Rob Manfred says MLB 'focused on need to promote diversity'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Commissioner Rob Manfred said Monday that Major League Baseball is committed to making strides in minority hiring, amid the possibility the 2016 season begins without an African-American manager.

Lloyd McClendon, baseball's only black manager, was fired by the Seattle Mariners after the regular season and has been replaced by Scott Servais. The Washington Nationals are still in the market for a manager and reportedly are considering longtime big-league skipper Dusty Baker.

The Reds fired Baker after the 2013 season. Last year, the Astros' Bo Porter was let go and the Rangers' Ron Washington resigned.

The Braves' Fredi Gonzalez, who is of Hispanic origin, is now the only minority manager among the 30 big-league clubs.

"There's a certain cyclical nature to this,'' Manfred said. "Field managers are high turnover jobs, and you're going to have peaks and valleys in terms of representation. Having said that, we are focused on the need to promote diversity -- not just African-Americans but Latinos as well -- in the managerial ranks.

"We have had a year where our numbers are down, in terms of our diversity in some key positions, and I think it's incumbent upon us to come up with additional programs and ways to make sure our numbers look better over the long haul.''

Next year could be the first season since 1984-87 with no black manager in the major leagues, according to Richard Lapchick of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida. Along with making sure teams comply with the "Selig Rule,'' MLB is designing a program with executive search firm Korn Ferry to help minority candidates hone their skills in interviews and strengthen the "pipeline'' of minorities, Manfred said.

In April 1999, then-commissioner Bud Selig mandated that teams consider minorities when hiring a manager, general manager, assistant GM, director of player development or director of scouting. Manfred plans to discuss the topic with owners next month. He rejected the notion that there is an old-boy network among GMs who just hire buddies.

"There's been so much change in the general manager rank," Manfred said. "It's hard to look at our group of general managers and talk about it as an old boy network because they ain't very old."

Manfred addressed several other issues during a news conference at Kauffman Stadium, as the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals held workouts in advance of the World Series opener on Tuesday:

• The Royals and Mets made the World Series this year with moderate payrolls. Kansas City's $128.1 million ranked 13th among MLB payrolls at the end of the regular season, while New York was 19th among the 30 clubs with $109.6 million.

The Toronto Blue Jays ($135.5 million) and Chicago Cubs ($132.5 million), who lost in the League Championship Series, ranked 10th and 11th.

"I think all those facts are positives for the game," Manfred said. "It shows that teams from all sorts of markets can win if they have a strategy and stick to it. I think that's really, really important for the sport, for our fans to appreciate that fact.''

• MLB has no regrets about its partnership with DraftKings, the fantasy site, even though the FBI has begun a probe of the fantasy sports industry after a DraftKings employee won $350,000 in a contest on competing site FanDuel.

Manfred reiterated his belief that fantasy sports are distinct from sports gambling.

"I think fantasy is an important source of fan engagement and has been for a long time," Manfred said. "We did thoroughly investigate the games that were available on the site, and we were completely comfortable with the idea that those games were consistent with the existing federal law.

"Put the law to one side. There's a huge difference between Rob Manfred, citizen, betting on whether Kansas City beats Toronto or whomever on the one hand, and Rob Manfred picking nine guys off 18 teams to try to see if he can accumulate more points within a given set of guidelines than 100 other guys trying to do the same thing. Forget the law for a minute. I see those as two completely different dynamics.''

Manfred quickly clarified that he was speaking hypothetically and has never participated in the fantasy realm in baseball or any other sport.

• The league is considering whether to expand the use of protective netting, which is in place behind home plate, and will talk with owners about it when they meet in Dallas on Nov. 18 and 19.

"We are prepared to have a very detailed presentation and conversation with the owners at the November meeting," Manfred said. "I'm not prepared, prior to that meeting, to make a pronouncement as to what the new rule is going to be, if any. I think that it's important that we have input and a full discussion among the clubs before we do that."

Among other topics:

• On takeout slides at second base, such as Chase Utley's slide that broke Ruben Tejada's leg:

"This conversation about player safety at second base began in our office months before that particular play. It progressed to the point that we had some preliminary conversations with the MLBPA about it. And I fully expect that we will continue those conversations with the MLBPA in the offseason."

• On video review resulting in runners who come off bases being called out:

"Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Chris Marinak, Peter Woodfork, that group, they actually warned us that when you go to replay, you're going to have calls that are going to get made that never used to get made, and this was an example. ... We had to accept that if the replay officials see it, they've got to call it. You can't tell them not to call what they see."

• On an earlier Opening Day to avoid November World Series games:

"Starting early in March is no picnic, either. And I know people always talk about warm weather schedules. Making those warm weather schedules work is more difficult as a political matter than you might imagine. The warm weather cities don't want all those early dates when kids aren't out of school."

• On fans posting video of plays to the Internet:

"What we try to do is strike a realistic balance between protecting what we regard to be very valuable intellectual property rights on the one hand with allowing fans to use as many platforms as possible."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.