Apr 10, 2013, 10:01 AM EST
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.
Dec 4, 2013, 9:34 PM EST
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports has the inside info: The David Price sweepstakes is expected to heat up later this week, multiple executives with interest in the left-handed ace told Yahoo Sports, as the Tampa Bay Rays begin to survey the market for the former Cy Young winner and consider whether to trade him. Passan…
Dec 4, 2013, 8:51 PM EST
From Andy Martino, the Mets beat writer at the New York Daily News: A new possibility for shortstop has emerged for the Mets, as the team plans to send scouts to a showcase this weekend for Cuban defector Erisbel Arruebarruena, according to sources. The 23-year-old Arruebarruena, who has drawn comparisons to Detroit’s Jose Iglesias, was…
Dec 4, 2013, 7:37 PM EST
According to Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker, who has translated a Wednesday evening report from Sanspo in Japan, officials at Nippon Professional Baseball headquarters are prepared to accept a new outline of posting system rules from MLB execs. It’s not exactly clear at this point what their final agreement is going to look like —…
Dec 4, 2013, 6:23 PM EST
There was a report Sunday stating that the Cubs’ preference with Jeff Samardzija is to work out a long-term contract extension. But it appears that those negotiations have lost all momentum. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is hearing that the Chicago front office plans to “do some serious listening” on the 28-year-old right-hander at next week’s Winter…
Dec 4, 2013, 4:16 PM EST
Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski was initially coy last week when asked if Miguel Cabrera would be moving from third base to first base following the Prince Fielder trade, but today he admitted that’s the plan. No surprise, certainly, as Cabrera was banged up physically a lot this year and has long been stretched defensively…
Dec 4, 2013, 3:45 PM EST
Joe Nathan‘s deal with the Tigers is now official and it’s a two-year contract believed to be worth $20 million with a team option for 2016, when the closer will be 41 years old. Nathan made the right call to turn down his $9 million player option with the Rangers, correctly predicting that he could…
Dec 4, 2013, 2:14 PM EST
As a follow-up to yesterday’s reports that the Mariners were making a serious run at Robinson Cano, now Kevin Kernan of the New York Post reports that the free agent second baseman and his agent met with the Mariners in Seattle. Kernan’s source told him “the meeting went very well.” There’s also been some recent…
Dec 4, 2013, 11:47 AM EST
Mark Trumbo has been linked to various teams in trade rumors, but yesterday Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto tried to squash that speculation by telling Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times: I wouldn’t even say we’re willing to trade Mark. We haven’t been out there shopping Trumbo. At the end of the day, our…
Dec 4, 2013, 11:19 AM EST
They couldn’t agree to a contract before Monday night’s deadline, so the Diamondbacks non-tendered Daniel Hudson, but Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that the two sides are close to hammering out a new deal for him to stick around. Hudson is recovering from a pair of Tommy John elbow surgeries and figures to…
Dec 4, 2013, 10:47 AM EST
These huge, later-career deals never turn out great. The best you can hope for when you sign a 30-something baseball player to a hugely expensive long-term deal is that he will have a couple of good years on the front end to boost up his value, have a nice rebound year somewhere in the middle,…
Dec 4, 2013, 10:15 AM EST
For any Reds fans holding out hope that Shin-Soo Choo will wind up back in Cincinnati, general manager Walt Jocketty has some discouraging news: We have not had any discussions in a couple of weeks. I had one conversation with [agent Scott] Boras a couple of weeks ago. We haven’t done anything since then because…
Dec 4, 2013, 9:44 AM EST
Paul Konerko pondered retirement following the worst season of his career, but Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the 37-year-old will return to the White Sox for another go-around. Konerko hit just .244 with 12 homers and a .669 OPS in 126 games this year and the White Sox signed Cuban slugger Jose Abreu to…
Dec 4, 2013, 9:15 AM EST
Philadelphia has a new backup catcher, as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the Phillies have signed 36-year-old Wil Nieves after trading Erik Kratz for Brad Lincoln yesterday. Nieves spent this year with the Diamondbacks, backing up Miguel Montero and hitting .297 with one homer and a .690 OPS in 71 games for the second-highest…
Dec 4, 2013, 8:44 AM EST
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson met with Curtis Granderson on Sunday and Adam Rubin of ESPN New York was told by a source that talks between the two sides “intensified” late Tuesday. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News hears that nothing is imminent, but that there’s increasing optimism that the Mets will land him.…
Dec 4, 2013, 7:35 AM EST
After reportedly agreeing to terms on a seven-year, $153 million contract with Jacoby Ellsbury, the Yankees are close to securing some Robinson Cano insurance. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Yankees are on the verge of signing Kelly Johnson to a one-year contract worth between $2.75-$3 million. Of course, the Yankees…
Dec 3, 2013, 11:17 PM EST
A’s GM Billy Beane is not done making moves. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweeted Tuesday evening that Oakland is “likely to deal” left-hander Brett Anderson at next week’s Winter Meetings and lists the Yankees among the teams showing trade interest. The Blue Jays, Royals, Indians, Twins and Mariners are also thought to be in…
Dec 3, 2013, 10:25 PM EST
A minor trade in among all these high-profile deals, via MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki: Phillies have acquired RHP Brad Lincoln from Blue Jays in exchange for catcher Erik Kratz and LHP Rob Rasmussen. — Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) December 4, 2013 Lincoln was out of minor league options and the Blue Jays are loaded with relievers. The…
Dec 3, 2013, 9:48 PM EST
This ultra-active day on the hot stove continues. According to beat writer Troy Renck of the Denver Post, the Rockies are “closing in on” a two-year contract with free agent first baseman Justin Morneau. No word yet on the financial terms. Morneau struggled mightily throughout the 2013 season, batting .259 with a .741 OPS in…
Dec 3, 2013, 9:24 PM EST
The Yankees are betting big that Jacoby Ellsbury will age well in his thirties. They’re betting big that he’s not injury-prone and that his two season-ruining injuries were flukes. They’re betting big that his power will come back with Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right serving as such a tempting target. They’re betting big that…
Dec 3, 2013, 8:34 PM EST
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman was the first to mention the possibility and now Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News has the deal confirmed. The Yankees have officially reached agreement on a seven-year contract with free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. The total value of the deal will exceed the seven-year, $142 million pact that…
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