Cubs president Jed Hoyer on Monday promised an “incredibly diverse” front office during his ongoing tenure at the top of baseball operations, even as he introduced a newly hired general manager, Carter Hawkins, who has a remarkably similar background, education and look as Hoyer and much of his inner circle.
Hawkins is the 16th consecutive white guy hired to be the Cubs’ GM, or, put another way, 16th out of 16.
And while that might seem like it shouldn’t matter, the issue of the lack of executive diversity in MLB (and other major sports leagues) has gained rightful, increasing attention over the past year or two in particular — and nowhere more than with the Cubs.
“That’s a great question and certainly one that is totally valid,” Hoyer said Monday. “We want to see different perspectives on the job.”
We’ve certainly heard that before, including when it came to this specific, 11-month vacancy.
Hoyer and his predecessor, Theo Epstein, before him spoke forcefully and at length about the need to seek more leadership diversity in a front office that has tended to employ remarkably similar khaki-and-Polo clad young men from similar smart-guy college backgrounds — a trend Epstein last year raised unsolicited, blamed himself for perpetuating and vowed to address.
It was a topic of public conversation with Hoyer when his promotion last November created the GM opening.
And at least two non-white men were on the short list of final candidates.
But 11 months later, the result doesn’t look any different than the last 15 times the Cubs installed a general manager.
And with all due respect to white guys, that’s the thing about the best declared intentions of those who vow to make changes that impact structures and systems: Talk is cheap.
Hawkins, 37, is a Vanderbilt graduate who comes with a list of impressive credentials and was purloined from an organization that seems to have a secret to successful development of starting pitchers that has long eluded this Cubs’ regime.
But the Cubs missed an opportunity to make a serious and important change in their front office culture, if not the breadth and power of their executive voice.
And the fact they had nearly a year to do it at least calls into question how serious the intent was to get beyond whatever might be their own comfort zones or unconscious biases in the first place.
“We want to have a really diverse front office, both in ideas and background, and that’s something that we’re seeking,” Hoyer said. “I will say this: when you look at our front office over time, I think it’s going to be incredibly diverse. Certainly the applicant pool was. And every process will continue to be. And I think we’ve really made great strides in that area.”
Nobody who has spent any time around Hoyer questions his sincerity on this issue.
But actions matter a lot more than the best intentions.
This is what he said in December, echoing Epstein’s candid self-evaluation, when appearing on NBC Sports Chicago’s virtual winter meetings live podcast:
“I think it is true that there’s a tendency to say you want fresh ideas and then hire someone that has the same background as you. Maybe they have a few new ideas, but they ultimately are very similar to your background. I do think that having a real breadth of opinions and a real breadth of experiences — it leads to a better process and it leads to an office that looks more like America than some front offices.”
Maybe next time.
“When you enter into every single job search, be it general manager or be it an intern, I think it’s incredibly important that you seek [diversity],” Hoyer said Monday.
Maybe next time.
“It’s certainly valuable to have diversity in the executive ranks, but I also think the way you develop a great, diverse pipeline is by really focusing on that throughout,” Hoyer said, evoking a sentiment expressed by major league sports executives as long as the inequities in the game have been questioned.
Maybe next time.
“I started as an intern. Carter started as an intern,” Hoyer said. “If you can make sure that you’re constantly hiring — that every single search, and not just the higher-level ones, has a real focus on diversity, I think that’s really important.
“Why do I think diversity is important?” he added. “It’s important because you want to be able to attack every single angle of every question. If you limit yourself to people of like backgrounds and like educations and like minds, then you’re not going to triangulate that question, so to speak. And I think the only way to truly get to a place of making great decisions is if you can actually attack that question from different angles. Some of those angles are sort of intellectual and perspective angles, and some are from backgrounds.”
Maybe next time.
“I think we all have unconscious biases that we probably don’t even realize,” Hoyer said. “And because we don’t realize it, it’s important to make sure the front office is made up of all sorts of backgrounds and all sorts of perspectives, so that we don’t have those unconscious biases that really bring down our decision making.”
Next time. Maybe.