Must-Read: Victor Rojas on diversity in the broadcast booth

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
25 Comments

Over the years, we’ve written on various issues involving diversity in baseball, whether it’s on the field, on the coaching staffs, in the front office, or in the broadcast booth. To Major League Baseball’s credit, it has made very material efforts towards changing that for the better. As it pertains to on-air talent, however, baseball broadcast booths remain largely white and male.

Angels TV broadcaster Victor Rojas, whose father Cookie is a former major leaguer and from Cuba, wrote a must-read blog about the subject of diversity in baseball broadcasting. Rojas notes that there are only a handful of minorities doing play-by-play, whether on radio or on TV, listing himself along with Joe Angel (Orioles radio), Robert Ford (Astros radio), Buck Martinez (Blue Jays TV), and Dave Sims (Mariners TV).

Rojas goes on to write, “I can see where a young minority fan sitting at home with thoughts of one day becoming the next Jaime Jarrín or Felo Ramírez on English language broadcasts could be discouraged because of the lack of minorities staring back at them through the television.”

In my own discussions with other white people about this, particularly those of a conservative political bent, making workplaces more diverse doesn’t strike them as a moral imperative. Diversity, at the very least, should strike everybody from an economic standpoint. The young minority fan Rojas spoke of is not likely to become a lifelong, money-spending fan of Major League Baseball if he can’t get emotionally invested in the sport, which is helped by being able to identify with its participants — the players, the coaches, the broadcasters. They will go where they are represented: in other traditional sports, in esports, and in other forms of media.

According to SportsBusiness Journal, a recent study of Nielsen TV viewership data found that Major League Baseball’s audience is the oldest among the four major sports with an average age of 57 years. 83 perecent of those who watch baseball on TV are white. The NFL’s average viewer is 50 followed by hockey (49) and basketball (42). The Atlantic found several years ago that MLB’s audience is the most male-dominant at 70 percent. We know, generally, who’s watching baseball (older white men) and we know who’s not watching baseball (everybody else). While Major League Baseball is quite healthy right now, setting revenue records year after year, it needs diversity up and down the ranks in order to continue having a bright future. Eventually those older white men will die. Their eyeballs and their money will need to be replaced.

Rojas says, “There are endless numbers of ways to be a part of our business and I think we’re failing in showing what those possibilities may be. If we can somehow create a larger pool of talented individuals who want to pursue a career in our industry, then we’ll have that many more for the front offices of teams and television networks to consider when it comes time to hiring.”

Humans are, by nature, very tribal. This is why we’ve had to make repeated, concerted efforts to force our society to diversify. White people are more likely to befriend white people. When white people attain positions of power, they are likely to fill other positions of power with their friends, who are very likely to be white. Replace “white” with other demographics with which we create hierarchies, such as gender, and it remains just as true. If we diversify baseball, even starting at the ground floor, the diversity will eventually make its way up the ladder. We should strive for quicker, greater change, but progress in the U.S. has typically come in bite-sized chunks.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
3 Comments

SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.