Archive for the 'Housekeeping' Category

New report praises, slams MLB for diversity

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.

2006 Preview: Royals heading nowhere fast

This is Part Three of my 2006 season preview. Today, I’ll examine the state of the once-proud Kansas City Royals. Yesterday, I looked at the troubles of the Major League Baseball-owned Washington Nationals. Tomorrow, I’ll look at baseball’s worst team, and it’s not one from Florida.

Kansas City used to be a great baseball town. From 1975 through 1989, the Royals were always competitive in the AL West. In fact, they captured their one and only World Series title in 1985.

But the heydays of George Bret, Bret Saberhagen, Charlie Liebrandt, and Dan Quisenberry have long since passed by the Royals. And this year, it is the Royals and not the deconstructed and rebuilt Florida Marlins or the work-in-progress Tampa Bay Devil Rays that stand to be the worst team in baseball.

In 2005, the Royals were nothing short of a disaster. They stumbled their way to a 56-106 record, finishing fifth for the third time in five years and topping the century mark in losses for the second straight season. Offensively, Mike Sweeney lead the team with an .864 OPS and Zach Greinke’s astronomical 5.80 ERA was the lowest qualifying ERA on the team. While the young Ambiorix Burgos and Andrew Sisco showed some promise out of the bullpen, the Royals, outscored by over 200 runs, had little to celebrate.

Heading into the off-season, the Royals knew they had to make some changes. They certainly made some changes, but are they really for the better? I don’t think so.

The 2006 Royals will welcome a plethora of new faces. Among them are Mark Grudzielanek, Doug Mientkiewicz, Reggie Sanders, Scott Elarton, Joe Mays, and Elmer Dessens. These players – all largely a bunch of career role players – may lend a veteran presence to a directionless team, but right now, they are blocking younger players from gaining valuable experience.

In Grudzielanek and Mientkiewicz, the Royals get two players who shouldn’t really be starting. Grudzielanek, 35, has a career line of .294/.330/.391. Mientkiewicz, 31, has a career line of .268/.359/.405. Once a prized prospect in the Twins organization, he’s topped .300 just twice in his career and has faced injury-laden seasons the last few years.

Meanwhile, Scott Elarton and Joe Mays inspire little confidence. The two combined for 337.2 innings last season, striking out just 162 while giving up a combined total of 55 home runs. Elarton, the projected number one starter, threw to an ERA of 4.61 on a good fielding Indians team and Mays threw to an ERA of 5.65 on the Twins. As they know won’t get to start against the Royals, they stand to see a marked decrease in performance this season.

Furthermore, their true projected number one starter, Zach Greinke, left the team in Spring Training amidst some murky circumstances. Some reports say that Greinke, pitching on the hapless Royals, simply lost the will to pitch. As a cerebral hurler, he couldn’t deal with the team with no plan. Other reports say he simply broke down mentally. While the Royals still say the 22-year-old will be back, they have proceeded without him.

On top of the Greinke fiasco is the Runlevys Hernandez mess. Hernandez was placed on the DL because he is out of shape and doesn’t have the stamina for the season. While personal irresponsibility is hardly an excuse for the disabled list, Hernandez is still supposed to be a part of what now amounts to a four-man rotation.

With aging veterans installed in the outfield (Reggie Sanders) and infield (Dougie M, Mark Grudzielanek), the Royals are blocking the paths for three of their top prospects: Justin Huber, Donnie Murphy and Billy Butler. The Royals would be better off letting these rookies get their feet wet than they are by giving up outs and plate appearances to veterans who won’t really produce.

So as 2006 dawns in Kansas City, the Royals, a team with no plan, will have a clogged lineup. This team will make a lot of outs and give up a lot of runs. It will be another long year in Kansas City as that 1985 World Championship fades into the past.

An old saying

One of my old sayings applies tonight.

Early to bed, early to rise makes Ben a little less tired than usual.

Nothing new from me tonight. Sorry, folks. Check back in tomorrow. I’ll have a full review of Howard Bryant’s Juicing the Game: Durgs, Power, and the FIght for the Soul of Major League Baseball. While it was released last year, the paperback edition is just a few weeks old. It has a new epilogue that doesn’t so much as wrap up the story as it brings the tale a little more up to date.

New look

Don’t be alarmed by the new look. Everything else around here is still the same.

Blame the LSATs

Sorry, folks. Nothing new brewing tonight. Too much studying to do in preparation for Saturday’s exams.

In the meantime, I urge you all to add to the dialogue on parity I started yesterday in A query on equality. I promise a new post for Friday.

Silent Night

Nothing tonight. Sorry folks. If you want to blame someone for my lack of comments on baseball, point your finger at the Law School Admissions Council.

Meanwhile, check out Three True Outcomes for your oft-updated baseball fix plus commentary on other relevant issues throughout the day.

A Night Off

Howdy, folks. I’m not feeling so well tonight so I’m turning in early. There will be no cutting edge commentary from me for now. In the meantime, browse around and pick an old post to read. I’ve put up most of my old columns for when I wrote for 360 The Pitch. You can find them all here or under the 360 The Pitch tag. I’ll be back once I’m better.


RSS River Ave. Blues

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