Record six Latino managers set for 2024 MLB season
Espada and Mendoza join Cora, Martinez, Grifol and Marmol
NASHVILLE – Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora has often said that the number of Latino managers in Major League Baseball would increase once baseball officials saw Latinos as capable.
More than ever, MLB owners are trusting Latino managers to lead their clubs. That trust was evident last week at baseball’s annual Winter Meetings. Cora is one of a record six Latinos set to manage in the upcoming season.
“I’m very proud of all of them,” said Cora, who guided the Red Sox to the 2018 World Series title in his rookie managerial season. “They have earned the right to become big league managers.
“There’s only 30 in the world, and we have six Latinos, which is great.”
Three Latino managers in each league
Cora, Dave Martinez of the Nationals, Oliver Marmol of the Cardinals, Pedro Grifol of the White Sox, Joe Espada of the Astros and Carlos Mendoza of the Mets are the six Latino managers heading into the 2024 season.
Martinez and Cora were hired by their respective clubs in 2018. Those decisions paid off well for the Red Sox and Nationals, respectively. Cora won the 2018 title. Martinez then guided the Nationals to the 2019 World Series crown.
Latinos make up about 30 percent of the players in MLB. There still is a way to go before there is equitable representation in the managerial ranks. Nonetheless, there has definitely been progress.
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There was only one Latino manager per season from 2015 through 2017. Fredi Gonzalez started the 2015 season managing the Braves, but there was no Latino manager in the majors after he was fired that year.
The numbers have grown steadily since Martinez and Cora were hired in 2018.
“This is great opportunity for to us represent our Latin community … just through this platform with Major League Baseball,” Mendoza said. “Open up that door for future coaches that are in the minor leagues.
“Diversity’s always a good thing, and I’m humble. I’m proud of representing not only Venezuela but the Latin community. And I’m very thankful for the Mets for giving me this great opportunity.”
Not too long ago, Latino managers would often start their managerial careers with teams expected to rebuild. That has changed quite a bit. Cora was given a contender to lead. Martinez did as well.
The Mets are rebuilding somewhat. Mets owner Steve Cohen has the resources and commitment to contend soon, though. Marmol also works for a perennial contender with a committed ownership group with a strong track record despite the disappointing 2022 season.
Grifol’s situation appears more like the traditional, difficult rebuild that usually is given to a Latino manager. The 2023 season was somewhat of a learning experience for Grifol.
“Off the field, and what I mean about off the field, in the dugout and in the clubhouse, I learned how to manage through adversity,” Grifol said. “There’s a lot of things that come up during the Major League season that even with me in my experience and the jobs that I’ve held, there’s things that come up that you haven’t experienced before.”
Espada is taking over an Astros club that is still quite loaded after reaching the American League Championship Series for the seventh consecutive season.
“He’s in a perfect situation,” Cora said of Espada, who replaced him as Astros bench coach in 2018. “He’s still in Houston. His family loves it, and he knows the group since 2018. He got horses too, right?
“(Alex) Bregman, (Jose) Altuve, and Lance (McCullers, Jr.), they’ve been there since I don’t know when. 2017, 2016, right? So he has the leaders. One of the best DHs in the league.”
That’s solid advice for Espada, Mendoza as they enter their rookie seasons. Mendoza and Espada have appreciated the advice they’ve received from Cora and other managers throughout the big leagues. They have both been reminded to stay true to themselves.
Diversity on display
“Yeah, I hear this a lot: ‘Be you,’” Espada says. “‘Humility. You have a great team. Let the guys do their part. Don’t try to do too much.’ That stuff is what you hear.
“You think that going from bench coach, now you’re the manager, now you think that you got to change the whole scheme of things, that’s just not the case.”
Espada has been reminded of the importance of transparency. He has been encouraged to make sure his players know he has their backs. A key is to put his players in positions to succeed, he has been told by other managers.
They all have support systems in pace, including each other in their small fraternity of Latino managers. Together, they represent the diversity within MLB and within the Latino community.
Marmol is Dominican American. Grifol is Cuban American. Mendoza was born in Venezuela. Espada and Cora were born in Puerto Rico, and Martinez was born in New York to Puerto Rican parents.
“It’s great,” Cora said. “Six out of 30. It’s amazing. I know we talk about the Selig rule and all that stuff. I always said that when they see us as capable, the numbers are going to go up.”
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