It’s been 70 years since Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s (MLB) color barrier, and it’s been 45 years, since shortly before his death in 1972, that he urged baseball to do better in regards to diversity.
“His vision was to see diverse players on the field reflecting diverse coaches and those in the front office,” wrote Richard Lapchick in his latest MLB Racial and Gender Report Card, released April 18. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) director also laments the low number of U.S.-born Black ballplayers, which we discussed in last week’s “View.”
“Increasing the percentage of African American players overall will continue to be a very slow [process],” Lapchick notes of the 7.7 percent of all MLB players on Opening Day rosters earlier this month who were Black. The Minnesota Twins had only one Black player.
But a record 259 players born outside of the U.S. — over 34 percent — were on those same rosters, adds Lapchick.
Furthermore, only 8.8 percent of MLB coaches are Black, down almost two percent from 2015, and there are only 28 Black MLB team executive vice-presidents, senior VPs and vice-presidents — none in Minnesota.
This year’s report card “showed decreases in both racial and gender hiring practices,” admits Lapchick. He gives MLB a B in racial hiring, a C for gender hiring, and a C-plus overall grade. But when it comes to on-field managers, Lapchick gives MLB a failing grade.
What about the Twins? Their diversity hiring annually gets thumbs-down from us. But this past off-season, the team hired former Twins players Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins as special assistants in the baseball operations department.
Executive Vice President and Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey told the MSR shortly after the two hires in December that Hunter and Hawkins both weren’t hired for nostalgic purposes but for their “perspective and experience.”
“Derek and Thad [Levine, senior VP and GM] have been very transparent with us,” reports Hawkins. “We are on conference calls, emails, and tons of text messages. We’re deep[ly] involved.
Adds Hawkins, “You hear from guys who take special assistant jobs and say [GMs] don’t listen to us. But we know genuinely that [Falvey and Levine] value our opinion. That’s all you can ask for.”
Therefore, have the Twins finally earned a George Jefferson Movin’ On Up improvement grade for front office diversity? It must be duly noted that the hiring only brought the total of Blacks to five out of 152 Twins front office personnel.
“I can’t tell you about those two people in particular,” responded Lapchick when we asked during a phone interview if hiring Hunter and Hawkins count in increasing diversity. “But I know in a lot of cases teams bring back former players as goodwill ambassadors in the community.”
But the TIDES director pointed out that all 30 MLB teams lag behind the league’s Central Office in racial hiring — 12 percent of the front office people are Black, 16 percent of the senior execs are people of color, and 35 percent of directors and managers are people of color.
“Some teams will do it and some won’t” was Lapchick’s succinct conclusion on diversity hiring, despite MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s insistence to the contrary. His report concluded: “The 2017 Major League Baseball Racial and Gender Report Card shows there is still a long way to go to achieve those goals.”
The entire 2017 MLB Racial and Gender Report Card can be found on www.tidesport.org.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.