baker, now marking his 21st season as a manager (formerly the manager for both the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds), and first-season manager Roberts, hold the distinction of being the only two African-Americans currently managing in the league.
Can Blacks cut the mustard? Baker says of course. In fact, he hopes that the game will illustrate that they [Blacks] can not only do the job but do it better than most.
Statistically speaking, baseball, as well as other major sports like football and basketball, have not done well in terms of promoting diversity in within the managerial ranks. Meanwhile, the number of Black players in baseball has continued to decline for years.
In 2013, the percentage of Blacks born in the U.S. and playing in Major League Baseball [MLB] was 8.3 percent. However, the total number of Blacks was higher – just over 19 percent – due to the number of foreign-born Blacks from Latin American countries, primarily the Dominican Republic.
History buffs may recall that Frank Robinson became the first Black MLB in history in 1975. Since then, only one Black manager has won the World Series – Cito Gaston for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993.
Ozzie Guillen, a Hispanic, led the Chicago White Sox to victory in the 2005 World Series, ending the team’s 88-year drought.
In recent years, there have been other Black managers, including Lloyd McClendon (Seattle Mariners), Ron Washington (Texas Rangers) and Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel (New York Mets). But each failed to take their teams to the pinnacle of the MLB – that is, winning it all in the World Series.
Meanwhile, Robinson, now a member of the MLB Hall of Fame, says the problem isn’t that there aren’t qualified Blacks waiting for their chance but when and if owners will consider them as serious candidates.
“You can’t make anybody do anything – all you can do is suggest,” McClendon has said in previously-reported news stories.
MLB officials have made efforts to improve diversity at the top, hiring a company that provides support services for qualified candidates in 2015, specifically minorities and women, assisting them as they prepare for interviews.
And to address the shrinking number of U.S.-born Black players in the league, a growing number of teams, including the Nationals, have recently invested millions of dollars in urban areas the District, Houston, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, building youth academies where talented can receive vital training that may help them fulfill their dreams of becoming professional baseball players.