MLB Insider: '42' reminds us diversity is still a major(s) issue

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL III , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 20, 2013 - 5:15 PM

Money, patience and reasonable expectations needed for more African-Americans to reach majors.

hide

The Braves’ B.J. Upton, wearing No. 42 as major league baseball honored Jackie Robinson last week, hit against Kansas City. He is one of the few African-Americans in the major leagues.

Photo: JOHN AMIS • Associated Press ,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Earlier this month, baseball fans were treated to the release of “42,” a well-done film that included gripping scenes of the challenges Jackie Robinson faced as he broke the color barrier.

But the movie was released a few days after it was learned that African-Americans made up only 8.5 percent of Opening Day rosters. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig recently announced the formation of a 17-member task force to study diversity in the game.

It’s time to point out that last summer Selig was asked about progress in this area during an appearance at the RBI (Revitalizing Baseball in the Inner Cities) World Series, which was hosted by the Twins at Target Field.

“We have spent a lot of money on academies,” Selig said then. “We have programs like this. I am satisfied [from watching] the minor leagues, watching the draft. I like what I’m seeing. I do think we are getting there.”

Last week, he wasn’t as optimistic.

“I really think our history is so brilliant when it comes to African-Americans,” Selig said. “You think about the late 1940s, the 1950s — wow. And you look at that and you say to yourself, ‘Why did it not continue, and what could we do to make sure it does continue?’ ”

In order for it to continue, it’s going to take money. It’s going to take patience. And it’s going to take managing expectations.

It’s a tall task to expect African-Americans to make up over 20 percent of rosters again like they did in the 1970’s. Since 2001, the percentage has fluctuated between 8.2 and 10.2 percent. The game still has many African-American stars — Matt Kemp, CC Sabathia, Jimmy Rollins, Andrew McCutchen, David Price, Prince Fielder, for example — that any young fan can follow.

MLB has done well with its national RBI program as well as its Urban Youth Academies. Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks played many games at the first academy, which opened in Compton, Calif., in 2006. He is the fourth player from the academy to reach the majors. Since then, academies have opened in Houston, Philadelphia and New Orleans.

If MLB wants to take the initiative to the next level, building more academies, supporting local leagues and investing in facilities can be part of the solution. Kids should have access to the game. But it will take several years before the work MLB does today will grow the game in the direction officials want it to grow. Can the league be that patient? Can sponsors be that patient?

And it’s really up to the kids. As much as MLB — and some of us — might want to see more African-American players, you can’t force them to fall in love with baseball. Any effort, however, should be commended.

Central Intelligence
 


Cleveland made some nice offensive additions during the offseason, in Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and Mark Reynolds. The Indians offense hasn’t done much yet, but it will.
The key to their relevance in the division will be what their pitching staff will do (sound familiar?). But Ubaldo Jimenez has a 21.00 ERA over his last two starts. On Wednesday, seven of the nine batters he faced scored.
“You can be frustrated by it or you can try to make it better,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “We choose to try to make it better.”
Going back to last season, Jimenez has won just four of his Past 25 starts.

• • •

The Royals have given up 18 homers in their first 14 games, putting them on pace for 208. Yet 15 of those have been solo shots. What the Royals should be more concerned about is that they have hit just five home runs of their own.

• • •

Torii Hunter hit .343 last season when he batted second in the lineup, between Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. He signed with the Tigers, and he’s hitting between Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera. Hunter entered Friday batting .413. What’s crazy is that he didn’t draw a walk until Tuesday.
 
Three observations ...
 

• The snapshot of the early season has to be Rockies owner Dick Monfort helping shovel snow at Coors Field on Tuesday. They could have given him a tractor, right?
• I was wrong about the Yankees struggling offensively while waiting for injured players to get healthy. Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells have kept things afloat.
• Who thought the A’s offense could be so productive? Hitting coach Chili Davis is having an impact.

... and two predictions

• The Twins will summon Kyle Gibson from the minors in late May.
• The Tigers will lead the AL Central by at least five games by the end of May.
 

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Detroit 69 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Portland 94 FINAL
Cleveland 99
Sacramento 102 FINAL
Toronto 119
Boston 98 FINAL
Minnesota 110
Dallas 94 FINAL
Houston 99
Denver 93 FINAL
New Orleans 85
Brooklyn 102 FINAL
Atlanta 113
Oklahoma City 92 FINAL
New York 100
Charlotte 86 FINAL
San Antonio 95
LA Clippers 94 FINAL
Utah 89
Washington 98 FINAL
Phoenix 106
Toronto 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Pittsburgh 0 FINAL
Washington 4
Chicago 3 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Temple 86 FINAL
UCF 62
Winthrop 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 68
Lafayette 59 FINAL
Colgate 54
Northeastern 60 FINAL
Drexel 65
Wake Forest 76 FINAL
Florida State 82
Rhode Island 64 FINAL
Fordham 63
Delaware 82 FINAL
James Madison 88
South Carolina 58 FINAL
LSU 64
New Hampshire 63 FINAL
Maine 58
Seton Hall 80 FINAL
Marquette 70
Binghamton 68 FINAL
UMBC 56
American Univ 54 FINAL
Navy 64
Elon 65 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 82
Wright State 76 FINAL
Oakland 84
Minnesota 58 FINAL
Penn State 63
Duquesne 55 FINAL
Richmond 86
SMU 63 FINAL
South Florida 52
Hartford 66 FINAL
Stony Brook 72
Albany 47 FINAL
Vermont 44
Hofstra 79 FINAL
William & Mary 100
UNC-Asheville 74 FINAL
Longwood 64
Radford 84 FINAL
Char Southern 77
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 73 FINAL
Notre Dame 77
Texas Tech 36 FINAL
Oklahoma 81
Oregon State 55 FINAL
Arizona State 73
Morehead State 82 FINAL
Austin Peay 69
Drake 69 FINAL
Bradley 57
Lehigh 62 FINAL
Bucknell 68
Rice 48 FINAL
Houston 59
Missouri State 57 FINAL
Illinois State 67
Loyola-Chicago 47 FINAL
Wichita State 58
Nebraska Omaha 64 FINAL
South Dakota St 86
Northern Iowa 59 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
Louisville 81 FINAL
Boston College 72
St Johns 74 FINAL
Creighton 77
East Carolina 58 FINAL
Memphis 70
Georgia Tech 70 FINAL
Miami-Florida 50
Miss State 73 FINAL
Ole Miss 79
Clemson 68 FINAL
NC State 57
Indiana 67 FINAL
Purdue 83
Kansas 64 FINAL
TCU 61
Oregon 56 FINAL
Arizona 90
Air Force 66 FINAL
San Jose St 52
Stanford 84 FINAL
Washington 74
Rider 56 FINAL
Siena 49
Dayton 76 FINAL
Richmond 62
Eastern Kentucky 53 FINAL
Jacksonville St 73
Saint Josephs 0 Postponed
Saint Louis 0
UMBC 71 FINAL
Binghamton 55
Akron 60 FINAL
Ohio U 72
Ball State 72 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 55
Memphis 56 FINAL
Cincinnati 44
East Carolina 32 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 87
Murray State 59 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 75
Kent State 63 FINAL
Central Michigan 65
UT Martin 64 FINAL
Tennessee St 58
Eastern Michigan 56 FINAL
Western Mich 83
Bucknell 61 FINAL
Lehigh 76
Indiana 57 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Colgate 56 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Fordham 66 FINAL
Davidson 45
Duquesne 76 FINAL
St Bonaventure 64
George Mason 66 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 70
Detroit 59 FINAL
Youngstown St 58
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
SMU 58 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Oklahoma St 54 FINAL
Kansas State 52
West Virginia 57 FINAL
Texas Tech 73
Denver 56 FINAL
South Dakota 82
Northwestern St 46 FINAL
Central Arkansas 63
Austin Peay 67 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 87
Kansas 61 FINAL
Iowa State 56
Bowling Green 50 FINAL
Northern Ill 67
Penn State 64 FINAL
Minnesota 75
San Jose St 80 FINAL
Air Force 83
Boise State 82 FINAL
Colorado State 83
Utah State 51 FINAL
Wyoming 86
San Diego State 50 FINAL
Fresno State 57
Nevada 52 FINAL
UNLV 75
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close