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.