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Hispanic Managers In Majors On Decline
Felipe Alou & Ozzie Guillen
KANSAS CITY— It was less than three years ago when Kansas City’s Tony Peña and Detroit’s Luis Pujols met in the first major-league baseball game that pitted two managers from the Dominican Republic.
The president of the Dominican Republic and baseball commissioner Bud Selig celebrated the occasion at Kauffman Stadium by throwing the first pitches amid a background of salsa music.
Now, that watershed day in the summer of 2002 is a distant memory. Peña’s resignation on Tuesday night left baseball with just two Hispanic managers, Chicago’s Ozzie Guillen and San Francisco’s Felipe Alou.
That means 6.7 percent of the 30 major-league teams have Hispanic managers compared with about 25 percent of players who are from Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Last year, four managers were Hispanic — Alou, Peña, Guillen and Toronto’s Carlos Tosca. Pujols was fired by Detroit after a 55-100 performance in 2002.
“Losing Tony is something that is hard on the Latin community,” Guillen, a native of Venezuela, told reporters before the White Sox’ game at Tampa Bay on Wednesday. “It’s hard for us to believe, but it’s part of the game.”
Guillen has led the White Sox to a 25-9 record, the best in baseball, thanks in part to Chicago’s 6-0 mark against the Royals. Guillen thought Pena’s attitude was still upbeat when the Royals visited Chicago last week.
“Tony did everything in his power to make players better,” Guillen said. “He’s one of the baseball men I admire the most.”
Tosca, who was 191-191 at Toronto during 2002-04 and is now third-base coach at Arizona, could be a candidate to replace Peña with the Royals, who have several key Hispanic players, including young pitchers Runelvys Hernandez, Denny Bautista, Ambiorix Burgos and Leo Nuñez as well as second baseman Ruben Gotay and shortstop Angel Berroa.
The Royals have one Hispanic coach on their staff, third-base coach Luis Silverio, but he is not expected to be a candidate.
There are other coaches at the big-league level who could have a future as managers.
Former Toronto infielder Alfredo Griffin is a highly regarded coach at Anaheim; as are Cardinals third-base coach Jose Oquendo; Yankees third-base coach Luis Sojo; and Detroit third-base coach Juan Samuel, a former Royals player.
Though Houston replaced Jimy Williams with Phil Garner as manager last season, Astros general manager Tim Purpura said he had compiled a list of 40 minority coaches, managers and front-office candidates during the past five years.
“I want them to be well qualified so they can succeed,” Purpura told The Houston Chronicle. “You don’t want to categorize them by their ethnic background. You want to categorize them on their ability. But when you look at the makeup of the staff you want it to be diverse.”
How successful anyone becomes as a manager will depend on the talent on the field.
“Tony did a tremendous job with what he had,” Guillen said. “It’s sometimes not fair when you aren’t playing good that some of the guys who don’t have anything to do with this pay the price.”