Examining Professional Baseball’s Diversity Problem


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Baseball is America’s Pastime. There aren’t too many sports fans that don’t have a fond memory about the sport, even though it may have lost some of its luster and market share in the past few years. Even still, every person can rattle off a list of names that are connected to their childhood, whether it’s Hammerin’ Hank breaking the record, or the greatest home run race in the history of its sport.

Despite all of these amazing things, baseball has a sordid past. We’ve come a long way since Jackie Robsinson broke the color barrier, but the remnants of that bygone era still echo through clubhouses around the league. The legacy of hate is unavoidable when we ask: why aren’t there more African-Americans in Major League Baseball?

Politics and Lack of Inner-City Facilities

Blacks athletes weren’t always welcomed in American history, but baseball happens to be one of the biggest offenders. Historically, racists around the league argued that African-Americans weren’t smart enough to play baseball; and that stereotype sunk its teeth into the sport. Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson discussed that problem during a 1987 interview with People Magazine:

“Baseball has been hiding this ugly prejudice for years—that black aren’t smart enough to be managers or third-base coaches or part of the front office. There’s a belief that they’re fine when it comes to the physical part of the game, but if it involves brains they just can’t handle it.”

Of course, this can’t be further from the truth. However, this sort of blatant racism has certainly contributed to the overall lack of African-American baseball players at the highest level of the sport. Over time, the lack of visible role models has compounded that problem. 

Another problem is the lack of inner-city youth development camps and leagues has made it difficult for the league to overcome its image as a predominantly white sport. As a result, these days, African-American kids simply don’t play nearly as much baseball as they did even 10 years ago. 

In the MLB, only 8.5% of the players are black, and that number is even lower in management. Outside of people like Bonds or Griffey, there just aren’t any super-hot coaching prospects that are also African-American.

At the start of the 2016 season, there were only three managers of color in the MLB. After the firing of Fredi Gonzalez of the Braves, a move that many saw coming, there were only two. Washington’s Dusty Baker has been the league’s only black manager for a couple years, and when he was briefly in between jobs, they had none. 

Though the decisions behind the terminated contracts are mostly usually unremarkable, many of them were predicted in online betting circles, that still doesn’t change the result: an ever-increasing lack of diversity in “America’s favorite pastime”.  

Only a very, very small group of people will ever know what happens behind the MLB’s ornate doors and inside the league’s the ownership meetings, but one thing is certain: without some radical change, baseball will continue to have a diversity problem.