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Why aren't there more minority third base coaches?

Aug 11, 2010, 2:30 PM EDT

67% of first base coaches are minorities. Only 23% of third base coaches are. Why?

Baseball is about 40% non-white (i.e. black, Hispanic, Asian). Third base coaches are 23% non-white.  First base coaches, in contrast, are 67% non-white. Michael S. Schmidt writes about it in the New York Times.  It’s interesting and reasoned reading, but if you think I’m not going to blockquote the most provocative passage from it, well, you’re just not that familiar with my work:

Current and former minority coaches and managers said they had noticed the disparity for years, but none attributed it to overt racism. Instead, some of the former coaches, along with diversity experts, questioned whether race may be playing a more subtle role, with minorities routinely funneled into a job at first base that is less demanding than the one at third.

“It’s very easy for them to put the minority at first base, to say we have a minority and we hire minorities,” said Al Bumbry, a black former player who was a first-base coach for the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians.

I don’t purport to be an expert when it comes to these matters, but I’m always skeptical of mass media stories about race that start with statistics and search for explanations for them as opposed to those stories starting with documented questionable attitudes or practices and then analyze the impacts.*  Sometimes weird things happen in small samples (and we’re only talking about 60 coaches here). I’m more interested in knowing what has happened before and how we got where we are.

And there is some of that in the second half of the article. Particularly Bobby Valentine’s quotes about how friendship explains an awful lot about a manager’s choice of coaches. I imagine there’s all manner of other noise going on here that suggest explanations apart from first-level racial discrimination for the disparity in numbers.

At the end of the day, though, who the hell wants to be a third base coach? There’s hardly anyone more maligned than those dudes.

*Not that I discount statistical analysis as a means of gaining insight on racial matters. I just think that any meaningful discussion of that sort of thing is best suited for (a) larger sample sizes than professional sports provide; and (b) academic literature as opposed to a 1,500 word story in a daily paper.

  1. nps6724 - Aug 11, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    I’ve noticed a lot of 1st-base coaches were accomplished base stealers and it just so happens most good base stealers aren’t white.

  2. FLO - Aug 11, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    who cares its not that big of a deal

  3. MdEagle - Aug 11, 2010 at 3:00 PM

    You gotta have a reliable person to relay the signs from the dugout.

  4. BCTF - Aug 11, 2010 at 3:08 PM

    nps,
    I was thinking the same thing but no one is going to march on the streets because there is a shortage of whtie 1st base coaches.
    “Where are all the white 1st base coaches at?”

  5. 2cents - Aug 11, 2010 at 3:10 PM

    Third base coaches are just as important as thrid trumpet players so who cares? Ok…wait…stop and go is important huh? Same crap you have to tell third trumpet players

  6. birdmancometh - Aug 11, 2010 at 3:11 PM

    agree with nps6724: I had actually noticed this before and just assumed that you want the ex-base stealer to hold the stop-watch and check the pitchers moves. Just makes sense.

  7. BCTF - Aug 11, 2010 at 3:11 PM

    Third base coaches are just as important as a third testical

  8. Jarmahead - Aug 11, 2010 at 3:26 PM

    This is quite possibly the stupidest entry I’ve read today….and I just came from CNN reading about Bieber getting hit with a damned bottle of water. Who cares?

  9. Detroit Michael - Aug 11, 2010 at 3:45 PM

    It seems like bench coaches are more likely to be elevated to a manager’s position than any other position on the MLB coaching staff, not that I’m basing that guess on any data.

  10. grapes911 - Aug 11, 2010 at 4:00 PM

    I care, cause that’s freaking awesome. I hope it hurt like bitch.

  11. Saints97 - Aug 11, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    I guess Tony LaRussa is a pillar of diversity since he has a Hispanic 3rd base coach (Oquendo) and a white first base coach (Dave McKay).
    I always find racial number crunching to be funny. You have a baseline of 40%, and these people want us to think that the shenanigans are involved in the 17% disparity, but not the 27% disparity. It is amazing that people can even say this stuff with a straight face. Heck, they even blame the over-representation of minorities on racism. Pure gold.

  12. Benny Blanco - Aug 11, 2010 at 4:26 PM

    Until your team loses because guys are getting thrown out at home.

  13. Jonny5 - Aug 11, 2010 at 4:28 PM

    MLB is racist. But it evens out since they’re racist about giving whites a job as first base coach. See a happy medium.

  14. murd - Aug 11, 2010 at 5:03 PM

    Digging for a story where there isn’t one

  15. Reflex - Aug 11, 2010 at 6:04 PM

    Meaning what?

  16. bigtrav425 - Aug 11, 2010 at 6:35 PM

    Why is this really a issue??..thats just how it is! i dont think the managers when putting together their staff say to themselves….Well i cant have a black guy standing at 3rd coaching so let me make sure i get a white guy??..Were u that bored when u started thinking of this? or that high?

  17. Cantankerous - Aug 11, 2010 at 6:36 PM

    Circle me Wendell Kim…oh wait, this isn’t Posnanski’s blog.

  18. FrankZappa - Aug 12, 2010 at 1:22 AM

    the reason is obvious…i know, you know it, we all know it, even the minorities know it, its just not politically correct to say it…

  19. King Ding-A-Ling - Aug 12, 2010 at 5:33 PM

    Why aren’t there more white players?

  20. King Ding-A-Ling - Aug 12, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    Thats garbage. Everybody knows that minorities are better at stealing.

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