Jackie Robinson Day Brings Consternation, Self-Aggrandization... But A Fair Point?

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Robinson Fielding.jpg

Just the other day we saw Hank Aaron complaining about the kids on his lawn with their moving pictures and their home run balls. It turns out the Home Run King has quite a bit more on his mind. Namely, Aaron is depressed about the inherent irony of Jackie Robinson Day, which was just celebrated around all of Major League Baseball, because there's not that many African Americans in baseball anymore, you see.

"Every single day, even when I watch the Atlanta Braves, I say to myself, 'It's a shame that they have a coach and a player. That's all,' " said Aaron, referring to Terry Pendleton and Jason Heyward, respectively, as the only African-Americans involved with the former team of baseball's legitimate home run king.

Aaron has a legitimate point, of course, because the numbers don't lie: only 71 African Americans on Opening Day rosters in both leagues this year.

The Aaron quote above comes from this Terence Moore Fanhouse article, which is more than a littler over-the-top as the author spends an equal amount of time pointing out the fact that he's friends with Hank Aaron as he does actually trying to make his point. And his point is that Major League Baseball is run by a bunch of hypocrites who say they're trying to improve African American participation in the game, but doing very little to follow through with substantive action. While it might be easy to dismiss this Moore piece for its melodrama and overwrought rhetorical devices... I found myself agreeing him. Mostly because of facts like this:

They also mention after a sigh that they really are trying to bring African-Americans back to the game with their 21-year-old Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities (RBI) program. On MLB.com, for instance, it boasts that the game has given more than $30 million to the RBI program since its inception.

(snip)

As for the truth, that's a bunt compared to a home run, especially when you contrast what baseball has done collectively during that stretch to build academies in Latin American and other foreign countries. The low-revenue San Diego Padres spent $8 million alone for a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic.

At the most basic level, this doesn't exactly make MLB look very good, and it also lends a lot of credence to Torii Hunter's remarks about "impostors," which, to be sure, are still utterly crazy and poorly-worded, but definitely contain a great deal of truth.

Thoughts on the issue, WoWies? I do believe this qualifies as my first writing on the human condition. Huzzah!


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4 Comments

Obama should make tariffs so they stop moving our baseball factories overseas.

71 players represents about 9% of all major league baseball players. Black people constitute about 12% of the total population. That's leaving aside the minor leagues. Maybe minor league representation is about the same or higher or lower. A look into that might be worthwhile if you're concerned about this issue. $30 million is a lot of money to spend just to try to get a certain group of people involved in a sport. It all just seems silly. Is the NBA dumping money into Chinatowns across the country to get more Asians involved in basketball? In the end, who cares how many blacks, whites, Mongolians, whomever play baseball as long as the product is good?

The Fanhouse piece misses a key point when comparing MLB's contribution to the RBI Program to an individual club's expenditures on Latin American academies. RBI is essentially a youth sports program for urban areas. The Latin American academies are an extension of each club's farm system, and it gives the club access to young and cheap labor.

This all ties into another hot button issue baseball faces: the draft and the potential globalization of it. Because Latin American countries, with the exception of Puerto Rico, are not subject to the draft, it's in a club's best interest to establish academies there to identify and develop talent, as well as to groom the 16 year old boys that they sign as international free agents.

If clubs had unfettered access to U.S. players, I'm sure they would invest as much, if not more, money into domestic academies as they do in foreign ones. But as the draft system stands right now, why should the Dodgers drop $10M on an academy in Compton only to see whatever talent they develop get snapped up by the other 29 clubs?

I'm all for MLB doing what it can to revive urban interest in the sport, but Terrence Moore is making quite a stretch in comparing an individual club's expenditures to develop professional talent in Latin America to the amount of money MLB spends as a whole on a individual youth program.

The biggest question here, I think, is: the Padres have eight million dollars?

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