Jackie Robinson sliding

The percentage of U.S.-born blacks in baseball drops again

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In what has become an annual tradition — usually on Jackie Robinson Day, but a few days later this year — the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports has counted the beans and announced that, once again, the percentage of black ballplayers is lower than it has been in years:

The percentage of black players dropped to 8.5 percent on opening day this year, down from 10 percent at the start of last season and its lowest level since 2007. The percentage of Latino players dropped from 28.4 percent to 27 percent – baseball’s lowest since 1999’s 26 percent.

However, unlike in previous years, the Institute acknowledges in its public statement that the categorization of players by nationality can be misleading when it comes to trying to figure out the true nature of the game’s diversity:

“This has been a concern of Major League Baseball and leaders in the African-American community,” Lapchick said. “However, the 38.3 percent of players who are people of color also make the playing fields look more like America with its large Latino population.”

I want everyone to play baseball and I would love nothing more in this regard than to see more U.S.-born blacks in the game. In the past, however, I think a lot of people, including players, fans and watchdog organizations like this one have discounted the fact that baseball’s diversity is pretty striking.

Just because someone is from Latin America doesn’t mean that they’re not also black. Likewise, even if there were more U.S.-born blacks playing, it doesn’t automatically mean that the game would be more diverse in significant ways.  Race is important. But so too is class and other things.  Pardon the hacky phrasing, but diversity is a rich tapestry.

Beyond the head count, the Institute gives sports leagues letter grades on its diversity efforts. Baseball does well here, receiving an A for racial diversity in hiring and a B-minus for gender. That latter grade is down from a B last year, but the overall grade remained a B-plus. The Institute describes baseball’s grades as representing “a long-term consistent and dramatic increase in the role of people of color and women regarding who runs the game.”

So they got that going for them. Which is nice.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.

Report: The new collective bargaining agreement reduces players’ meal money

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.

Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.

Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.

EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.