Finding ways to make baseball better has become an all-consuming topic in sports talk. Limit the number of relievers, end the intentional walk, limit the time and frequency of replays; all these issues and more have found their way to Commissioner Manfred’s desk.
Another area in need of improvement, in their minds, was found by The Good Phight, the blog at SB Nation which covers the Philadelphia Phillies. They discovered that there aren’t enough minorities in MLB broadcasting booths.
According to Hardball Talk, “Of 164 announcers in 30 teams’ booths, 148 (90.2 percent) are white men. Only nine are African-American men (5.5 percent), five are Latino men (3.0 percent), one is an Asian man (0.6 percent), and one is a white woman (0.6 percent).
“There are only two broadcast teams with multiple persons of color: the Twins (Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins) and Angels (Victor Rojas and Jose Mota). 17 broadcast teams are comprised of only white people.
“The broadcast booths do, however, reflect viewership. Cohen, citing Nielsen stats, notes that 83 percent of those who watch baseball on television are white and 70 percent are men.”
Bill Baer of Hardball Talk concludes by saying, “…I am pessimistic about baseball’s future with its reluctance to cater to a younger, more diverse audience. MLB was, until only very recently, behind the times in technology and social media and still is in some ways. It has made no effort to curb culture policing by white players past and present.
“If MLB wants to remain a mainstay in the sporting realm, it will have to bridge the demographic divide as much as it has recently bridged the technological divide.”
The idea that MLB hasn’t reached out to minorities is ridiculous. The league has hosted tournaments and helped build ballparks in inner-city neighborhoods for years. Commissioner Manfred even fired the league’s leadership search firm after teams failed to hire any minorities for managerial and GM positions.
Have those efforts yielded great results? Evidently not, but those failures should not be confused with a lack of effort. MLB has clearly attempted to increase its appeal to minorities.
The problem is, despite those efforts minorities don’t necessarily seem more interested in playing baseball. Perhaps that will change in the near future. Hopefully it will, yet right now it doesn’t seem clear that MLB’s efforts have worked.
Which brings us to the point about the study pertaining to the lack of minority broadcasters. The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough African-Americans in the broadcast booth, the problem is that there aren’t enough of them on the field.
Channeling Hillary Clinton here for a moment, what difference does it make, if MLB teams hire more black broadcasters? Are black high school and college players going to become more likely to pursue a career in baseball because the number of black broadcasters directly mirrors the percentage of blacks in the general population?
What baseball needs, especially after the retirement of Vin Scully the greatest sports broadcaster of all time, is an infusion of great story-tellers and word-picture artists. If those guys happen to be black, then great. What we don’t need is yet another social justice crusade.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn