Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Decline of Black Baseball

Here is the statistic: 8.4% of Major League Baseball players are currently African American, as opposed to over 15% just 10 years ago. This has quite a few people in the baseball world rightfully upset and worried. So what are the causes for this decline?

Many people cite economics or college scholarships as the reason. They say that blacks are more likely to get a scholarship for football, and therefore that is where they invest their time and talent. Also, with more scholarships given in football then in baseball ,the sheer odds are better that they will receive a football scholarship.

Then there is the race card. Detroit's own Gary Sheffield, who I actually think is a rather standup guy, had to throw it out recently. He claims that African American's are passed up over Latinos because they are "harder to control." He states "I called it years ago," Sheffield said, "What I called is that you're going to see more black faces, but there ain't no English going to be coming out." Sheffield went on to say that MLB picks Latin players over equally talented African-Americans because they're easier to control. I personally think that is a load of crap. There are many upstanding young black players coming into the league. The great thing about sports has always been that talent trumps color. THat is what Jackie Robinson was all about. Sport has always been the great equalizer. If you can play ball better then everyone else, no one cares if you are Japanese, Samoan or Canadian.

I think that a columnist for CNNMoney hit the answer on the head in this column. I encourage you to read it, but he basically says that the rise of the Latin player is simply due to economics. Because players from other countries are not affected by the draft, good scouting replaces lottery chances. It is simply a better return on invested capital to look outside the US. I have not been able to find the percentage of MLB players who are Caucasian, but i bet that had dropped almost in step with African-Americans. This once again would not be racism, but rather strict economics.

So what is needed is not a huge investment in urban baseball fields, although is is great in it's own right. What is needed is a comprehensive look at the MLB draft and the way that talent is brought through the system to the major league level. Because baseball, more than any other major sport, draws international talent, this must be addressed. Until it is, the owners have only their own best interests in part and MLB will not move forward on this issue.

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