LaRussa marks step back for White Sox, baseball diversity
Manuel Gomez: White Sox blow chance to hire a young, Latino manager to match the core of their promising roster
Without a doubt, the White Sox were one of the most exciting teams to take the field this season. Under the tutelage of Mexican American manager Rick Renteria, the team nearly clinched the AL Central, falling to second place in the final four games.
To the surprise of many, Renteria was fired less than two weeks after the White Sox were eliminated in the wild-card round of the expanded postseason. Soon after, rumors began to swirl that owner Jerry Reinsdorf was considering reuniting with Tony La Russa, whom he had fired back in 1986.
Those rumors turned into reality as it was announced that the 76-year-old Hall of Famer was hired Thursday to manage the organization that first gave him a shot back in 1979.
There’s no question that La Russa’s resume is impressive. He’s the third-winningest manager in Major League Baseball history, has three World Series titles, and has won four Manager of the Year awards.
The problem with this move is that as the game gets younger and browner, the White Sox hired someone who is whiter and older. This after letting go of one of the four Latinos who managed in 2020.
And this highlights the issue of representation in MLB where Latinos make up approximately 27.4% of players, the largest minority group in the game.
This is a sport with only one Latino owner in Arturo “Arte” Moreno, who is of Mexican descent, and just three Latino managers of the 29 filled positions.
It’s not like there aren’t qualified Latino managerial candidates out there. Just recently, we spoke with Rays third base coach Rodney Linares, 43,, who was considered the top manager prospect by Baseball America before taking the job with Tampa in 2018.
Linares is bilingual and was extremely successful as a manager in the Astros’ minor league system. What’s more, he oversaw the development of players such as J.D. Martinez, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa.
There’s also Alex Cora, 45, a World Series champion whose main attribute seems to be an ability to build team chemistry. Cora’s one-year suspension for the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal expired at the end of the World Series, making him eligible to return for the 2021 season.
Here you have two young Latinos who are beyond qualified for the job and eager to prove their worth as big-league managers.
Then there’s Ozzie Guillén, who like La Russa, got his break as a manager with the White Sox. The 56-year-old from Ocumare del Tuy, Venezuela, even ended an 88-year championship drought for the Northsiders in 2005. Guillén was never even considered.
This issue is even more accentuated by a White Sox organization that featured 17 Latinos on their roster in 2020, making up 35% of the team. What’s more, seven of the nine mainstays of the team’s lineup are Spanish-speaking immigrants from the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
After the La Russa hiring, two organizations continue their search for a manager: the Red Sox and the Tigers. Clearly, who they chose is entirely up to them. As the game continues to change, however, hopefully, its representation will too.
(Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Adapted by Manuel Gómez)
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