The Latin explosion in baseball has led to Hispanics flooding MLB rosters and infusing elite talent into the game, but when the Red Sox hired Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora, a former MLB player from Caguas, Puerto Rico to be their manager in October of 2017, he became just the 11th Latin-born manager in the long, illustrious history of baseball.
All these years after Latinos became the lifeline of the sport, they still don’t get much consideration for leadership positions, but Cora’s 2018 World Series championship changed all of that.
If this is the case in today’s MLB there should be a wave of Latino managers hired. Right? https://t.co/yhJpzjnExf
After a 14-year career as an MLB journeyman with an astute grasp of the game – from 2013 to 2016 – Cora flexed his communication skills and baseball intellect as a color analyst on ESPN and ESPN Deportes.
Cora is also the first Hispanic manager for a franchise that was the last in the major leagues to accept a player of color into the fold, finally signing Pumpsie Green in 1959. By hiring Cora, the Red Sox, who faced renewed racial scrutiny this season after Orioles outfielder Adam Jones was assaulted with racial slurs at Fenway Park, made him the second manager with Latino blood to currently manage one of the MLB’s 30 teams, joining Chicago White Sox skipper Rick Renteria who is Mexican-American.
Prior to the 2018 season, New York City’s own Dave Martinez, was hired to replace Dusty Baker as Nationals skipper, becoming the third Hispanic MLB manager. The Nationals inked him to a three-year deal with one job — to get a talented team over the World Series hump — which is something his winning predecessor couldn’t accomplish.
Martinez’s first season was the complete opposite of Cora’s. He went 82-80 and missed the playoffs with a World Series-contending squad. It was a disaster. Martinez was allowed another shot this season to turn it around. This time he would be without the face of the franchise Bryce Harper who grabbed a $330 million bag from the Phillies and broke North.
By May, with the Nationals floundering, the call for Martinez’s job began. A heart problem late in the season, had people suggesting that he should resign, that the stress was getting to him.
Then all of sudden everything turned around for the Nats as did Martinez’s health. And after an unlikely comeback to grab the Wild Card, then some unlikely playoff wins, the Nationals find themselves two wins away from winning the 2019 World Series.
After Washington snatched the first two games of the World Series, Houston rebounded to tie it at 2-2 with an 8-1 win on Saturday night.
"We're in the World Series. We're going to play Game 5, tied 2-2. Who would have thought that in the beginning?," Nats' manager Dave Martinez said. "So here we are. Let's look ahead and get ready to play tomorrow."#Nationals#WorldSeries2019
— David Driver (@DaytonVaDriver) October 27, 2019
Martinez is all of a sudden a hero in Washington and MLB might be seeing Hispanic managers win back to back World Series for the first time in history.
The Right Man For The Job
Martinez was born to Puerto Rican parents in Brooklyn, New York and lived on East 93rd Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan before moving to Florida at the age of 13. He was a solid player during his 16-year MLB career, accumulating 1,599 hits with a career average of .276.
Washington Nats shot caller Mike Rizzo felt Martinez was a perfect choice. The 53-year-old Martinez previously served as the bench coach for the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs. Both teams reached a World Series. He became Rays bench coach in 2008. And then in 2014, Martinez followed Joe Maddon to Chicago and joined the Cubs as their bench coach, further boosting an understudy resume befitting of a future MLB skipper.
I’m just looking forward to going out and watching them play!” – new @Nationals skipper Dave Martinez on the roster he’ll be managing. https://t.co/0or6QKzQSp
What he brings to the table is his perfect blend of old-school and new. Martinez is a 16-year MLB vet who carved out a successful career in the big leagues. Rizzo explained that Martinez is creative and analytically-proficient at the same time. He’s a manager that provides the best of both worlds.
Evolution of The Latino Manager
The hires and subsequent success of Cora and Martinez really speak to baseball’s increased efforts to not just hire minority candidates, but cultivate certain people of color to be able to acquire all of the skills needed to ascend to a position of leadership and become the face of a franchise.
For the second year in a row, a Boricua has managed his team to the World Series. Both men got their first shot in 2017. Alex Cora won it all as a rookie manager in 2018, and now Dave Martinez has the @Nationals in the Fall Classic in his second season. @MLBPuertoRico
— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) October 16, 2019
The language barrier has always been an excuse as to why Latino managers arent more abundant. With baseball still being majority white American, communication is a huge factor in choosing a manager. But as the league is increasingly Hispanic, a manager with bi-lingual communicative abilities is invaluable and a rising commodity.
Both Cora and Martinez were hired for plush jobs, with teams that are already talented enough to make World Series runs. Teams who were division winners loaded with talent. Cora and Martinez represent the new MLB, where a changing culture has forced intelligent and open-minded GMs to move in a new direction and stay ahead of the competitors.
Miguel Gonzalez became the first Latino manager in Major League Baseball 78 years ago, but bigotry and a lack of opportunity thwarted his chance to be named a full-time manager. He enjoyed stints as the Cardinals interim manager in 1938 and 40 but it wasn’t until 1969 that a Hispanic manager was at the helm of a team to start a season.
Cuban Preston Gomez worked his way through the ranks and earned a job managing the Padres. He also had a managerial gig with the Astros (1974-75) and Cubs (1980).
The heart and soul of American baseball is becoming increasingly Hispanic. A sport that has dwindled in popularity among American sports has been embraced by the Latino community and is religiously embedded in their athletic DNA and culture.
Now, the floodgates are open for the Latino manager, leader, communicator and championship cultivator to take center stage and conquer more milestones and barriers.
Cora was the hero last season and he used his platform to speak out against Donald Trump’s treatment of Puerto Rican victims in the wake of Hurricane Maria. This season, it’s Martinez, representing a generation of American-born Hispanics with immigrant parents who sacrificed everything to give their offspring a shot at the American Dream.
Remember these pioneers as baseball hires more and more Latino managers. Their ability to win and contend for championships has culturally shifted the historically-biased perception about the communicative, strategic and intellectual capabilities of Hispanic managers.