Monday, March 29, 2010

Latino Managers

With the current baseball season close to beginning, I just wanted to highlight how many Latinos have reached the position of Manager of a Major League franchise. Considering that Latinos have been playing professionally since the early days, the managerial ranks have been represented by Latinos. Here's a list of how the Latinos have been represented:

Miguel Angel "Mike" Gonzalez (Cuba) 1st Latino Manager
Preston Gomez (Cuba) 2nd
Octavio "Cookie" Rojas (Cuba) 3rd
Felipe Alou (DR) 4th 1st Latino All-Star Manager
Tony Perez (Cuba) 5th
Tony Pena (DR) 6th
Carlos Tosca (Cuba) 7th
Ozzie Guillen (Venezuela) 8th 1st Latino manager of a World Series Champion
Manny Elias Acta (DR) 9th
Fredi Jesus Gonzalez (Cuba) 10th

Honorable Mention Latino/Hispanic Heritage
Davey Lopes (Cape Verde)
Al Lopez (Spain)
Lou Pinella (Spain)
Tony LaRussa (Spain)

It is interesting to see how the choice of managers reflect the era in which certain Latino groups have been dominant. Where the first group of managers were from Cuba, with the closing of Cuba in the 1960's, the ranks were filled by more Dominican, Puerto Rican and Venezuelan players. What I do find strange that there has yet to be a Puerto Rican manager in the major leagues.

Maybe as a Catcher, Ivan Rodriguez has the best shot for a Boriqua to become a manager. It seems to me that his current position on the Washington Nationals is two fold: one as a player and second is a mentor and tutor to the younger players. Any other suggestions on who can reach the position of manager from current crop of Latino players? Feel free to comment and add to the discussion


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

¿Que Le Paso a Alfonso Soriano?

While looking at various newspapers for Baseball news I came upon an interesting article from today's Washington Post webpage. The article was written by Dave Sheinin and was titled Alfonso Soriano Hasn't Given the Cubs What They Paid For, and it got me thinking about a few things about Soriano.

First off, I totally forgot that he played for the Washington Nationals during the 2006 season. The article goes to say that Soriano has fallen out of favor with Lou Piniella, manager of the Chicago Cubs, who will have him bat 5th or 6th after initially being the team's lead off hitter. Having watched Soriano play for the New York Yankees from 2000-2003 (He came up briefly in 1999 and for a few games in 2000), I can see where the frustration comes from.

Soriano initially played second base for the Yankees and almost heroically delivered the game and series winning blow against Curt Shilling and the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 7 of the World Series (We all know how that game ended so no need for me to re-hash that moment in time, LOL). For two years Soriano lit up the American League, especially in 2002 where he hit .300 and led the league with 209 hits (51 2B/2 3B/39 HR), stolen bases (41), runs scored (102) and both plate appearances (741) and at-bats (696). While he excelled at the plate, Soriano also showed the signs of what would continually plague him during his career. His batting prowess had no room for patience which usually translates into walks. Soriano often struck out 5 to 6 times more than he walked per season. While with the Yankees, Soriano walked a total of 91 times while striking out 430 times (BB/K 1999 0/3. 2000 1/15, 2001 29/125, 2002 23/157, 2003 38/130). This pattern came to a head in the 2003 post-season when Soriano struck out a total of 26 times (11 times against the Red Sox alone) while walking only 3 times. I believe this was the reason for his being traded to the Rangers for Alex Rodriguez.

The pattern would continue in both Texas and Washington where Soriano hit the leather off the ball but also struck out alot and walked very little, though in Washington his walks improved to 66 in that season up from 33 in the season before. And then the big contract came from the Chicago Cubs and the pattern changed. Where before the contract Soriano played over 155 games a season (he played 145 in 2004 with the Texas Rangers), the injury bug started to decimate him.

Instead of Soriano being the cornerstone of the new Chicago Cubs, his three years with the Cubs have been disappointing and full of unfulfilled potential. Here are his numbers while in Chicago:

Alfonso Soriano's Yearly Statistics in Chicago (NL)

Maybe a demotion in the lineup will create the spark that is needed to wake up Soriano. It is sad to think that a player of his potential has faltered so badly while playing in the Windy City. Maybe a change of scenery or a return to the American League will be the cure to his ills. The question is, which team would take his hefty contract in which he is owed $95 million dollars in the next 5 years. I guess time will tell whether or not Soriano can become the player people expected him to become or if he will become an also-ran. Shame indeed.


For Further Reading
- Dave Sheinin's article on Soriano at
- Alfonso Soriano's Career Statistics at

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Torii Hunter and his "Imposter" Comments

Torii Hunter was part of a USA Today baseball panel on what can be done about improving things within Baseball and some things that he said have caused an uproar. Here is what he said:

Fans look down from their seats onto the baseball field, see dark-colored skin and might assume they are African-American players.

But increasingly, the players instead hail from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or Venezuela.

"People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they're African American," Los Angeles Angels center fielder Torii Hunter says. "They're not us. They're impostors.

"Even people I know come up and say, 'Hey, what color is Vladimir Guerrero? Is he a black player?' I say, 'Come on, he's Dominican. He's not black.' "

"As African-American players, we have a theory that baseball can go get an imitator and pass them off as us," Hunter says. "It's like they had to get some kind of dark faces, so they go to the Dominican or Venezuela because you can get them cheaper. It's like, 'Why should I get this kid from the South Side of Chicago and have Scott Boras represent him and pay him $5 million when you can get a Dominican guy for a bag of chips?'

"I'm telling you, it's sad."

There are certain parts of his assessment that I agree with. As I have stated in a previous post, the academy system in Latin American does favor the teams since they can sign the Latin players at pennies on the dollar to what the teams play prospects here in the United States. Ozzie Guillen adds his two cents to debate by saying:

"I was laughing because when he said, `They go there and sign for potato chips,' I said, `Well, we've got Chapman. They gave him $12 million. [Cincinnati actually agreed to a $30.25 million, six-year contract with pitcher Aroldis Chapman.] We've got [prospect Dayan] Viciedo. They gave him $10 million. I remember in my time, one scout goes [to Venezuela and] 30 players show up. Now, 30 scouts go there and one player shows up.

It is true about Chapman and Viciedo, but I think that the amounts they signed for are a rarity among Latino ballplayers not born here or those who have been raised here in the United States.

But for Hunter to say that the Latino players are "Imposters" is totally bogus. Dark skinned Latinos faced the same discriminatory practices that the Black players faced in the 1950's and 1960's. The fact that they were dark skinned Latinos gave them no advantages when faced with the hate of the times. They didn't just step into the places originally held by the blacks and all was "hunky-dory". They faced the same insult and rants often not realizing why they were being hated since where they were from the idea of color wasn't seen as negatively as it was here.

There was something else Guillen says that leads me to the next point:

"In our country, we play baseball. That's no choice. Here you can play basketball, you can be another athlete, you can do so many things when you have the opportunity. And that's why there's not many [African-American] players out there."

Whether or not that is the truth, I have always said that if you were African-American and had the talent to play professional sports, why would you go through a long period of playing in the minor leagues when you can play at the top level almost immediately in the NBA and the NFL.

Hunter also touches a point that I believe is entirely accurate in certain African American communities:

"I looked at all of the (charity) work I've been doing, and 60% to 70% of the African-American homes are single-parent homes. And they're all mothers. It's hard for a mother to take their kids to practice every day, pay the $1,200 a month to travel and $1,200 for a tournament team."

If Tori Hunter has a gripe with how he (and other players) feels that Major League Baseball has turned their attention away from the inner cities to abroad then he needs to take it directly to MLB. The players are not to blame if the league is choosing to expand their operations and presence overseas. Programs like Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities have made progress in helping to bring Baseball back to the inner cities. But more needs to be done. Baseball has become a pay-to-play sport. In inner city neighborhoods it is often easier (economically) to play Basketball since all you need is a ball. It is easy to find hoops and if one can't be found, a box nailed to a telephone pole is often enough. The article states that the representation of African-American ballplayers 8% of al Major Leaguers compared with 28% for foreign players on last year's opening-day rosters (foreign players includes Latinos, Asians and players from other areas). It is s problem that needs to be continually addressed. The question is how to solve it.

Had Torii Hunter stuck to addressing the deficiencies of Baseball in inner-city African-American communities, rather that taking the us vs. them approach then he would not have caused the uproar that he did. He says he won't apologize. Should he? I'm not sure. He said what he meant to say. He was honest about it. It just shouldn't have been said. Sometimes the freedom of speech is not being able to say anything you want, but to have the freedom to know what to say and when to say it. What do you think.


For Further Reading:

- Here is the original article in USA Today
- Here is the article from ESPN that Ozzie Guillen is quoted in