Apr
22

Does Baseball Need To Diversify Its Portfolio?

Jackie Robinson PatchIt took a good fight, but eventually, blacks were welcome to play alongside whites in American professional baseball. Exactly a week ago, on April 15th (the day that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier many years prior), the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport told the press that the percentage of blacks on Major League rosters hit a 20-year low at 8.2 percent in the 2007 season. That’s the negative, and Emmett Jones of Sports Business Digest thinks that it might make baseball’s title of America’s pastime extinct. The positive is that in the same study, MLB’s overall diversity appeared strong. 40.1% of all players in the 2007 season were non-whites. While Jackie Robinson would not necessarily be pleased with the amount of blacks playing ball, he most likely would be content with the overall diversity that the league now displays.

There are many different theories on why black participation is low. I will not get into those reasons. Instead, I would like to focus on why the diversity rate remains rather high while the black percentage of that rate remains sub-par. Huge advancements in scouting, recruitment, and development in countries like the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, etc. have enabled GMs, scouts, and agents broader access to the best players in those countries.

The Dominican Republic is having $80 million+ thrown at its economy each year by scouts from professional teams and agents from companies like Scott Boras Corp. In return, Dominicans have given the poachers a label: buscones (translation: searchers). Last year, 511 Dominicans were signed to professional MLB organizations. The supply and demand seem to be in coinciding at the high ends of the spectrum. And the buscones are ensuring that those players get more money than their predecessors received from MLB teams. The presence of scouts and agents may bring along unfortunate consequences as well. The rise of specialized baseball academies have taken many children destined for baseball away from developing a normal education.

You can expect agents and scouts to continue to entrench themselves in the talent rich countries of the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and others. In fact, the diversity of MLB may continue to grow because of those efforts. However, we should not forget that somewhere in the background, baseball is losing a vital element of its game: the black ballplayer. It is not a dying breed. There are tons of extremely talented black players continuing to develop, and many sports agents that may be wrongly directing their eyes elsewhere.

  • Gordon

    Dude, the problem isn’t “diversity”, the problem is the draft. A black kid from the US has to go into the draft, whereas a Dominican kid can be signed directly by a team.

  • http://www.kenjisummers.com Kenji Summers

    Dominicans to Baseball as Black Americans to Basketball.
    Capitalism plays the biggest part in this on going saga of professional sports as a vehicle for upward mobility. Too bad sports are only a Toyota…

    Think about it

  • Nate

    Hard to draft players that don’t exist. The decrease in black players goes all the way down to the junior levels. Some argue that the game itself is too tedious and long compared with the flash and glamour of the NBA, for instance.

  • Steve Johnson

    the percentage of blacks on Major League rosters hit a 20-year low at 8.2 percent in the 2007 season

    So Carlos Delgado (for example) isn’t black?

    Ok, I can see that he isn’t an African-American but claiming that the number of “blacks” in MLB is dropping while classing everyone from a Spanish speaking country as non-black is ridiculous. If you want to talk about the decline in American born black people playing baseball, fine but why is that any more or less of a concern than the decline in the numbers of white Americans playing baseball?

  • J. Taveras

    Steve hit the nail on the head.
    I myself was born in the Dominican Republic and I am black. Most of these Latin players today are black. Theres a shortage in African American players but not black players.

  • Lawrence

    I think some of you guys took the “black” thing to technical. I’m pretty sure we all understand that when he refers to black he is reffering to African Americans. Players like Renteria and Soriano are black in color but aren’t African American.

    Second Nate makes a great point about the decline starting from the Junior level. Many young African American kids grow up in the inner city where Basketball and Football are gold. If the kids see it on TV that’s what they want to become. It all comes down to marketing the African American players in the majors. That In turn will expose the kids to someone like them and maybe than might a kid want to pursue baseball.

    These kids are exposed to Lebron, Kobe, D. Wade, Terrel Owens, and Ocho Cinco all day. When was the last time you’ve seen Tori Hunter, or Ken Griffey on television other than an actual game. Back in the days when Griffey had his own shoe by NIKE all the kids around knew him than. His game hasn’t been all that great in recent years, but that’s the kind of exposure the African American athlete needs in baseball to be an influence for future black athletes.

    MARKETING THE AFRICAN AMERICAN Ball player is the KEY!!!

  • Gwynne

    How do i get a list of sports agencies and scouts in the DR? I am launching a baseball tournament for programs for kids ages 14-17 on Sat Nov 29 and want to invite agents in addition to major league reps.