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Roberts' hiring signals change in opportunities

Dodgers skipper is first black manager to take over team coming off division title @TracyRingolsby

Dave Roberts has a unique opportunity.

The new manager of the Dodgers has become the 15th manager of African-American descent in Major League history, and the one who has inherited the best opportunity for success.

Dave Roberts has a unique opportunity.

The new manager of the Dodgers has become the 15th manager of African-American descent in Major League history, and the one who has inherited the best opportunity for success.

The Dodgers, who have the largest payroll in big league history, are coming off three consecutive division titles. Roberts becomes the first African-American hired to manage a team that is coming off a first-place finish, too.

Moreover, Roberts and veteran manager Dusty Baker, who was hired earlier this month to manage the Washington Nationals, have become the first African-Americans to take over a team with winning record the previous season. The Dodgers, in fact, have won 875 regular-season games in the past decade, second-most in the National League to the 889 victories of the Cardinals.

It's a step forward for baseball, which until the hiring of Baker and Roberts this month faced the possibility of entering a season without an African-American manager for the first time since 1987.

That underscores a real concern of for MLB -- that it is 2015 and there is still a sense of urgency about how to expand baseball's horizons in terms of African-Americans.

"Obviously, field managers are high-turnover jobs. And you're going to have peaks and valleys in terms of representation within what's a very small sample; there are only 30 of them out there," Commissioner Rob Manfred said during the World Series. "Having said that, we are focused on the need to promote diversity -- not just African-American, but Latino as well -- in the managerial ranks."

There have been 15 managerial changes since the end of the 2014 season -- five in the offseason after '14, four during the course of the '15 season and five since the end of the '15 season. It wasn't until Baker became the 14th manager hired during that stretch and Roberts became the 15th that an African-American was hired.

Video: MLB Now on the Dodgers' hiring of Dave Roberts

Of the 14 African-American managers prior to Roberts who have managed in the big leagues, only six received a second chance with another team.

Frank Robinson managed the Indians and then the Giants, Orioles and Nationals.

Baker's tenure with the Nationals comes after successful runs with the Giants, Cubs and Reds, compiling a 1,671-1,504 (.526) record and taking a team to the postseason seven times, including the World Series once. And it was after losing the 2002 World Series in seven games to the Angels that Baker parted ways with the Giants.

Don Baylor was the original manager of the expansion Rockies, and he took them to the playoffs in 1995, their third year of existence, and also managed the Cubs. Jerry Manuel managed the White Sox and Mets; Lloyd McClendon the Pirates and Mariners; and Hal McRae the Royals and Rays.

Willie Randolph, however, hasn't yet recieved a second chance after four years with the Mets during which time the team was 302-253, advanced to the postseason once and had a winning record in his first three seasons before he was fired with the team at 34-35 in 2008.

Cito Gaston won five division titles and two World Series in two tours with the Blue Jays that encompassed 12 seasons, during which he compiled an 894-837 (.516) regular-season record, but he was never offered a chance to manage by another organization.

There have been 313 men who have managed at least 320 games in the big leagues, and 48 percent of them -- 151 -- have had career winning records. Eleven of those 313 have been African-Americans, and 55 percent of them -- six -- have had winning records.

Jackie Robinson broke the color line with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, and 69 years later African-Americans comprised slightly more than 8.3 percent of the Opening Day rosters, down from a high of 19 percent in 1986, according to Mark Armour of the Society for American Baseball Research.

And 41 years after Frank Robinson became the first African-American to assume a full-time role as a big league manager, in 1975 with the Indians, Roberts will become only the 15th African-American to manage in the big leagues on more than an interim basis.

Former Commissioner Bud Selig took a step to address the issue in 1999, when he required teams to consider minority candidates when they had openings for a manager, general manager, assistant GM, director of player development or director of scouting.

The challenge, however, is deeper than that. It goes back to the grass-roots level. It goes back to providing opportunities that will interest youth in playing the game, thus creating a deeper base of candidates in the future.

That prompted MLB to begin building Urban Youth Academies in inner-city areas. The first was opened in Compton, Calif., in 2006, and during this month's Owners Meetings in Dallas, MLB announced that a ninth academy, in West Dallas, will be built.

Baseball understands that the talent is there, but it has to be developed.

What would seem to underscore that is the fact that there have been 30 players voted into the Hall of Fame who were signed out of the Draft, which began in 1965. Eleven of those 30 have been of African-American descent.

The glaring statistic, however, is that of the 13 Hall of Famers drafted out of college programs, eight were African-American, compared to three of the 17 Hall of Famers signed out of high school.

It is about providing an opportunity for the individuals to have success.

With his hiring by the Dodgers, Roberts has broken down another barrier.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for

Los Angeles Dodgers