On Diversity: Baseball and Its Fans Fall Short

Adam Jones was subject to racism at Fenway Park earlier this week. (via Keith Allison)

I was finishing up the edits on this article about baseball’s annual diversity scorecard when the Baltimore Orioles arrived at Fenway Park this week for a series against the Red Sox. If you’re reading The Hardball Times, chances are good that you’ve already heard what happened: racist jeers directed at Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, a bag of peanuts thrown in his direction, and the resulting angry controversy.

Racism in America is alive and well, but to hear about such an aggressive display of it at a baseball game was jarring, and made me question what I’d written for this piece. How could I advocate for diversity in the major leagues when this is what these diverse bodies are subjected to? How can MLB continue to sing the praises of its diversity initiatives when words and actions like these are allowed in its ballparks?

The fans responsible for the racist taunts and the attempted assault were escorted from the park, but that hardly seems like enough response. Banning them from the ballpark, as one fan was, seems like it will be hard to enforce. How do you make sure one fan doesn’t enter the building? After the game, Jones said he thought the perpetrators should be heavily fined upwards of “10 grand, 20 grand, 30 grand. Something that really hurts somebody.” Buster Olney, in his blog for ESPN, wrote that MLB “could declare war on the kind of language that was directed at Jones” by including an intolerance of abusive language in the pregame announcements.

Jones and Olney are not the only two to offer up theories about how to combat racism at a ballgame; the internet is overflowing with thoughts and ideas. The simple thing is to say that people should not yell racist slurs at professional athletes. People should not yell racist slurs at anyone. People should not throw things at professional athletes, of color or otherwise. People should not throw things at anyone.

There’s a common refrain, whenever sportswriters deviate from their traditional coverage: “stick to sports.” It’s a problematic phrase on a lot of levels but, most critically, what these “stick to sports” people fail to recognize is that culture, sports and politics are inherently entwined, like a mess of Christmas lights brought up from the basement. Sports are a reflection of our broader society, in ways that make us proud and in ways that shame us so deeply we pretend they don’t exist.

Racism is deeply rooted in our culture; it will not be fixed by having yet another white sports blogger write about how “events of this nature” will not and should not be tolerated. I have little desire, and even less ability, to police the morals of the anonymous internet masses. To that end, I have no solutions to offer, no groundbreaking perspectives to share; I simply seek to look at some of the information shared in the latest Racial and Gender Report Card so that we may better understand the circumstances in  baseball today.

Two weeks ago the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports released its annual Racial and Gender Report Card for Major League Baseball. The report card is packed with useful information about the current state of MLB, but is released to little fanfare, likely because it does not often reflect well on the major leagues. This year, you need only read the opening line (“The 2017 Major League Baseball Racial and Gender Report Card (RGRC) was released today and showed decreases in both racial and gender hiring practices”) to understand that despite its initiatives MLB has continued to struggle with diversity throughout its organization. The overall grades; a B in racial hiring practices, a C for gender hiring practices, and an overall grade of C+, should not surprise most baseball fans.

This is not an instance of, say, cursing Norichika Aoki on every at-bat and covering your eyes each time he makes a play in the outfield, only to look at FanGraphs and realize he had a 146 wRC+ in the second half of 2016. Oh no. The power of the Report Card is that it reinforces the lack of diversity that is on display in every Sunday Night Baseball game, every broadcast shot of the dugout, every press conference. It serves to confirm everything you’ve seen, and everything you’ve read, about the need for greater diversity within all levels of baseball.

It’s worth acknowledging that, within all these negative trends, the game “has reached unprecedented levels of diversity (42.33%) on non-DL active Opening Day rosters.” That figure represents more than a 10-point jump since UCF first began recording these numbers in 1991, and can be largely attributed to the growing percentage of Latino players. However, it’s important to note that the percentage of African-American players has dropped steadily since 1991, and that the 7.7 percent of African-American players on Opening Day rosters represents a continuing downward trend.

The report card does cite “promising signs for a future increase in African-American players in MLB,” citing a growing number of African-American first-round draft picks, including the high draft selections of graduates of MLB youth academies and RBI programs, demonstrating the success of MLB initiatives in this regard. The diversity percentages grow smaller, and progressively grimmer, however, when we turn to non-player personnel.

Baseball is no longer exclusively a white man’s sport to play, but it is overwhelmingly still a white man’s sport to coach, lead, and cheer for. There have been many conversations about how MLB leadership is out of touch, and in no place is that more clear than within the discrepancy between the number of non-white coaches/managers/team executives and the number of non-white players.

In 2017, 10 percent of major league managers are non-white, which doesn’t sound terrible until you realize that percentage is made up of just three men: Dave Roberts, Dusty Baker and Rick Rentería. Rentería is only the 17th Latino manager in history. The diversity does not get more expansive as we look at the front offices; there are just four “diverse individuals” currently acting as president of baseball Operations or general manager of major league clubs. Within 26 of the 30 franchises is at least one woman acting as a vice president or senior vice president, but only seven women held on-field operations roles, and just two women had coaching roles.

A bright spot can be found in the 44.3 percent of coaches who identified as people of color, a number which represents a 6.1 percent increase since 2015 and a high since 1993. Baseball is a game steeped in tradition, and there is a strong history of hiring preference being given to those already involved with the industry. Therefore, this recent trend may bode well for a future increase in managers of color, particularly since 33.5 percent of those coaches are Latino.

Greater diversity among players and within major league organizations is certainly not going to end racism in baseball, and it unfortunately won’t do much to prevent “fans” from throwing things or yelling racial slurs, but it would be a critical step in the right direction if MLB were better about increasing diversity at all levels and in all facets of the game.

May I Have Your Autograph, Please?
The payoff of being polite.

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Isabelle Minasian recently completed her thesis on Roberto Clemente and the American media, and is a staff writer for Lookout Landing. She loves the Seattle Mariners, despite all the pain that they bring. Follow her on Twitter @95coffeespoons.

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86 Comments on "On Diversity: Baseball and Its Fans Fall Short"

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Dennis Bedard
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Dennis Bedard
Surreal. There is a problem: “Racism in America is alive and well.” “Racism is deeply rooted in our culture.” So how do we solve it? (“The 2017 Major League Baseball Racial and Gender Report Card (RGRC) was released today and showed decreases in both racial and gender hiring practices”). “The overall grades; a B in racial hiring practices, a C for gender hiring practices, and an overall grade of C+, should not surprise most baseball fans.” Maybe MLB should hire a team of advanced geneticists who can test the DNA of every player to make sure that each team has… Read more »
Steve
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Steve

The gods of diversity are never satisfied. If there is a disproportionate representation among any group of people they immediately scream racism! Correlation does not imply causation. The beautiful thing about diversity – in it’s truest sense – is that different people and cultures prefer different things. What if black players and youth just simply prefer football and basketball? I’ve never heard anyone seriously complaining about a lack of diversity in those sports and they have the most black athletes. I don’t see that as a problem. Why the double standard?

Steve
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Steve

What if the lack of blacks in MLB is just evidence that they are exercising their freedom to choose to play football and basketball instead and not evidence of racism?

Steve
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Steve

70% of NFL players are black. Yet I’m not aware of white people blaming racism for keeping them out of the league.

Pennsy
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Pennsy

Quick question: Why are 0% of MLB players openly gay while much more than 0% of the general population is?

Nate
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Nate

Quick question: why does baseball have zero people from Botswana when the general population has at least one?

S
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S
Your concern trolling is not clever and fools nobody. No one (except people like you, looking for a straw man) is saying MLB should hire people the right skin color, regardless of ability. They are raising the question as to why the manager and FO positions, which are often lifted from the ranks of former players, are far whiter than would be statistically likely? Why do black athletes not like baseball the way they used to? Baseball used to have tons of black fans – why and how did that change? These are valid questions to ask. Why are most… Read more »
Nate
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Nate

Those are valid questions to ask, so long as you’re framing them as actual questions. Too often, they are framed as rhetorical questions. (i.e., your question regarding black catchers).

Are there black catchers coming up in the high school and college ranks? Are they wanting to play catcher and coaches say, “no, black folks are too stupid to play catcher”, or are they choosing to play other positions on the field?

P.S.: There are currently 26 non-white catchers on MLB rosters. That’s out of just over 60 positions available. You can hardly say catcher is “mostly white”…

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
I think a key factor is the cost-benefit analysis that a lot of young men from less-privileged backgrounds are doing with regards to whether to play baseball or football. College football teams have more players, and get more scholarship money to spend. Then, there are 1696 players on NFL rosters at any given time, and 320 more on practice squads (the minimum salary for which is 5200 a week, as opposed to 2150 a month in AAA). There are 750 players in the MLB, and 450 more on 40-man rosters (with a minimum salary of ~1700 a week). And that’s… Read more »
Steven J White
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Steven J White

Agree very much with this.

Jake
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Jake
You clearly have no idea what diversity means. You think it just means race. As if skin tone means more to you than anything. I assume Adam Jones and JJ Hardy have a lot more in common than Hyun-Soo Kim but nobody is implying it’s inherently racist to have so few Asian players or that having more of them would increase so-called “diversity”. And why are we trying to force the issue for black Americans? If they aren’t (as a whole) interested in playing the sport why is it anyone’s job to force it down their throat? Black Americans are… Read more »
Steve
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Steve

I find it very interesting that Asian people in the U.S. who are just as vulnerable to racism as any other minority achieve higher success than even white people. They earn more than any other group. I wonder what it is about them that makes them so successful? Maybe they don’t waste time playing the victim and actually go out and make their lives better on their own? Idk, just speculating…

Stephen
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Stephen

Just so I’m clear, Asians are just as vulnerable to racism as all other races, included races that endured slavery and segregation and systemic racism as recently as this century?

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

Hah, seriously.

America has done some deeply shitty things to people of Asian descent, but they’re not going to be winning the Oppression Olympics anytime soon.

Kent
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Kent

Because African Americans opened the door for asians, latinos, etc. there needs to be more opportunity for them to be involved in baseball if they want to be. Currently the problem is things about baseball in the professional sense, turn them away. Is it on purpose? maybe not, but something should change to entice them if they want to. Don’t just want to stay the way we are if we can change things for the betterment of society.

Michael Bacon
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Michael Bacon
Speaking only from experience with teaching Chess to children I will say the reason Asian children are so successful when it comes to earning money is their parents. The popular book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, by Amy Chua, published several years ago is an illustration. Part of it stems from their culture in which the children are expected to take care of their parents in old age, which is the main reason Asian people want to have their first born to be a male. It also has to do with the Asian culture being more group orientated as… Read more »
Stella
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Stella

Diversity initiatives are unconstitutional and illiberal practices that utterly destroy the social fabric of the societies that promote them. They must be abolished at once.

Dennis Bedard
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Dennis Bedard

I read this article again and find it incredible that this site would publish something that explicitly encourages major league teams to institutionalize racial discrimination. This is scary stuff.

nunya
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nunya

might be the dumbest thing I read today. Thanks for getting it out of the way.

Tiffany
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Tiffany

Thank you so much for your work in presenting this, Isabelle–it’s a fascinating, if somewhat depressing, read.

Nate
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Nate
So what’s your solution to adding diversity? Do MLB teams need to look at skin tone instead of merit when drafting and signing players, or hiring coaches and executives? Does Rob Manfred issue a rule that at least two diverse players must be on the field at any given time? What must Major League Baseball do to ensure it has all this flourishing diversity? It would be cool for more African-American players to be in the game. It’s fun to see players from all over the world, and new countries (the Pirates have guys from South Africa and Lithuania)… I… Read more »
Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

The answer is to put money into inner-city programs, so that baseball is an actual option for talented athletes whose parents can’t afford the travel circuit.

Have you read Cutch’s piece from The Players’ Tribune?

Nate
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Nate

Hey, I’ll give you credit for actually offering a suggestion.

I do believe that is happening some, but it could certainly be done more in poorer areas. It’d be great to see some of these talented athletes choose baseball over basketball/football.

Again, I can appreciate you giving an example of what baseball could do. It’s better than anything done by the author.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

If only Isabelle had prefaced her report on this data with a passage like

“I have little desire, and even less ability, to police the morals of the anonymous internet masses. To that end, I have no solutions to offer, no groundbreaking perspectives to share; I simply seek to look at some of the information shared in the latest Racial and Gender Report Card so that we may better understand the circumstances in baseball today.”

Then this comment section would be entirely different!

Stella
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Stella

“Now, I’m not going to pretend like I have any solutions or that I want to police society. But I am going to spend an entire article arguing that this is a problem that demands solutions from someone who will police society.”

Your argument is 100% distilled intellectual dishonesty. Over the last two or three years, it’s been put to the test in the public sphere, and it’s been demolished.

Nate
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Nate
“Greater diversity among players and within major league organizations is certainly not going to end racism in baseball, and it unfortunately won’t do much to prevent “fans” from throwing things or yelling racial slurs, but it would be a critical step in the right direction if MLB were better about increasing diversity at all levels and in all facets of the game.” That last part of the quote is what I was focused on. “if the MLB were better about increasing diversity…” my question was: how do they do that? Why couldn’t the author focus on that? Instead, she reiterated… Read more »
Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

I mean…would you have seen this study if she hadn’t written this article?

I certainly would not have.

I guess I just don’t understand why an article trying to answer the question “Has the MLB succeeded in increasing diversity in leadership roles” has had such a triggering effect on this comment section.

Stella – How is it “intellectually dishonest” to ask and answer a question of whether improvements need to be made? This article literally engages in the first steps of the scientific method.

John Shreve
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John Shreve
citing a growing number of African-American first-round draft picks, including the high draft selections of graduates of MLB youth academies and RBI programs, demonstrating the success of MLB initiatives in this regard So they do have that working. When Tony Clark’s career was winding down, he told his agent he’d like to work in an MLB team’s front office. The agent told him they wouldn’t hire him, not out of bigotry, but because they were hiring techies with advanced analysis experience. And people tend to hire people like themselves. Baseball used to be accused of having a “good ole boys’… Read more »
Jetsy Extrano
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Jetsy Extrano

The level of concern trolling and determined misunderstanding really underscores the situation. ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his self-respect depends on his not understanding it.’

Greg
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Greg
Thanks for your comment, Jetsy. What I like about FanGraphs and Hardball Times is the willingness not to just presume something but to look at the evidence — to look at the data and the historical context for the most rational explanations. In that spirit, let us not dismiss the presence of racism out of hand, especially with its long and well-documented history. If we exclude racism from possible explanations, we are left with the claim that black people are rationally “exercising their freedom to choose” not to play baseball at a different rate than white people. Maybe, but maybe… Read more »
Stella
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Stella

What? This entire article is nothing more than someone defaulting to the authority of a single study from a partisan political organization (the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports).

From start to finish, this article begs one question after another in pursuit of political ideology. There isn’t a single shred of reason or logic to be found here.

It is the antithesis of everything you claim to stand for.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

Hahahahahahahaha

This is a great bit.

“We can’t trust the numbers that come from an academic institution devoted to measuring diversity in sports, because…reasons!”

That would be like trusting THT to measure the impact of analytics on baseball! They’re clearly a partisan organization!

Steven J White
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Steven J White

“…without backing it up with data, and then dismissing any racial disparity as personal choice. We can do better.”

Yes, data is important. What is MORE important, is understanding what the data is telling you. The lack of black players in MLB is not evidence on it’s own of racism, just as the lack of white players in the NBA or NFL isn’t. Correlation does not imply causation.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

But a correlation does demand deeper study, so that we can find the causation.

As opposed to several members of this comment section, whose response is to cover their ears and shout “LALALALA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

Jarrett
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Jarrett
So tired of hearing about this stuff. As others have said in the replies, where is the call for diversity in basketball or football? Like 80% of the NBA are black folks, and they earned their way onto the team. Why is it when white people are a majority in a league it is due to some subconscious racism that we all have? And lets be frank, all of these positions are finite. So whether it is actual players, or staff, there really isn’t any growth. So you aren’t talking about increasing the pie. All you are saying is that… Read more »
Bobi
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Bobi
Excellent article, Isabelle. Thank you for making us aware of the outrageous racial inequality that remains within the MLB. For instance, despite making up nearly equal percentages of the United States population, at roughly 13%, blacks make up just 7.7% of major league ballplayers while Hispanics are massively overrepresented at 30%! WOW. I don’t know what can be done about this, frankly, but my modest proposal is to ban entry of all new Hispanic players into MLB until such a time that their numbers, and those of blacks, are fairly represented at 13%. Now, I understand that it might not… Read more »
Thomas Paine
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Thomas Paine
Best response yet. Amazes me that an analytics inclined site would even consider publishing such incoherence without looking at and understanding the numbers behind their statements. There is nothing wrong with the MLB as is in terms of race breakdown. It works as is since is an equal opportunity for everyone. In fact, just as others have mentioned, there would be nothing wrong with an all-black MLB, or a 100% Asain roster, or a 10% Italian female, 20% Australian male, 35% Somoan over 55 male, and 35% under 20 breakdown. Or yes, even a 100% white league. The beauty of… Read more »
El Chupacabra
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El Chupacabra

Shite article…

O.W.
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O.W.
To all of you making the reverse racism argument: there’s no such thing! I know it must be uncomfortable to confront the resurfaced visibility of systemic racism that has underpinned American culture since, well, forever, but the argument that white people are somehow “oppressed” and are now the victims of “racism” is tone deaf and ridiculous. To equate the everyday white experience — even yes, in a majority black sports league like the NFL or NBA — to the systemic oppression faced by people of color in this country every single day is ludicrous. You don’t want to discuss these… Read more »
Hingle McCringleberry
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Hingle McCringleberry

Oh, the white privilege argument.

Put this in an academic paper and you’ll be teaching at a public university in no time!

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

Gotta love when someone has no intelligent response to a well-reasoned argument, and starts whining about “academia”!

Hingle McCringleberry
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Hingle McCringleberry

How does one actually respond to an argument essentially saying, “white people are racist, you just don’t realize it.”

This was a gem: ” You don’t want to discuss these things because it makes you uncomfortable and probably a little guilty, but coming from another boring white dude, let me tell you: you should be uncomfortable!”

Seriously, how does one respond to such an “argument” (it’s not really an argument, but I don’t have another word to call it)? Please inform the masses.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
First off, you could actually read what he wrote, which in no way boils down to “white people are racist, you just don’t realize it.” And then, having read and understood his argument, you could try to refute literally any of the supporting evidence he offers…rather than trying to dismiss it out of hand, because talking about it makes you feel uncomfortable and maybe a little guilty. Unfortunately for the world, everything he offers as evidence is pretty impossible to refute, because it’s all entirely accurate. It’s not your fault that the world is shitty in a way that give… Read more »
Hingle McCringleberry
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Hingle McCringleberry
Okay, I’ll oblige. “To all of you making the reverse racism argument: there’s no such thing!” He’s right. There’s no such thing as reverse racism, just racism. So we’re clear there. “To equate the everyday white experience — even yes, in a majority black sports league like the NFL or NBA — to the systemic oppression faced by people of color in this country every single day is ludicrous.” Literally no one hear is suggesting that there is actually white oppression taking place. They are simply asking the question, if it’s wrong for baseball to not have diversity, isn’t it… Read more »
O.W.
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O.W.

How about this, Cringle — start by reading a few of the books below that I’ve read while researching the book that I’m writing on the history of baseball in urban America:

1. Baseball’s Great Experiment — Jules Tygell
2. Playing America’s Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line — Adrian Burgos
3. Conspiracy of Silence — Chris Lamb
4. Out at Home — Glenn Burke and Erik Sherman
5. Cuban Star — Adrian Burgos

Until then, I just don’t feel like putting the time into trying to convince you that a very real thing actually exists which you will probably never recognize anyway.

Hingle McCringleberry
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Hingle McCringleberry

So you’re refusing to offer any evidence for your claims, or to answer the questions I asked?

I was right to be dismissive of your comment in my first comment. Have a good day.

Bobi
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Bobi

Oh, the “educate yourself” argument. Congratulations, now you’re gunning for tenure!

Thank you for gracing us with the thousands of pages you’ve assigned in order to make your argument for you. Browsing through your selection of titles, I’m sure these accounts of a thing that once existed 70 years ago will provide indisputable evidence that that same thing still exists today.

In real life, I mean, and not just in the minds of academics whose income depends on insisting it does.

O.W.
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O.W.

No one can have a debate when they don’t believe in education and when they’ve lost basic faith in learning. You decry “academics,” and people who spend their lives devoting themselves to deeply understanding complex issues! Of course you, random internet guy, would know better than them, because you’ve read some articles online and anecdotally seen that racism doesn’t exist in baseball with your own eyes. Good day, indeed, guys.

Bobi
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Bobi
Oh, I love education and learning. What I’ve lost faith in is the First Fundamentalist Church of the American University, especially its doctrines that Everything Is Racist, with its sub-dogma that every field of life that doesn’t show perfect representation of chosen minorities (sorry, Asians) is double-extra proof that Everything is Racist. You *do* realize you belong to a church, right? You are the new creationists. I actually feel bad for people raised in such a close-minded environment. Because it’s not their fault, really. I just hope that they can one day educate themselves enough to escape their faith’s fundamentalist… Read more »
Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

Hahahahahahaha

You lost me the second you tried to claim that the only evidence of the systemic advantages we have in Western societies is the correlation between our outcomes and our race.

That’s ahistorical bullshit, and if you don’t understand that, you’re not worth engaging with.

Bobi – I enjoy the relentless stream of ad hominem (absent any supporting evidence for your claims), in an attempt to claim that other people were “close-minded.”

Are you doing a bit?

Nate
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Nate

So, O.W., do you support the game of baseball?

If it’s so entrenched in racism and no one seems to want to put work in to stop it, why would you support that?

O.W.
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O.W.

It’s almost as if you can still love something in life even if it’s flawed!

Cam
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Cam

Thank you for providing the necessary context. I’m pretty disappointed with some of the other comments in this thread but i’m glad you’re here to balance it out a bit.

Paul G.
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Paul G.
There’s a common refrain, whenever sportswriters deviate from their traditional coverage: “stick to sports.” It’s a problematic phrase on a lot of levels but, most critically, what these “stick to sports” people fail to recognize is that culture, sports and politics are inherently entwined… The problem you are not missing is that sports in general and baseball in particular are entertainment, an escape. Mixing in politics, which the majority of the audience finds stressful, depressing, infuriating, and/or boring, lessens the entertainment value. If they wanted to watch the news, there are plentiful options outside of the ballpark. If you make… Read more »
KDL
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KDL

Advocating for the status quo, as you do here, is every bit as political as advocating for a change to the status quo.

Status quo supporters have just done a clever job of convincing us all that the only “political” opinions are one’s that change the status quo.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

All the “keep politics out of sports” people are, quite literally, declaring that sports should be a “safe space” where they can avoid ideas that conflict with their own.

And that’s bullshit, just like it’s bullshit when college students try to shut down speakers whose politics they disagree with.

Paul G.
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Paul G.
KDL and Cool Lester Smooth, if you are going to advertise that you provide entertainment and then go out of your way to ruin the experience for a significant percentage of the audience with topics that are at best tangential and at worst shoehorned, well, you are doing it wrong. The the purpose of entertainment is to provide an escape for the audience. It’s supposed to be a “safe space” as opposed to the other parts of life that the audience is trying to escape for a time. This does not mean the audience cannot learn something or that it… Read more »
Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

Anyone whining that another human expressing their ideas “ruins their experience,” regardless of the circumstance, has failed morally and intellectually.

Anyone who thinks that another human expressing their ideas is “picking sides and pitting them against each other” has failed morally and intellectually.

Grow up.

Paul G.
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Paul G.
I have grown up, unfortunately. Ah, to be younger and still have the delusion that I might have a shot at playing shortstop for the Yankees. More relevant, it is experience that has brought me to the position I hold. Anyone whining that another human expressing their ideas “ruins their experience,” regardless of the circumstance, has failed morally and intellectually. Which is why everyone so enjoys it when when the crazy uncle and the nutty cousin get into political arguments at the Thanksgiving dinner table. This is also why we have mandatory 30 minute intellectual debates about current events before… Read more »
W
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W
If I could +100 Paul G.’s comments above, I would. This “you’re all closest-racist or privileged” routine has grown pretty old. As has “making EVERYTHING political”. But there’s one other aspect of the Adam Jones incident – and the coverage of it – that I *DO* find significant; and it was done in this article as well. Almost all of the articles I’ve read, from espn to usatoday, to this site, quoted Adam Jones as saying: After the game, Jones said he thought the perpetrators should be heavily fined upwards of “10 grand, 20 grand, 30 grand. Something that really… Read more »
JA
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JA

This is an embarrassingly bad article. There is zero consideration given to any of the underlying factors that determine the demographic make-up of MLB players and personnel (e.g., surely foreign players are at a disadvantage for personnel positions if they are not fluent in English). Many of the variables at work are entirely or mostly outside of MLB’s control.

The author is a 3rd rate practitioner of the endless, meaningless deluge of neo-Marxist claptrap that is used as a substitute (or replacement) for critical thinking.

Eric Rodriguez
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Eric Rodriguez
I am guessing that the same people who are saying nothing needs to be done would also say nothing needs to be done about the fact that Blacks and Hispanics in this country are far more likely to be living in poverty, or that their average net worth is usually a fraction of a white person. But when we see such hard data we know sometime is wrong and something needs to be done. And I don’t buy all these “color blind” comments because I know if the same people were around hundreds of years ago they would not be… Read more »
BWilhoite
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BWilhoite
There have been several solid comments (JA, W, Paul, Hingle McCringleberry, Nate, Jake, Cool Lester…) above and I don’t want to just rehash what they said, however, I do want to make clear this is one of, if not, the worst articles on HBT I’ve ever encountered. Just a rehashing of feel good sound bites that when taken seriously are either flat out wrong or lead to horrible consequences. Yes, the fan in Boston was atrocious, but we have free speech for a reason, huge fines for saying something stupid is an overreach and ends up setting precedent for quashing… Read more »
rubesandbabes
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rubesandbabes
Okay, okay come on people – two or three comments is the absolute max for a Hardball Times post. — Too much code here – author ignores Spanish Speaking ballplayers to make the point about African Americans without saying so. This is really a slight to the Caribbean/other ballplayers with African heritage. No one has explained to the author about the economic benefit of running minor league teams in the USA with foreigners – this is part of it at the MLB fringe/regular level, and reflects in the player pool. The lack/less than historical presence of African American All-Star players… Read more »
Michael Bacon
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Michael Bacon
S writes, “For that matter why are most catchers white? Back in the early days of integration, there were plenty of black catchers, even though you would assume that 60 years ago white pitchers and managers would be less likely to believe a black player is smart enough to call a game.” It is false to write that, “Back in the early days of integration, there were plenty of black catchers…” There were few “dark-skinned” catchers. I am loathe to write the part about black (“dark-skinned”) because one look at Joe Torre’s picture at B-Ref (http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/t/torrejo01.shtml) shows someone with “dark-skin.”… Read more »
Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

I think the “African Americans have too much speed” thing could actually be the reason.

It’s not that youth coaches think black people are too stupid to play catcher. It’s that they assume they’re faster than white kids, and put them in the OF or at SS. When they realize that a given kid isn’t fast enough, the next stop is 1B (from the OF) or 3B (from SS), not C.

John Autin
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John Autin

This sentence disturbs me: “In 2017, 10 percent of major league managers are non-white, which doesn’t sound terrible until you realize that percentage is made up of just three men….”

Exactly how is “three” worse than “10 percent” of 30? They’re exactly the same. So it seems like an emotional appeal via the small counting number. What counting number would not sound “terrible”? Six would be 20%; nine would be 30%. The use of counting numbers doesn’t improve the argument; it just makes it feel manipulative.

KDL
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KDL

LOL at this comment section. Whenever politics comes up at fangraphs of THT I’m amazed how many people who otherwise champion evidence and fact can conclude things like “racism doesn’t exist”.

Yehoshua Friedman
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Yehoshua Friedman
An African-American player has very little motivation to choose baseball because he will have to toil for several years at starvation salaries unless and until he can make it to the Majors. There must be a program by the very well-heeled MLB owners to raise MiLB salaries significantly so that players can earn a living wage while they are developing. In addition, there must be subsidies for inner-city traveling teams that will capture the imagination of African-American youth to play serious baseball and develop. The owners have to throw serious money at the two above issues and stop being so… Read more »
Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

Exactly. It makes no sense for disadvantaged kids (of any race) to play baseball, because the scholarship money isn’t there in college, and there’s no way to support your family while you’re in the minors.

Because a disproportionate number of black people grow up below the poverty line, there’s a disproportionate number for whom playing baseball is a terrible financial decision.

bmp010
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bmp010

(((Diversity))) just means less white.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
Another question for this study is whether the declining proportion of African American players is a function of adding Venezuela, the DR and Columbia to the population of possible MLB players. That’s an additional 90 million people to draw from, almost none of whom play basketball or American football. More than anything, the MLB is disproportionately Dominican relative to its population of potential players. So, the vast majority of the non-white players are not native English speakers (even as the majority of players are), limiting the managerial pool to those who have exceptional language skills in addition to being having… Read more »
Bobi
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Bobi
Oh, you bastard. Fine. I will drop the provocateur thing for a moment. You have just proposed a thoughtful, rational, plausible explanation for (at least part of) this phenomenon. An explanation that makes a huge amount of sense to explain why (again, at least part of) MLB managers aren’t currently a Platonic ideal of racial representation—and that doesn’t seem to involve any overt racism. Because this study, at least as presented in this article, only looks at the outputs, without any regard for the inputs. Hence its analysis is, as you say, facile. Now I will explain my point of… Read more »
Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

Yeah, I think these studies have value, in determining whether we need to do more digging to figure out whether there’s a current systemic problem, or if we’re dealing with the legacy of previous systemic problems, and what that problem is.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

They’re certainly not an answer, though.

O.W.
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O.W.
Hey Bobi! I think you have laid out compelling reasons for why you currently think the way you do. I disagree with you, but I respect that you’ve explained yourself. I actually think that academia deals *mostly* with looking at inputs with discussions and analysis surrounding diversity — it is much more so the media portrayal of academia as a safe space for liberal ideology that has stereotyped academia as a bunch of finger pointers willing to scream racism at any point in time. I’m sure there is some of that going on, sure! But by and large, it’s much… Read more »
Bobi
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Bobi
That’s useful to understand where you’re coming from, in that it’s internally consistent, and makes it much easier to follow why you’ve reached your conclusions. So that is good, because you’re a lot more humanized to me now, which is often utterly lost on the internet. Yet I am sure you will be completely unsurprised to hear that I reject your conclusions. Including the idea that I think academia is an echo chamber. Instead, I’d argue that it’s a Star Chamber. One where not just heretics, but the insufficiently pious are regularly expunged from the Cathedral. Such as in this… Read more »
Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
The issue, of course, is that you can’t isolate the fact that a disproportionate number of black children are raised in single-parent homes from the fact of 400 years of institutionalized discrimination against black Americans. The grand joke of institutionalized racism is that, if done correctly initially, it self-perpetuates without needing any active input from future generations. And I think the issue is more the intellectual and moral cowardice of current undergrads students than of professors. Everyone I know in academia was absolutely horrified by the shit that went down at Yale, where a professor was harassed until he resigned… Read more »
O.W.
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O.W.
Cool Lester is right on the money — you’re almost there, Bobi, it’s just that last little jump that you’re missing. To look at single parent homes as the problem and not a *symptom* of the problem is the missed connection. America is not a meritocracy, and it hasn’t ever been. And yeah, there’s the global political spectrum and the American political spectrum — the latter’s entire spectrum is shifted rightward and has no real Left. What you consider “Left” is the center everywhere else in the world. We have, for the past ~50 years, been a country with two… Read more »
Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

Exactly. I’m a liberal…which is why I don’t trust the Left, or any other form of populism.

I just want to live in a meritocracy run by neoliberal technocrats (while recognizing that achieving a true meritocracy is going to take a lot of work), which places me pretty firmly on Center-Right of the global scale.

Hingle McCringleberry
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Hingle McCringleberry
From O.W.’s initial response a few posts up: “Moreover, I think people get frustrated because answers to diversity problems are 1) uncomfortable to confront; 2) deeply skeptical of the status quo; and 3) generally unable to affect change quickly. There’s a lot of reasons why people push back against discussions of diversity outside of conscious/unconscious racism (though that’s a big one).” It’s a little insulting to suggest that because we are frustrated about this issue is because we are uncomfortable, skeptical, or incapable. This assumes that you are 100% right and there’s no defense for the other side. That is… Read more »
Deb from Accounting
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Deb from Accounting

The Negro Leagues didn’t suffer all of the taunting and harassment for all of those years for nothing. I think there needs to be more done to provide opportunity to african americans, instead of hiring a frat bro through word of mouth at a cocktail party in the hamptons.. I don’t have the answers Sway… I’d like to hear the thoughts of someone involved in the study from UCF so they aren’t being labeled as a sportswriter with a biased opinion.. Thoughts? Feels? Emotions?

Andrew
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Andrew

Gee, racists sure do flock to the comment threads when you write an article about black people.

Nate
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Nate

What has been said that is racist?

Andrew
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Andrew
I think a big part of the lack of diversity is about access to facilities too. I grew up in a rural town in New England and we had lots of open fields/parks to play pickup games on a regular basis. If you grow up in a city, I’m not sure that that’s available to you. What’s interesting to me is that most Americans in baseball seem to be from rural areas in the south, midwest, and west coast, so I think the racial demographics of the sport often reflects the racial demographics in those areas. Not saying racism isn’t… Read more »
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