CHICAGO (AP) — Commissioner Rob Manfred says baseball wants to study high-profile positions within the sport to see if certain qualifications predict success, a step that "has everything to do" with minority hiring.
Baseball had no Latino managers before Rick Renteria took over the Chicago White Sox last month. Dusty Baker of the Washington Nationals and Dave Roberts from the Los Angeles Dodgers are the only black skippers among the league's 30 teams.
But there were 10 minority managers as recently as 2009, according to Richard Lapchick of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.
"Certain perceptions develop as to what people are looking for in particular positions and then people write stories saying, 'Oh, that's a problem on the minority front because, you know, maybe minorities are less likely to share these characteristics,'" Manfred said Thursday at the conclusion of two days of owners' meetings.
"I think a first step in addressing those concerns is identifying which ones really matter and then you start to identify candidates who have all those qualifications and say, hey this may be the perfect guy for you and I have some science behind it in order to demonstrate that he is the best candidate, or she."
Major League Baseball hired Korn Ferry last year in part to help top minority candidates in their interviews for positions in baseball operations. But Manfred said the search firm is going to focus on openings for individual clubs when it's retained because of the potential for conflicts when it works for the central office and teams at the same time.
When the White Sox announced Renteria's promotion, they highlighted his ability to communicate in English and Spanish. But Manfred said there are all sorts of factors that could be considered.
"You could name probably 20 things off the top of your head," he said. "The question is, once you've named them, do any of them really predict success on the field?"
While MLB briefed the owners on baseball's highly successful postseason and the upcoming World Baseball Classic, the ongoing labor talks with the players occupied a significant portion of the meetings at a downtown Chicago hotel, already decked out in its best Christmas decorations.
The collective bargaining agreement expires Dec. 1. Negotiators for owners and players have been meeting since spring training.
"I remain optimistic that we're going to make a deal," Manfred said. "This process is not predictable in terms of time. I said there were certain natural deadlines out there. The beginning of the market was one and the expiration of the agreement's another, and I'm hopeful that we're going to get a deal done before that latter deadline."
Manfred declined to address any details from the bargaining sessions, but he said an international amateur draft remains on the table.
Manfred also touched on several other fronts with the sport and the owners' quarterly meetings:
—The owners approved changes with the leadership structures in Oakland and Philadelphia, with John Fisher becoming the control person of the Athletics and John Middleton taking over the same position with the Phillies. The A's announced that Lew Wolff will be transitioning from managing partner to chairman emeritus, and that he had agreed to sell most of his interest to the remaining owners.
Fisher and Middleton each controlled the biggest stake in their specific teams before taking over their new roles.
"I think the ownership committee has a strong preference that the individuals who are either the largest or one of the largest equity owners in clubs be the individual who is the baseball control person," Manfred said.
—Manfred also reacted to supermodel Kate Upton's online support of fiance Justin Verlander after the Detroit Tigers ace finished second to Boston's Rick Porcello in voting for the AL Cy Young Award. Verlander was left off the ballot by two voters, prompting a series of tweets by Upton that were widely circulated on social media.
"The particular content of the tweet I'm not going to comment on," a chuckling Manfred said. "I do think that engagement on social media by players and people close to players is important in today's world. I think that it brings attention to the sport at a point during the year when it's our offseason and we have less going on."
—The Cubs' first World Series title since 1908 helped generate great ratings during the playoffs, and there is talk around the sport about how to build on the success from the postseason.
"We're not going to have the Cubs and 108 years every year," Manfred said. "But I think there are lots of compelling baseball stories that can help us produce the kind of postseason popularity that we enjoyed this year."
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap