Digging deeper into the decline of African-Americans in major league baseball

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Last month we had a series of posts about how fewer African-Americans are playing major league baseball than they used to.  The context of all of this was the annual report in which Richard Lapchick’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida releases numbers which purport to show the decline.

Mark Armour, friend of HBT and baseball researcher extraordinaire, had done some research on this back in the day and was quoted in the New York Times and other places noting that Lapchick’s study overstated the decline because it was counting apples and oranges. Specifically, Lapchick was using data which lumped together U.S.-born blacks and black Latino players to represent overall black participation in the 1960s through the 1980s but excluding black Latino players from today’s game. That’s some bad science, my friend.

Well, Mark has gone back and re-done his research in order to (a) bring it up to date; and (b) control for some various variables. His report can be read at the SABR website today, and it’s absolutely fascinating, regardless of what you think about black participation in baseball.  The two key takeaways:

  • The percentage of African-Americans held steady between 16% and 19% between 1972 and 1996, but has since decreased by more than half. This is still obviously a sharp decline, but nothing approaching the 27% figure Lapchick usually cites; and
  • A non-trivial part of the decline can be attributed to the fact that the two positions which are least-commonly filled by black players — pitcher and catcher — now take up a greater number of roster spots than before due to changing pitcher usage patterns.

The second bit doesn’t change the overall thrust — there are still fewer black players and this is so for reason other than roster changes — but it’s really, really neat and I had not thought about it before.

I highly recommend Mark’s very readable and very insightful article. Both for its own sake and because it throws some actual research into an area that is so often polluted with politics.

Report: Mets expect Terry Collins to retire at the end of the season

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The Mets expect manager Terry Collins to retire at the end of the season, sources tell Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. Collins and the Mets haven’t discussed an extension on his current contract, which expires at season’s end.

Collins, 67, has managed the Mets for the last seven seasons. Overall, he led them to a 546-578 record during the regular season and the team twice made the playoffs. The Mets lost the 2015 World Series to the Royals in five games, and lost the 2016 NL Wild Card Game to the Giants.

Injuries are much more to blame for the Mets’ struggles in 2017. After another loss on Wednesday, the Mets fell to 65-87. They will open the final homestand of the season on Friday with three games against the Nationals and four against the Braves. They could be Collins’ last in New York as manager of the Mets.

Reds to extend protective netting at Great American Ball Park

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The Reds announced on Thursday that the protective netting at Great American Ball Park will be extended to the end of each dugout in time for Opening Day next season. The press release notes that the current netting meets Major League Baseball’s guidelines and the new netting will go beyond those standards.

The netting “debate” came back on Wednesday when a young fan was struck in the face by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have done about the bare minimum in installing protective netting, which rightly earned them criticism. Brian Dozier, Todd Frazier, and Didi Gregorius each said yesterday that the netting should be extended. Other teams and Major League Baseball in general received criticism. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, for example, said the relative lack of action on MLB’s part is “morally repugnant.”

Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes that the Reds had already had this idea prior to Wednesday’s incident at Yankee Stadium.