MLB commissioner says minority hiring must improve at entry level

Manfred addresses diversity issue in baseball (1:43)

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred explains what baseball must do to become a more diverse sport. (1:43)

Commissioner Rob Manfred says the minority-hiring issue that Major League Baseball currently faces can start to be resolved with entry-level positions and not just focusing on top jobs.

"I think it starts with respect to entry-level jobs," Manfred said Tuesday during an appearance on Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio. "We've been engaging with the clubs as they go through the fall and begin to rebuild front offices -- there's various people moving around and get promoted -- that there needs to be significant minority representation at entry-level jobs.

"And the reason I think those entry-level jobs are so important is it helps us build a pipeline of qualified diversity candidates -- male, female, African-American, Latino -- who are available to interview for top jobs. I don't think you can just start at the top."

The possibility exists that MLB could begin next season without a black manager. The Atlanta Braves' Fredi Gonzalez, who is of Hispanic origin, is the only current minority manager among the 30 big league clubs.

Lloyd McClendon, baseball's only black manager, was fired by the Seattle Mariners after the regular season and has been replaced by Scott Servais.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, who is black.

Next year could be the first season since 1987 with no black manager in the major leagues. There also was no black manager in the majors from 1984 through 1986. 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.

"I think the Selig rule for us and the Rooney rule for football are important pieces of the puzzle," Manfred told Mike & Mike. "And we're committed to the idea that minority interviews are important, and we'll continue to require the clubs to do it."

Manfred said Korn Ferry would work with minority candidates to "make sure they're as well prepared as possible" for the interview process.

"The goal, after all, is not to get minorities an interview; the goal is to get them a job," Manfred told Mike & Mike. "So we're going to try to expand our program over the offseason. We're committed to this, and you'll see progress on this issue over the long haul."

Former Astros manager Bo Porter has interviewed with the Marlins, and there are several other qualified black candidates, including longtime Braves coach Terry Pendleton. But Pendleton is skeptical he'll ever lead a club.

"I would love the opportunity somewhere, but I'm not sure that's going to ever come," the 1991 NL MVP told The Associated Press.

"I don't have to say anything. You guys see it," he said. "You see all the managerial jobs out here and all the recycling of different guys getting another opportunity here or there."

Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who became the first black MLB manager in 1975 with the Cleveland Indians, said he's concerned but owners can't be forced to hire managers based on race. "You have to have enough qualified people to present to them," he said. "There are qualified people out there. But they have to get the opportunity."

Robinson managed four clubs for 16 seasons over a period of 31 years. He had a losing career record and never went to the postseason, but was rehired three times.

Others are still waiting for a second chance.

"It makes me wonder how are these decisions being made and why is it that someone who has a Ph.D. in baseball and has been in the game 30 or 40 years, why is there not an opportunity being provided there," players' union head Tony Clark said about the lack of black managers in baseball. "I don't have that answer, but I would be curious."

Ron Washington led the Rangers to four consecutive 90-win seasons and two AL pennants in eight years before he resigned last year. He's also waiting for another opportunity.

"I think we could have more managing right now, but it's a process," said Washington, who returned as a coach with Oakland this season. "One thing you have to make certain when you go into an interview is to convince a GM and owner that you can guide them in the right direction. For African-Americans, it's always been about paying your dues and when they pay their dues, the opportunity will be there."

The shortage of blacks in baseball goes beyond the guys calling the shots. The number of African-American players in the majors has declined steadily since peaking at 19 percent in 1986. Opening-day rosters this year included 8.3 percent of players who identified as African-American, according to Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. That was a slight increase from 8.2 percent in 2014, which equaled the study low that was set in 2007. The league began targeting youth in inner cities a decade ago, hoping to attract more youngsters to the sport. They've built Urban Youth academies in Houston, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Compton, California.

"There's a lot of talent, but you need to have instruction, and that's what MLB is trying to do by opening up these academies," Washington said. "As we move into the future, you will see more black kids in the majors because there is talent in these academies and they instruct."

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN Staff Writer Jerry Crasnick was used in this report.