A dearth of black ballplayers, a dearth of black fans

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I missed this story from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram over the weekend, but a bunch of blogs are picking it up today. It’s about the relative dearth of black ballplayers compared to years past, what is driving it and the effect it has on the fewer black ballplayers who are in the game today.

We’ve covered this territory many times here before.  And, like most complicated issues, there are no easy answers. Hell, there aren’t even easy questions everyone can agree on.  There are several reasons why there aren’t more black ballplayers. Some of them economic (baseball programs are expensive to maintain), some of them sociological (baseball isn’t all that cool compared to other sports) and some of them likely just random.  And that’s before you get into the matter of what, exactly, can be done about it.  And of course it’s all complicated by the fact that, overall, baseball is probably more diverse today than it ever has been, so how big a problem is this really.

The framing device of the story is a bit more interesting to me, however, in that it goes beyond just the players. It goes to the fans. It features Curtis Granderson and a little game he plays with his teammates at the ballpark:

Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson moved to the top dugout step, looked into the stands of Rangers Ballpark and challenged his teammates.

“Count the number of African-American people here at the stadium who aren’t working at the stadium and see if you can get to 10,” Granderson said.

A teammate will point at a black man only to hear Granderson reject it because, “He’s Latin.” Or, “You already counted him.”

“At first, it starts off as a joke,” Granderson said. “And then as the game moves on, you’ll get to 10, or maybe 15. Depends on where you are, too. Places like Chicago or New York, other places, it’s easy. Here, it’s hard. So after a while it becomes, ‘Told you so.’ “

I can’t say that I haven’t made that same observation whenever I go to the ballpark.  And it strikes me that, just as important as promoting youth baseball programs through things like the RBI initiative, baseball should figure out how to get more black people in the stands too.

I mean, when did you fall in love with baseball?  If you’re like most folks, it happened while you were watching the game.

Fox, MLB sign broadcast rights extension through 2028

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FOX Sports and Major League Baseball announced a few minutes ago that they have agreed to a multi-year broadcast rights extension. The deal keeps Fox as the lead MLB rights holder, and home of the World Series, All-Star Game and a good chunk of the playoffs through at least 2028.

While the press release does not announce the financial terms, Bob Nightengale of USA Today is reporting that it will pay Major League Baseball about 30-40% more than the previous contract. While ratings are not what they used to be, it would seem that the eyeballs Fox is getting are more valuable to it.

UPDATE: That bump is actually even bigger:

For the time being, things will look very much like they do now. Starting in 2022, there will be more games broadcast. There are no specifics about how many more. The release says “FOX Sports will also expand its digital rights,” but again, no specifics on what that means, exactly.

FOX Sports has been a baseball rights-holder since 1996 and has been the exclusive national non-cable rights holder since 2001. That’s gonna continue for at least another decade.