Why aren't there more minority third base coaches?

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Baseball is about 40% non-white (i.e. black, Hispanic, Asian). Third base coaches are 23% non-white.  First base coaches, in contrast, are 67% non-white. Michael S. Schmidt writes about it in the New York Times.  It’s interesting and reasoned reading, but if you think I’m not going to blockquote the most provocative passage from it, well, you’re just not that familiar with my work:

Current and former minority coaches and managers said they had noticed the disparity for years, but none attributed it to overt racism. Instead, some of the former coaches, along with diversity experts, questioned whether race may be playing a more subtle role, with minorities routinely funneled into a job at first base that is less demanding than the one at third.

“It’s very easy for them to put the minority at first base, to say we have a minority and we hire minorities,” said Al Bumbry, a black former player who was a first-base coach for the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians.

I don’t purport to be an expert when it comes to these matters, but I’m always skeptical of mass media stories about race that start with statistics and search for explanations for them as opposed to those stories starting with documented questionable attitudes or practices and then analyze the impacts.*  Sometimes weird things happen in small samples (and we’re only talking about 60 coaches here). I’m more interested in knowing what has happened before and how we got where we are.

And there is some of that in the second half of the article. Particularly Bobby Valentine’s quotes about how friendship explains an awful lot about a manager’s choice of coaches. I imagine there’s all manner of other noise going on here that suggest explanations apart from first-level racial discrimination for the disparity in numbers.

At the end of the day, though, who the hell wants to be a third base coach? There’s hardly anyone more maligned than those dudes.

*Not that I discount statistical analysis as a means of gaining insight on racial matters. I just think that any meaningful discussion of that sort of thing is best suited for (a) larger sample sizes than professional sports provide; and (b) academic literature as opposed to a 1,500 word story in a daily paper.

Murray Chass rightfully nails Major League Baseball on minority hiring

Rob Manfred
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When Murray Chass lays off his vendettas against the people he feels have wronged him, he’s still capable of making some sharp points. Particularly when he’s working in his old bailiwick of the business of baseball.

On Sunday he wrote a blog post about minority hiring in baseball. As in, the nearly complete lack of it, at least in front offices:

Manfred has talked a better job on minority hiring than he has performed. He has created a pipeline program through which members of minorities are supposed to be able to advance into major league front office positions. However, no role models seem to exist as inspiration for younger employees.

In Manfred’s 20 months as commissioner, clubs have hired or promoted 19 high-ranking executives. Eighteen of the 19 are white males. The lone minority is Al Avila, the Tigers’ general manager.

Chass reports that Rob Manfred and, in the past, Bud Selig have leaned on clubs to hire friends or trusted lieutenants but claim they have no power to tell clubs who to hire when it comes to minorities. It’s pretty dang good point.

Moving beyond Chass’ points, it’s worth observing that one way baseball could better populate the executive ranks would be to hire more minorities in entry-level positions. What a better way to become a friend and crony than to have, you know, been there a long time? The game has had a horrible track record in doing this, however, for one simple reason: it pays crap wages for all but the highest of executive positions, pushing away candidates for whom money is, in fact, an object to pursuing a dream in baseball which, by demographic necessity, favors the rich and thus favors whites. Earlier this year MLB launched a pipeline program aimed at getting more minority candidates into entry level MLB jobs. That’s a good start to addressing the problem, but it’s going to take years for that to bear fruit, assuming it ever does.

Back in June Kate Morrison and Russell A. Carleton of Baseball Prospectus wrote a four-part series regarding this very issue, and it’s well worth your time. Among the points made is one that, given his vendettas, Chass surprisingly didn’t make himself: sabermetrics is partially to blame! Go read Kate and Russell’s work on that, but the short version: front offices want MBA/STEM types now, not people with athletic backgrounds. People with those degrees have expensive educations and, in turn, cannot afford to take pennies to work in baseball when they can make far more in other industries, thereby continuing to favor the rich and the white.

I don’t think Rob Manfred or Bud Selig before him or the people who run major league baseball teams are bigots. I don’t think that baseball, as a whole, wants to keep minorities out of top jobs. Chass doesn’t make such a claim either and he, like I, noted the pipeline program.

But baseball is a business rife with cronyism and nepotism which leads those in power to hire friends and relatives, thereby keeping the executive class overwhelmingly male and white. Baseball has shown that, when it wants to, it can lean on teams to make certain hiring choices. Will it do the same to push for greater minority representation in management ranks? Or will it continue to throw up its hands up and say “hey, that’s on the clubs?”

Tim Tebow hits a homer in his first instructional league at bat

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Mets hits a home run at an instructional league day at Tradition Field on September 20, 2016 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Because of course he did.

It wasn’t just his first at bat, but it was his first pitch. It came off of John Kilichowski, an 11th round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals out of Vanderbilt.  The ball went out to left center, off the bat of the lefty Tebow.

Next time, meat, throw him a breaking ball.