Baseball is a game played at a slow pace and is deliberate when it comes to changing the way it is played. The same can be said for Major League Baseball (MLB) and its racial and gender hiring practices.
The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) released its 2019 MLB Racial and Gender Report Card Monday, and there was little change from a year ago. The report shows a slight increase in racial hiring, a slight decrease in gender hiring and a combined grade that is identical to 2018. MLB earned an A- for racial hiring with 89 percentage points, up from 88 percentage points last year, and a C for gender hiring with 70 percentage points, down from 71 a year ago. The overall grade of B- with 79 percentage points is the same as 2018.
Pittsburgh Pirates athletes (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
“The numbers are very much similar to last year,’’ said Dr. Richard Lapchick, the primary author of the study and director of TIDES at the University of Central Florida. “There was a slight increase overall in racial hiring and a decrease in gender hiring but basically everything stayed the same, with a little bit of increase in terms of managers of color, which is good. General Managers is still low. Obviously African-American players is still low, those are kind of disappointing statistics.
“I’m always expecting things to get better,” he added. “They don’t always follow my expectations. Moving percentages when there are so many people involved is hard. You can have a couple of key hires and it really doesn’t change the percentage very much. We really don’t expect big swings year to year. But we do expect to see a regular improvement.”
Highlights of the report:
“The fact that it’s an increase is significant because it had been going down,’’ Lapchick said. “But it’s not a large increase. We need to see the numbers in the teens fairly soon to make a real statement.’’
Lapchick says the number of African-American players being drafted and the number on MLB rosters will increase if more youngsters in communities are exposed to baseball and become more interested in playing the game.
Dr. Richard Lapchick
“RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) is a significant program,’’ he said. “I think it increases the interest in the cities where it’s active. RBI has been around since the early 1990s and still we have this very small number of African-American players playing. Baseball academics are also important. When young people look at if they want to be an athlete, they look at the paucity of African-American stars in baseball and then they see significant numbers in the NFL and the NBA and they’re being lionized in those two leagues. If I am a 12-year-old African American boy trying to decide what I’m going to play it’s probably going to be the one where I’m gong to get the most opportunities and get the most notoriety. Young people have to see the opportunity for them to succeed in baseball as well.’’
As for the percentage of African players being drafted, he said, “That’s a good sign that the percentages are going up. The percentages going up in the draft will obviously impact who ends up on (MLB) rosters eventually. That’s a down the road process but it’s an encouraging sign.’’
Team levels lag behind league office levels but Dr. Lapchick said that is the case in all sports. His report is a measuring stick for Commissioners to gauge exactly where teams stand.
“We’ve been able to accomplish this,’’ Lapchick said. “You have to be able to accomplish this at the team level as well. You have to have a chief diversity officer or vice presidents for diversity, and more teams are doing that. We need all teams to do that. That’s happening in all sports, and I think its going to make a big difference where there is somebody actually on the team whose job it is to broaden the perspective by having a more diverse work force.’’
Lapchick said while MLB hasn’t made the strides in terms of diversity that he would like to see, he’s “not greatly disappointed” and he is optimistic that its hiring practices will continue on an upward arc.
“I think the person that they’ve hired, Renee Tirado, to lead their diversity efforts is a very dynamic woman,’’ he said. “I think she will have an impact at the league level as well as in their youth efforts to increase the number of African-American youth playing the game and keep diversifying the audience of baseball which is an older mostly White demographic at this point.’’