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.

Video: Angels use eight pitchers in spring training no-hitter

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Who says no-hitters can’t be just as fun when they happen during spring training?

Angels’ right-hander Bud Norris delivered two perfect innings on Friday night, paving the way for an eight-pitcher no-hitter against the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson each filed a hitless inning of their own, leaving right-hander Abel De Los Santos to close out the ninth inning with just three pitches — and three game-saving plays by the defense.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Angels were facing a bevy of Mariners’ backups, rather than their starting lineup. In fact, Seattle’s lineup featured just two starting players — outfielder Leonys Martin and shortstop Jean Segura — while the majority of their everyday position players took on the Royals in a 4-3 win elsewhere in the Cactus League. The Mariners managed to reach base twice, first on catcher interference in the fourth inning, then on a four-pitch walk in the sixth, spoiling the Angels’ chances of turning their combined no-hitter into a combined perfect game.

Still, whether it’s executed in spring training or the regular season, against an All-Star lineup or one comprised of minor leaguers, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. The team’s eight-pitcher effort marked the first spring training no-no the Angels had completed since 1996, when they took on the Giants in a 15-0 showdown. Unfortunately for the 1996 squad, their regular season ended with a 70-91 record, good for last place in the AL West. Perhaps this no-hitter will prove a better omen for the coming season.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.