Sports Odds & Ends
The 2022 Major League Baseball Racial and Gender Report Card (RGRC) that was released May 18 points out some improvement across all categories graded, but not enough that would satisfy the late Jackie Robinson, who 75 years individually broke MLB’s color barrier and, just before he died, boldly challenged the game’s fathers to hire more Blacks as managers and front-office types.
In this year’s RGRC, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) gave MLB a B-minus overall grade, a B in racial hiring, and a C-plus in gender hiring.
The executive summary noted, “MLB has achieved monumental milestones,” including a 10-year $150-million financial commitment to the Players Alliance, beginning in 2023. “This pledge represents the largest financial commitment in MLB history toward the specific goal of improving Black diversity on the field, in managerial and coaching positions, and in front office leadership,” the report noted.
On Opening Day 2022, 38% of MLB players are players of color, up 0.4% from last season, but Black or African American players were down 0.4% from 2021, now barely seven percent. The Minnesota Twins this season has outfielder Byron Buxton, utility player Nick Gordon, and pitcher Chris Archer. Later this season, rookie Royce Lewis joined the club for a few weeks. He was among 56 Blacks drafted between 2012 and 2021. Tommy Watkins is the team’s only Black coach as third base/outfield coach.
Nearly 20% of the major leaguers in 1995 were Black.
“That’s been something people have been watching for a long time with a lot of dismay,” noted TIDES Director Richard Lapchick in a recent MSR phone interview. “Major League Baseball [has] put a lot of money and effort into trying to increase the popularity at the youth level with some degree of success, but the numbers are still plummeting.”
Lapchick added that Lewis, 2017’s overall top pick who has impressed both the team and fans with his on-field play, might be the type of Black player that the Twins, and MLB in general, should look at in their marketing and promotional efforts. Buxton is on the team’s media guide cover and is regularly featured on local promotions but is he well known around the country as one of baseball’s exciting players?
“The more you’re talking about the young man, it’s going to have an impact that goes way beyond the team,” said Lapchick on Lewis.
The Twins made some impressive notations on this year’s MLB RGRC. Meka White Morris, as Twins executive VP and chief revenue officer, is one of six Black team executives in MLB and one of 15 women holding chief executive titles. Lapchick said that the aforementioned $150 million investment to the Players Alliance will “enable them to affect change in Black communities and Brown communities around the country. Those are all really positive things.”
But the low numbers of Black coaches (5.4%, down 0.3% from 2021), one Black general manager (this number has not changed in three years), one on-field Black manager and six managers of color overall can’t be ignored, said Lapchick.