Is baseball creating a new color barrier?
How ironic is it that major league baseball, the sport that broke the color barrier for American sports with its inclusion of Jackie Robinson in 1947, has now decided to spend $150 million to bring Blacks back to the sport, which they have been steadily abandoning for decades? Baseball intends to do this by creating programs of discrimination toward non-Blacks.
In the 1980s, Blacks had a high of 19% representation in the sport. Today, that number stands at 8%. Baseball does not include dark-skinned Hispanic players in that count. Therefore, players like Venezuela-born Ronald Acuna, Jr., who compares favorably with a player like Willie Mays in complexion and talent, are not counted among the 8%.
Consequently, baseball now wants to spend vast amounts of money to fund leagues, equipment, and tournaments specifically for young Black players. They also want to encourage more Black contractors and employees in their sport and sponsor scholarships specifically for Black youths.
Does baseball management not see the irony of establishing this reverse color barrier in their programs? Are they intentionally creating an affirmative action plan, complete with reparations, to atone for supposed injustices toward Blacks in the last decades? What will happen if a White youth or a light-skinned Black or a Hispanic applies to one of these programs? Will they really be rejected based on skin color? The optics of those rejections would not be good.
If MLB commissioner Rob Manfred had, he would realize that it is not just Blacks abandoning his sport, but also Whites. This ninny of a sports czar is the man responsible for taking the MLB All-Star game out of the diverse city of Atlanta and awarding it to the quite lily-white metropolis of Denver, all in the name of nondiscrimination and diversity. I'm sure that won over a few Atlanta youths of color to the game.
Baseball is failing its followers of all skin hues. In a world increasingly addicted to speed, baseball games last 25–40% longer than they did just a few decades ago. This glacial pacing of the contests, paired with players striking out at unprecedented rates, has created an often unwatchable spectacle, even for those of us who have been addicted to the sport for a lifetime. The increased affection for launch angles and resultant home runs has done far too little to maintain interest in the game. Inner-city kids want to play basketball, where the action never ends, and opportunities to display their athleticism are rife.
If Manfred wants to bring players and fans of all colors back to the sport, there are many things he can do. First, never again allow boneheaded political maneuvering to disrupt the game. The political arena is vast enough to provide all the room for partisan gamesmanship necessary for those thus inclined without tarnishing baseball or any other sport.
Second, institute some rule changes that would speed up those drawn out contests. The lack of a clock has always been a source of pride for the sport. But if the NBA can deal with a shot clock and the NFL a play clock, there is no reason why major league pitchers could not deal with a pitch clock. Hitters should be required to rid themselves of constant adjusting of equipment like batting gloves and get in the box and hit. Those two changes alone would shorten games to a more endurable length. I'm sure there are many more time-saving strategies available if the sport is so inclined.
I'm just an old white guy, but I would love to enjoy my beloved sport of baseball seated beside fans of any color, watching players of any hue. Let's make the game one that all, both players and spectators, can enjoy. If and when that happens, we won't have to waste time worrying about racial percentages in the sport. The players will be 100% guys who want to play the game, with 100% enthusiastic fans in attendance. And there are indeed better ways to spend $150 million.
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