Tuesday, April 15, 2008

MLB diversity problem? Definitely not

Today is Jackie Robinson Day throughout Major League Baseball, signifying the 61st anniversary of what m
ay be the most important event in professional sports history. The anniversary comes just a day after MLB released a report saying a record-low 8.2 percent of major leaguers are black.

Robinson’s widow, Rachel, is concerned, and states her disappointment in a recent espn.com article, while Richard Lapchick is perhaps even more outraged. On the other hand, Baseball Prospectus’ Joe Sheehan could care less (subscribers only). Although I won’t rant the way he does, I do agree with Sheehan. This is simply not a pressing issue. As he points out calling out for baseball to concentrate on this issue is essentially asking for them to look for an answer to a non-existent problem.

Diversity is not an issue throughout the game; it is undoubtedly the most diverse American sport. Baseball’s diversity is rooted in many races as opposed to the mostly biracial sports of basketball and football. As long as equal opportunities are being granted then there is nothing for MLB to do. They cannot force African-American kids to play their sport when basketball is more accessible and football more glamorous.

Numbers like this low percentage are posted so that people can become more aware of what some are trying to portray as a pressing issue. In reality it is just another example of people pointing to race in a situation where it is basically meaningless. Why does the MLB need to reach out more? A quick look around at any roster will show just how diverse the game is.

As I watch the Yankees play the Rays on gamecast I notice the New York starting lineup has two mixed race players at the top (Damon, Jeter) followed by a Venezuelan (Abreu) an American Latino (A-Rod) and an outfielder from Japan (Matsui), I don’t know about Jeter, but it’s possible that none of them would check the African-American box. Diversity is clearly not lacking.

While it is great that Curtis Granderson spends much of his spare time working with inner-city kids in programs such as RBI, is it really any different or better than Johan Santana’s great work in his hometown in Venezuela? Of course not. People need to stop doctoring these numbers in efforts to seek out a problem that isn’t there. On a day like today when one of the most important minorities of the 20th century is set to be honored, it’s a shame some attention is being taken away by some stupid percentage that has no meaning.

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