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When what doesn't matter is progress

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Jeff Zelevansky

In 1975, when Frank Robinson was named player-manager of the Indians, he accepted the congratulations due him as the first black manager in the majors. but privately, he told friends that just as big a deal would be the day he became the first black manager to be fired...which he was two years later. That, he believed, would be another milestone in colorblind equality.

It was not a big deal last month when a black GM fired a black coach and replaced him with a white interim coach. Harvey Araton writes that that too says a lot about the legacy of civil rights leaders and racial progress. "Progress," he writes Tuesday, "is when one makes decisions that are solely pragmatic, or at least one’s perception of it."

Billy King agreed. "When we felt we needed to make a change, we chose the guy with the most experience, and color had nothing to do with it," said King. Araton also talks to a prospective coach about what it all means.

"You know, with Avery, I don’t think one person even raised the question of whether it was a white-black thing," said Jerry Stackhouse. "Avery’s a good enough coach that he’ll land on his feet."