MLB starts a diversity fellowship for women, people of color


As we’ve written about at length, baseball has a diversity problem in its front offices, which are overwhelmingly staffed with white men, many from wealthy backgrounds. The reasons for this are many, but it all boils down to a industry that sends women and people of color the message that they shouldn’t bother applying and a hiring process which results in baseball’s white, male Ivy League-educated senior executives hiring people that tend to look a lot like they did when they were entering the workforce.

Major League Baseball has launched a number of efforts to try to combat this, though none has really brought results. Now there is a new one: the league is launching a diversity fellowship program which will place 20 candidates with teams and three with MLB itself in New York.

Applications are limited to people of color and women, and can be submitted through Nov. 17.  The winners of the fellowship will be announced in April. Applicants have to have earned a bachelor’s, master’s or related advanced degree within the last two years. Those who win a club fellowship will commit to 18 months with the club, those who get a league office fellowship will receive a three-year commitment, split between baseball operations and business. The position will have a higher salary than the typical entry level MLB position as well.

Here’s MLB’s Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem:

“The fellowship program is a coordinated approach by MLB to recruit diverse graduating students at universities throughout the United States by offering them the opportunity to compete for a prestigious fellowship in the front office of an MLB club. The goal is to attract individuals who would not otherwise consider an MLB career without the structure and benefits offered by the fellowship program.”

I think his quote there diagnoses a part of the problem that gets less press than the basic hiring practices of MLB do: self-selection out of the job pool. I’ve spoken to a lot of young candidates for MLB jobs at the Winter Meetings each year. Many of them made a really hard choice to even apply for MLB jobs and were doing so with misgivings, knowing that (a) it may be a vain effort to even try; and (b) even if they get the job, they may be costing themselves money and opportunities presented by non-baseball jobs that pay better and offer a better chance of advancement. Many proceed because, hey, it’s baseball, but many find themselves in dead ends or leaving baseball before they can advance.

A fellowship will not solve this problem entirely, of course, but the commitment MLB is making here, both in terms of salary and job term, could draw in a lot of candidates who might otherwise not consider baseball careers and may allow those who do enter into the industry to be better recognized and stand a better chance of advancement.

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

Associated Press
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If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.