With the Hirings of Alex Cora and Dave Martinez, Has MLB Finally Embraced the Latino Manager?

Bench coach Dave Martinez of the Tampa Bay Rays watches the game from the dugout against the Minnesota Twins at Tropicana Field on July 10, 2013. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

As recently as three weeks ago, there was just one solitary Latino manager in Major League Baseball. Since that time, the league must have started to truly pay attention to under-representation of Latinos in manager roles, because things have changed quickly. Normally, teams keep a low profile during the World Series but this year’s Fall Classic was a little bit different. Both the Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals decided to get a head start on what should be another busy offseason for baseball.

They did so by giving two Latinos–both former players and recent assistant coaches–a chance to be managers in the big leagues for the first time. The Red Sox hired Alex Cora–who just won the World Series as the bench coach for the Houston Astros–to be their next manager, while the Nationals lured Dave Martinez away from last year’s world champion Chicago Cubs to run their dugout. They, along with Chicago White Sox manager Rick Renteria, now bring the number of Latino managers in MLB up to three.

Both men are baseball lifers who came up through the ranks, paid their dues, and earned their way into their new jobs. Cora, 42, was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico. He’s the younger brother of respected second baseman and coach Joey Cora, and was an infielder in his own right from 1998 to 2011. During his career, he wore the uniforms of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, Texas Rangers, and the Washington Nationals before retiring with a career slash line of .243/.310/.648 with 35 career home runs, 286 RBI’s, and 47 stolen bases.

He also suited up for Puerto Rico during the 2006 and 2009 editions of the World Baseball Classic, going a combined 3-for-23 at the plate. After retiring from the field, Cora became the general manager of Puerto Rico’s national team, which finished second in both the 2013 and 2017 editions of the WBC. From 2013 to 2016, Cora also worked as a baseball analyst for ESPN and ESPN Deportes, where he impressed millions of viewers on a weekly basis with his insider knowledge of the game. Finally, this past offseason, Cora was hired by the Astros to be their bench coach as they marched to their first World Series title in franchise history.

Bench coach Alex Cora sits in the dugout before the start of the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on May 16, 2017 in Miami, Florida. Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images
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Before the Astros made history however, Cora made history of his own. After the Boston Red Sox were eliminated from the 2017 playoffs, they parted ways with manager John Farrell–despite the fact that he led the team to the 2013 World Series and three American League East titles. Cora was one of the first candidates to interview for the job and, just before the Astros took the field against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game 1, the Red Sox officially made Cora the 47th manager–and the first Latino manager–in Boston history.

Cora’s first manager job could hardly be any better: Boston has one of the most talented rosters in baseball, and only opened up the manager spot after under-performing in the playoffs. It’s likely that some fresh blood in the dugout will help the Red Sox reach new heights.

Martinez took a similar path to his new position. The 53-year-old was born in Brooklyn, New York to Puerto Rican parents, but was raised in Florida. Martinez’s MLB career is best marked by his versatility: he played all three outfield positions as well as first base, had eight at-bats in the designated hitter slot, and even made two pitching appearances (career ERA of 54.00) in lengthy big league career that lasted from 1986 to 2001. During that time he played for the Chicago Cubs (twice), Montreal Expos, Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, and finally the Atlanta Braves.

He finished his career with 1,599 total hits, 91 career home runs, 580 runs batted in, 183 stolen bases, and 795 career runs scored. Martinez was a player that could be placed anywhere in the batting order, with teams relying on him for steady production. He was also very dependable on defense, as evidenced by his ability to play multiple positions along with a career fielding percentage of .986, his 19.2 wins above replacement, 4,177 career putouts, 197 career assists, and 4,435 total defensive chances.

With his varied experience in the big leagues, coaching was a natural fit for Martinez. The former utility player began his coaching career in 2006, starting off with the Tampa Bay Rays as a spring training instructor for two seasons. In 2008, then-Rays manager Joe Maddon hired Martinez to be his bench coach. It would be a partnership that span two cities, as Maddon took Martinez with him from Tampa to Chicago for the 2015 MLB season.

Tampa Bay Rays coaches Tom Foley #6, Dave Martinez #4 and manager Joe Maddon #70 look on against the Miami Marlins at Tropicana Field on June 4, 2014. Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images
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With Martinez as Maddon’s right hand man, both the Rays and the Cubs saw great success. The pair tallied up a total of 7 playoff appearances, four division championships, an American League Championship (2008), and the historic 2016 World Series Championship that ended the Cubs’ mythical 108-year championship drought.

While the Nationals are the first team to give Martinez a shot at the big job, he was considered for a myriad of openings between 2010 and 2016. Those openings included the Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals, the Chicago Cubs (this was before they hired Maddon), the Washington Nationals a second time, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite having a very strong showing in his interviews, Martinez was passed up for other candidates each time. Finally, on the third go-around with the Nationals, the team gave Martinez his shot.

Martinez is now the second Latino manager since the franchise located from Montreal to D.C., and he’s the third Latino skipper in team history (Felipe Alou was the first from 1992-2001). Now he can pass on his knowledge to uber-talented outfielder Bryce Harper, stud infielders Adrian Sanchez and Anthony Rendon, and one the best pitching staffs in the game led by Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, and Max Scherzer.

In addition to taking similar paths to their first manager gigs, and with both operating out of the East divisions of their respective leagues, Cora and Martinez also represent a brighter future for Latinos. Despite MLB being made up of almost one-third Latin American players, it took until these two signings to give Latinos a significant foothold on manager jobs. With three skippers hailing from Latin America at the helm, and with the most recent hirings both leading teams with World Series aspirations, perhaps we can truly believe that change has come to the dugout.