Attaining diversity in sports requires a tough balancing act, and writing about gender and race issues can be just as tough. But with today’s release of The 2005 Racial and Gender Report Card: Major League Baseball from the DeVos Sports Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida, I want to take this opportunity to delve into the issue of diversity in Major League Baseball.
On one hand, winning in professional sports is all about putting the best players on the field at all times. Since 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, baseball has realized that the best players come from all walks of life and race. If someone can play or produce, this person will be on the team regardless of superficial qualities.
On the other hand, front office and executive management can represent an entirely different deck of cards. The Commissioner’s Office wants to see the best and brightest in the front offices, and they also want to bring the sport to a wider audience through various community outreach programs often targeted at minority populations. While I would like to think that color is not important on the field, in the offices, diversity is vital for the continued success and growth of Major League Baseball as business.
Grading Baseball: An Overview of the Report
With the release of The 2005 Racial and Gender Report Card, we can see just how well Major League Baseball is doing promoting diversity and where they need to see improvement. Before heading into this territory, I want to briefly mention methodology. Richard Lapchick and Stacy Martin, the report’s authors, note the way in which they grade baseball on its efforts at attaining diversity:
To give it perspective for sports fans, the Institute issues the grades in relation to overall patterns in society. Federal affirmative action policies state that the workplace should reflect the percentage of the people in the racial group in the population. Thus, with approximately 24 percent of the population being people of color, an A was achieved if 24 percent of the positions were held by people of color, B if 12 percent of the positions were held by people of color, and C if it had only nine percent. Grades for race below this level were assigned a D for six percent or F for any percent equal to or below five percent.
For issues of gender, an A would be earned if 40 percent of the employees were women, B for 35 percent, C for 30 percent, D for 25 percent and F for anything below that. The 40 percent is also taken from the federal affirmative action standards.
With this standard in place, baseball fared decently in racial diversity, garnering a B+ for their efforts, but the sport did poorly in gender diversity managing just a D+ down from a C a year ago. In other words, women are woefully underepresented in Front Office positions in baseball.
Delving further into the data, we see that baseball has assembled a diverse array of players. The sport received an A or better for “player opportunities, managers and coaches as well as for the MLB Central Office.” According to the report, “In the 2005 MLB season 59.9 percent of the players were white, 8.5 percent were African-American, 28.7 percent were Latino and 2.5 percent were of Asian descent.” Furthermore, players born outside the United States comprise 27.4 percent of those on rosters this Opening Day. On the field, baseball is an international game.
The MLB Central Offices receive high grades for racial diversity and low grades for gender diveristy. Furthermore, there is only one person of color among the elite group of baseball owners – Arte Moreno of the Orange County Angels – and, with the Brewers out from under Wendy Selig’s control, no women in the group. This picture does not look to improve in the near future as the groups under consideration to buy the Nationals are largely made up of white men.
As far as the clubs are concerned, the seven managers of color who all were managing during parts or all of the 2005 season represent a success in the eyes of this report card. Four of the managers were African-American; three were Latino. However, Tony Pena and Lloyd McClendon have since been fired and were replaced by white men. Thirty-nine percent of Major and Minor League coaches are men of color.
Despite all of this high scores on the field, Major League Baseball begins to suffer off the field. Ken Williams is the only black GM, making the White Sox the only team with people of color in both the General Manager and Manager positions. The Mets’ Omar Minaya is the only other GM of color. Baseball gets a D in the General Manager category.
In team executive offices, just 15 percent of Vice Presidents are women and only 13.2 percent are women of color. Furthermore, women hold just 27.7 percent of senior administration positions over all. Baseball is also lagging when it comes to diversity in professional administration positions such as administrative assistants, staff assistants and receptionists.
A Case Study on Baseball’s ‘Thinking Positions’
With these numbers painting some positive trends and some negative trends, the report’s authors took at look at what they called the “stacking” trends of certain positions on the field. This is where the report heads into the territory of race relations in baseball. The report’s authors wanted to identify the percentage of African Americans playing one of three so-called “thinking positions”: pitcher, catcher and third baseman. In 2005, the categorizations were changed to pitcher, catcher and infield. The results were surprising:
Only three percent of pitchers, one percent of catchers and 11 percent of infielders were African-American. It is worth noting that in 2004 when the Report Card looked at the isolated position of third baseman versus the entire infield, the percent of African-Americans was only five percent. The percentage of African-American pitchers is less than one half of what it was in 1983. Twenty-six percent of outfielders, who rely on speed and reactive ability, were African-American during the 2005 MLB season. This was nearly three times the percentage of African-Americans in MLB.