It has been 42 years since Frank Robinson became Major League Baseball’s first black manager and 40 years since Bill Lucas became the league’s first black general manager.
And yet in 2017, MLB has only two black managers (Dusty Baker and Dave Roberts) and one latino one (Rick Renteria) and no more than four nonwhite top front-office execs (depending how you classify the various GMs and team presidents). For a league with an extremely diverse population of players, the dudes making the decision overwhelmingly tend to be white.
Meanwhile, women are almost entirely shut out from team operations, with Yankees assistant GM Jean Afterman a rare exception.
With all that in mind, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport has awarded MLB a C+ for its hiring practices. The league got a B for racial diversity in hiring and a C for its gender diversity in hiring.
The league scored an 82 in racial hiring, down from 90.5 last year, and went from a 74.3 in gender hiring to 70 this year. Overall, MLB scored 76, which is down from 82.4.
“It’s always discouraging when the numbers decrease,” said Richard Lapchick, the report’s primary author. “We are always looking for things to get better and to break new records each time.”
The report offers separate grades for the league offices and for the 30 teams. Thanks to emphases on diversity under commissioners Bud Selig and Rob Manfred, the MLB league office received an A- for racial diversity, while the 30 franchises collectively received an F for managerial hiring and a C at the general manager level.
The details here are less important than the overall takeaway, which is that MLB and its teams are not hiring women and people of color at the rate they should be.
Any time this subject comes up, a legion of people say that teams and leagues should hire the best candidates for every job, not prioritize women and people of color just for the sake of diversity. This line of argument ignores the fact that women and people of color often don’t get a chance to prove they’re the best people for these jobs because executives don’t have an open mind about hiring them.
The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport report does not posit that MLB or its teams are racist or sexist. It does, however, suggest that people in charge of baseball teams could do a better job of considering a diverse pool of applicants at lower-level positions so that they’ll be around when it comes time to hire for the big jobs. In all industries, decision-makers hire people they know and are comfortable with. In many cases, those people are white and male.
As Craig Calcaterra writes on NBC.com…
There are no hood-wearing, Confederate flag-flying racists or a men-only sexists in MLB anymore. Those guys are long dead and gone. But, at the same time, there are biases in place that, however benign they seem, result in a pretty homogenous MLB front office and managerial culture. A lot of white Ivy League dudes with analytical backgrounds who are comfortable with a lot of white former players who get along well with white Ivy League dudes to take the reins of a team in the dugout.
Whatever the case, it’s racism. Institutional racism. Mostly unconscious racism. With racism being a concept which is may more expansive and pernicious than how it’s popularly portrayed and thought of.
Baseball, like every single other industry, can be better about fighting subconscious biases. And that’s what the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport report is all about.