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Report: 43% of top baseball ops employees are Ivy Leaguers


Joon Lee of ESPN reports today that, based on a study conducted by him and ESPN, the percentage of Ivy League graduates who are MLB team’s top baseball operations’ employees — be they titled GMs or Vice Presidents or whatever — has risen from just 3% in 2001 to 43% today. Meanwhile, in that same period, former players running front offices has dropped from 37% to 20%. Lee’s report, which is must-read material, doesn’t just illustrate the profound lack of diversity in big league front offices, but illustrates how that lack of diversity has developed and how it perpetuates itself.

It’s a topic we’ve covered at length here before. The short version: the analytics revolution led to the hiring of general managers who are almost all youngish white dudes from Ivy League institutions who, in turn, tend to hire people “in their own image” or “who they can relate to” for years, further populating baseball’s executive ranks with similar people. That, combined with astoundingly low starting salaries for entry level baseball operations employees which make it far easier for well-off young men with family money to take the jobs, has led to a profoundly homogenous group of baseball execs.

Major League Baseball has acknowledged this and has long said that it appreciates that it is a problem. There have been some efforts, such as an intern program, the creation of diversity committees, and the hiring of an executive search firm aimed at both assessing and addressing the problem, but the results have been almost non-existent.

In 2016 I interviewed a young Latinx man who had been interviewing with major league baseball clubs. His education and skills were perfectly aligned with what big league teams hire for these days. His experience with the process, however, illustrated how clubs end up hiring people who are decidedly not like him:

[At the Winter Meetings], I interviewed with three teams. Every kid/adult or whatever you wanna call them, was white. They were all white, with expensive degrees. I spoke to four guys who were interviewing with one of the teams I was and they all BRAGGED about how their parents had enough money to pay for their apartment/car/insurance and whatever comes with moving for a job.

What about me? I can’t do that. We’re living off refund checks, and McDonald’s for dinner. But who cares? I know this is going to work one way or another. I have my contacts and all that BS. But at the end of the day, will a team hire a young Latin American kid who wants to learn, wants to guarantee his fiancée a better life down the road, and wants to help his own family eventually, or will they hire the 24-year-old in a slick suit who graduated from Yale with a degree in economics and can live in the office 24 hours a day with no outside responsibilities? Easy answer. I don’t fault teams for hiring qualified candidates. But I really don’t know why they sit there and gripe about diversity problems when the answer is right in front them.

And his experience was one in which he actually got face-to-face with teams who are hiring. Many teams aren’t even going to look at candidates like the young man I interviewed because, as Lee describes in his article, they’re relying on what has been an exponentially-growing network of what I’ll call, for lack of a better term, the Ivy League Baseball Executive establishment. The generation of men who became GMs in the past decade and a half or so have spent the past several years hiring people they know who have, in turn, been hiring people they know, perpetuating a system that is already selecting for a certain type. Lee:

But pulling from a hyper-specific group of Ivy League graduates means inheriting that group’s diversity and classism problems, including the legacy admissions programs notorious in elite colleges that favor white and wealthy applicants. Yale University currently boasts four undergraduate alumni running baseball teams, tied with Harvard for the most represented school among top baseball executive undergraduate alma maters. In 2018, the acceptance rate at Yale was 6.9%, with the cost of attendance in 2020 — which includes tuition and living expenses — estimated at $78,725.

All of the Yale graduates running teams, including Epstein, Bloom, Mike Elias of the Baltimore Orioles and James Click of the Astros, who replaced Luhnow, are white men. Among the Harvard graduates — Bridich, Stearns of the Brewers, Silverman and Michael Hill of the Miami Marlins — Hill, a Cuban American, is the lone minority. White Sox GM Rick Hahn also attended Harvard Law School after graduating from the University of Michigan. According to the Harvard Law School website, the cost of attendance prices at $100,625.

Lee’s article goes on to identify a series of barriers and prejudices that have caused baseball front offices to be overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male, and overwhelmingly populated by people from well-off backgrounds. It also notes MLB’s attempts to grapple with it all, but it’s quite clear that these attempts have not even begun to scratch the surface of the problem.

Baseball still likes to fancy itself as America’s pastime. Baseball, increasingly, looks less and less like America. That should bother Major League Baseball. It should bother all of us.

Mets’ Marcus Stroman opts out of season over virus concerns

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NEW YORK — Marcus Stroman‘s recovery from a torn left calf muscle was almost complete, and he was in line to possibly make his season debut for the New York Mets next week against the Miami Marlins.

But the idea of traveling to one of the country’s coronavirus hot spots played a factor in Stroman’s decision Monday to opt out of the 2020 season.

“Obviously, you see the Cardinals, the Marlins, you see spikes everywhere in the country, you see protocols not being handled properly from citizens everywhere,” Stroman said during a Zoom call. “You see us going to Florida soon. That was a big discussion I had with my family. Going to see the Marlins soon, that’s something I don’t want to be in that situation.”

Stroman, scheduled to become a free agent after the season, is the second Mets player to opt out this month. Designated hitter Yoenis Cespedes left the team Aug. 2.

Stroman said he had daily conversations with his family about what to do. His grandmother and uncle have compromised immune systems and are around his mother on a regular basis.

“This was a decision I had to kind of take myself out of it and look out for the best interests of my family,” Stroman said.

His decision came four days after he threw 85 pitches in his second simulated game and a day before he was scheduled to throw another simulated game.

On Sunday, manager Luis Rojas expressed hope it would be the last simulated game for Stroman, who was injured during the Mets’ summer workouts. New York’s next road trip is to begin Friday at Philadelphia and conclude with a four-game set at Miami from Aug. 17-20.

Rojas said he understood Stroman’s decision but was surprised.

“He wanted to do another one just to play it safe and see how he felt coming out of it and then come join us,” Rojas said Monday. “But, once again, we fully support him.”

Stroman will go on the restricted list, allowing the Mets to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

He will now head into free agency – he reached the six years of service time needed July 30 while on the injured list – without throwing a pitch this season. At 29, he’s expected to be one of the most sought-after starters on the open market.

He was due to make $4.4 million – the prorated portion of the one-year, $12 million deal he signed in January – and will give up the remaining total, a little more than $3.25 million, unless he has a precondition.

Stroman’s exit further weakens a rotation that looked like one of the best before the pandemic shutdown in March. While two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom has been impressive in four starts, Noah Syndergaard is out for the season after Tommy John surgery and Michael Wacha went on the injured list Sunday with shoulder inflammation.

With Stroman out, rookie left-hander David Peterson, who is 2-1 with a 3.78 ERA in his first three big league starts, is locked into a rotation spot. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen said relievers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman are possibilities to fill the fifth spot.

Stroman was 4-2 with a 3.77 ERA in 11 starts last season for the Mets, who acquired him in July 2019 for two pitching prospects. He grew up on Long Island about 50 miles from Citi Field.

“I remember coming over here and us going on that little win streak last year and the environment at Citi Field,” he said. “It felt like playoff games that I was pitching in when I came over at the trade deadline.”