Let’s talk about sexism and racism.
Gah! Wait! No! Stop!
The half of you who are immediately firing off angry tweets, comments, and emails, stop. The half of you who are about to click off this article, stop. This isn’t a screed. This isn’t a rant. Nobody is going to get called out. Nobody is going to get blamed. I’m not going to try to make you feel bad or guilty about your own actions or inactions.
Instead, I want to talk (not for the first time) about the fact that Major League Baseball and its member teams are doing a poor job hiring racial minorities and women to important positions. Today, the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport gave the league’s efforts a C+ (the institute gave the league an 82 in racial hiring and a 70 in gender hiring). This is down from last year, when the league got a B-.
As silly as all these letter grades seem, they’re important as an independent barometer. Baseball itself isn’t likely to tell us, after all, when it’s not doing enough to prevent itself from being overrun by white Ivy League dudes from affluent backgrounds. That’s a caricature, obviously, but the underlying truth is, well, true. Baseball is, increasingly, being run by a homogenous group of people.
Consider the recent Front Office Survey we ran here at The Daily Dish. In the survey, we listed 37 front office figures (because some teams are run by a pair of decision makers). Of those 37, all of them are men. Of those men, four (Farhan Zaidi of the Dodgers, Kenny Williams of the White Sox, Mike Hill of the Marlins, and Al Avila of the Dodgers) are ethnic minorities. Since Avila took over the Tigers for Dave Dombrowski in August of 2015, nine teams have changed their front office structure. None of them have handed the reins over to a woman or to a person of color.
On the field, teams’ management continues to be largely white. While the three managers of color are a step up from a couple years ago, when we were in danger of having zero, it’s still ridiculous. That only one of those managers, Rick Renteria, is Latino is almost unthinkable in a league that currently gets around 40 percent of its talent from Latin America.
All of which is to say that, while you might take issue with the specifics of the Institute’s method, you really can’t argue with the results of what the Institute says is happening. And you can’t really argue that the results are racist. This is not to say that the teams and league are sexist or racist, or that the people who are not hiring women or people of color are bigots. But they are, as we’ve discussed before, hiring people who are a match in outlook, philosophy and background. Most of these people, to be frank, look a lot like them. This isn’t malicious. But its results are insidious.
And that’s a problem. Is there a solution? On the field, yes. It’s past time for front office decision makers to realize the value of having a leader in the clubhouse who speaks the languages of game’s players. Valuing bilingualism in the hiring process seems especially important in a league where one of a manager’s biggest jobs is to create a harmonious work environment for players.
In the front office itself, however, change will come more slowly. So many of baseball’s next batch of decision makers are working their way up through an organization until their tireless work and expertise gets noticed. These candidates will absolutely deserve the shot they get to run a club. The trouble is that, almost to a man, these candidates are a homogenous group. Major League Baseball needs to do more to change this talent pool at the ground level, to give more and different kinds of people the chance to work their butts off to earn a leadership role. Teams and the league itself need to offer paid internships and loan repayment programs so that candidates from diverse backgrounds can afford to join its front offices. For what it costs in the short term, the league will grade out better in the long run.