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.
Jul 31, 2015, 2:27 PM EDT
This is the third outfielder to whom they’ve been linked in three days. Let’s see if this one takes.
Jul 31, 2015, 2:13 PM EDT
He’s hitting hitting .298/.334/.374 and will likely take over left field duties.
Jul 31, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT
Jed Hoyer has worked for all three of these teams. He may be in the middle of a big trade involving them all.
Jul 31, 2015, 2:05 PM EDT
Bullpen help has been an obvious need for Minnesota.
Jul 31, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
The Cubs get a starter.
Jul 31, 2015, 1:28 PM EDT
Another move for Toronto.
Jul 31, 2015, 1:13 PM EDT
Don’t bring me down . . . Mets!
Jul 31, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
We’re recapping all of the deals as they come down.
Jul 31, 2015, 12:05 PM EDT
The price is too high.
Jul 31, 2015, 12:02 PM EDT
Cardinals’ bullpen is suddenly stacked with closers and ex-closers.
Jul 31, 2015, 11:11 AM EDT
Maybe he’ll see Daniel Norris coming the other way in his van?
Jul 31, 2015, 10:39 AM EDT
Milwaukee receives a starting pitcher prospect in return.
Jul 31, 2015, 9:49 AM EDT
Or, the very least, want the Padres to think they are so as to bring Craig Kimbrel’s price down.
Jul 31, 2015, 9:25 AM EDT
They have the worst ERA in the AL, so any starter would be a nice addition.
Jul 31, 2015, 9:18 AM EDT
Another torn quadriceps muscle for the All-Star left fielder.
Jul 31, 2015, 8:55 AM EDT
I feel like Ken Caminiti has to be involved.
Jul 31, 2015, 8:51 AM EDT
Jay Bruce instead of Carlos Gomez?
Jul 31, 2015, 8:43 AM EDT
He’d be both a 2015 and a future move.
Jul 31, 2015, 8:18 AM EDT
The Yankees bullpen is already a strength. Will it be stronger by 4pm today?
Jul 31, 2015, 7:34 AM EDT
In a night of several walkoffs — including a walkoff walk — Jason Castro had the biggest, helping Houston complete the sweep of the Angels.
- The Blue Jays pick up Ben Revere from the Phillies 4
- Cubs trade for Dan Haren 17
- 2015 MLB Trade Deadline Tracker 6
- Cardinals add more bullpen help, get Jonathan Broxton from Brewers 8
- Orioles trade for Brewers outfielder Gerardo Parra 19
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights 44
- Giants to acquire Mike Leake from Reds 33
- Astros acquire Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers from Brewers 45
- The MLBPA is considering withholding cooperation with ESPN, Fox over Colin Cowherd’s comments (157)
- The Cubs are in discussions with the Phillies on Cole Hamels (146)
- Major League Baseball rips Colin Cowherd in an official statement (123)
- Blue Jays acquire David Price from the Tigers (111)
- Rangers land ace left-hander Cole Hamels from Phillies (106)