Apr 10, 2013, 10:01 AM EDT
Today is the day that the annual report from Richard Lapchick’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida comes out. He’s been doing this for years, and it always gets highlighted in the media, with headlines about how the number of U.S.-born black players in baseball is declining. Which, yes, it is. But Lapchick’s report is also normally treated wholly uncritically, with his conclusions being parroted instead of reported, and it really grinds my gears.
It bugs me on a broad level, in that — as I’ve mentioned in this space several times — it looks at the trees but not the forest, noting that while, yes, there are fewer U.S.-born black players in baseball now than there used to, the overall diversity of baseball is up as the game becomes increasingly internationalized.
But it bugs me in a much sharper sense in that I believe the numbers Lapchick puts out are misleading.
They are misleading in that, while his current count of U.S.-born blacks in baseball seems right — he has it at 8.5% — the numbers he and others typically cite for the height of black representation in the game are usually off. He has cited as high as 27% of all players being black, and this number is often repeated as gospel, like it is in today’s USA Today story about it.
Thing is: these are apples and oranges measurements. Back in the 70s when that 27% number came out, those numbers represented counts of all black players — or people who had sufficiently-black skin to be called “black” according to the view of those doing the counting. This included Latino players like Rico Carty, who happened to be born in the Dominican Republic. Today Carty — or, say, Aroldis Chapman or any other non-U.S.-born black player — wouldn’t be included in Lapchick’s count. Which makes sense because he’s counting only U.S.-born blacks. But he and his media surrogates freely cite the old numbers which did include Latino blacks back in the day.
Friend of mine and frequent HBT commenter Mark Armour is doing some research on this for the Society of American Baseball Research. I’ve not seen the research, but Tyler Kepner notes it in the New York Times today. Armour estimates that the actual height of U.S.-born blacks in the game came in the 1980s and peaked at 19%. See the update below for some of Mark’s additional comments on this.
No, that research does not mean that all things are wonderful. There clearly are fewer U.S.-born black players in baseball today than there were in decades past. But it’s not quite a crisis on the order of magnitude that Lapchick and others portray. And given that they’re not being particularly discerning with their numbers you have to wonder if either sloppiness or agenda-setting is taking precedence over science here.
And that’s my problem with it. Not the underlying idea — I want there to be more blacks in the game; heck, I want EVERYONE to play baseball and anything that can be done to promote it should be – but on the manner in which the problem is portrayed. A manner which seems more calculated to draw attention to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports than it does to the underlying issue.
UPDATE: Mark Armour chimed in in the comments:
I am not exactly sure where the 27% number came from. My theory had been that the old data was from some newpaper story that counted all dark-skinned players as black, while the new data only counted US black players. However, several years ago this was explored further by the Wall Street Journal, and they determined that the old data is just … bad science. Really bad science.
The real drop in African-Americans (from 17-19% in the 1975-95 period) to half that today is significant enough without the bad data. Baseball is MORE diverse, of course, than every before.
By the way, MLB is very cooperative in the Lapchick study. In fact, they provide all of the data on opening day rosters to Lapchick every year. The writers that imply this is some sort of bigotry on the part of MLB are nuts. It is very clear that MLB is spending lots of time and money on this problem.
Sep 3, 2015, 10:38 AM EDT
Not that either of those things are valid reasons to keep a guy out of the Hall of Fame.
Sep 3, 2015, 10:13 AM EDT
Considered by many to be the No. 1 prospect in baseball.
Sep 3, 2015, 9:25 AM EDT
But teams should be coming to him.
Sep 3, 2015, 7:55 AM EDT
Clayton Kershaw strikes out 15 as the Dodgers sweep the Giants.
Sep 3, 2015, 12:12 AM EDT
Justin Turner was going to be out by a mile on this ill-advised stolen base attempt in the bottom of the fourth inning Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, but he got a little creative …
Sep 2, 2015, 11:45 PM EDT
There’s expected to be an update coming Thursday.
Sep 2, 2015, 10:38 PM EDT
Ruben Tejada scored an inside-the-park home run Wednesday at Citi Field when Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown flipped over the wall down the right field line in the bottom of the second inning …
Sep 2, 2015, 10:31 PM EDT
Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg was pulled after four rough innings Sunday against the Marlins with discomfort in his upper back, and now the injury is going to cost him his next rotation turn.
Sep 2, 2015, 9:44 PM EDT
It shows very poor planning on the part of the Twins’ decision-makers, who let Berrios throw 161 1/3 innings this season between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Rochester …
Sep 2, 2015, 8:59 PM EDT
Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez was scratched from his scheduled start Tuesday night against the Nationals with what was described as a minor back issue.
Sep 2, 2015, 8:05 PM EDT
Arizona has a scheduled team off day Thursday, so Goldschmidt is only going to miss a game or two.
Sep 2, 2015, 7:22 PM EDT
Pujols is now just one of four players in the history of Major League Baseball to reach the 35-homer plateau in 10 of his first 15 major league seasons.
Sep 2, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT
Cabrera signed a minor league deal with San Francisco in mid-July after getting released by the Orioles.
Sep 2, 2015, 5:43 PM EDT
He said the job he did was “masterful.” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Sep 2, 2015, 5:07 PM EDT
Left-hander Tyler Lyons will start in Wacha’s place against the Nationals.
Sep 2, 2015, 4:31 PM EDT
Franco has had a fantastic rookie season.
Sep 2, 2015, 3:05 PM EDT
“He’s our closer . . . Rooooosebuuuuuudddd”
Sep 2, 2015, 2:13 PM EDT
64/4 K/BB ratio in 60 innings.
Sep 2, 2015, 12:43 PM EDT
And, I would guess, it wont be such serious business here after a few years either.
Sep 2, 2015, 11:31 AM EDT
Of course their biggest problem is not going anyplace, as he owns the team.
- David Ortiz is more likely to be boned in Hall of Fame voting for being a DH than for PED stuff 0
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights 36
- The Marlins are going to change everything except their biggest problem this offseason 50
- Drooling over Miguel Sano’s incredible numbers through 50 career games 35
- Matt Williams puts up another strong performance in his quest to get himself fired 104
- Settling the Scores: Tuesday’s results 81
- Yankees reveal Mark Teixeira’s shin injury is “more than we thought” 16
- There’s a chicken pox outbreak in the Royals’ clubhouse and multiple players are infected 28
- Sarah Palin sticks up for Curt Schilling, tells ESPN to “stick to sports” (266)
- Matt Williams puts up another strong performance in his quest to get himself fired (104)
- Why Mike Mussina keeps getting hosed in the Hall of Fame voting (89)
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights (87)
- Settling the Scores: Tuesday’s results (81)