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April 21, 2017

Prospectus Feature

TIDES Report: Gender and Race in MLB

by Kate Morrison

This week, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) released their 2017 report card for Major League Baseball’s hiring and employment practices regarding racial and gender diversity. When grading MLB, TIDES looks at a variety of positions at the league level, the team level, and the organization itself, including the makeup of on-field or field-related staff as well as executives.

Their findings were not surprising to anyone who has been following the recent news cycles around hiring within Major League Baseball. While the league itself (specifically, the commissioner’s office, MLB Advanced Mecia, and MLB Network) scored the highest in both racial and gender diversity, the gender diversity number specifically dropped from 2016. On a team level, the gender diversity situation was even worse, with senior team administration receiving a D+ and professional administration a C-.

If we break these numbers down further, and look at how many of the women filling 27 percent of the “team senior administration” and 28.1 percent of the “team professional administration” roles are in positions that are—while incredibly important to the health of the team as a business—not related to the product on the field, the world is even bleaker. TIDES provides a breakdown of every woman and person of color in these senior roles, and the list of women only has six out of 82 women in roles that could be considered to have an impact on-field (athletic trainers, coaches, or scouts), and two of these are general “vice president” positions, with two others being “general partner” roles[1].

When we look at the 28 percent of women employed in “professional administration roles,” we have to take into account that TIDES includes specialists, technicians, analysts, engineers, and programmers alongside “assistant managers, coordinators, supervisors, and administrators in business operations such as marketing, promotions, publications, and various other departments.” When restricted to, again, roles that directly impact the product on the field, that 28 percent is almost certainly much lower.

While MLB overall scored a B for racially diverse hiring practices in 2017, this again represented a falling off from their score in 2016—somehow, in a single year, the league lost 8.5 points off their TIDES-given score. People of color fill 44.3 percent of coaching roles, but as we know, only three current MLB managers are men of color. The league office employs the next-highest level of people of color in all positions, at 28.1 percent, with the teams falling off steeply from that—only 11.7 percent of vice president or equivalent positions.

What does this all mean?

If you’re still with us after the stats textbook case-study above, how does this affect the baseball community, down to individual blogs? After all, the report only states what we already knew, just in greater detail. Baseball in general is terrible at the hiring and promoting of women and people of color.

Recently, R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports wrote about “baseball’s next Moneyball,” which he considers to be the hiring of front office personnel (specifically, scouts) from various public-facing websites such as this one. A notable presence missing from his piece[2]? Women. If, as Anderson’s piece suggests, public evaluation and analysis sites are being used as a kind of development system for front offices to pluck from, then the overwhelming white maleness of our websites is part of the root of the problem, not just a symptom of it.

The Baseball Prospectus article “The Perils of MLB’s Sorting System” dove deep into this problem, and found that a great deal of the lack of diversity can be related back to the traditional entry points into the front office—the internship system, which creates a need for both financial security and in-league connections. Now that baseball writing, or public-facing evaluation, seems to be somewhere that teams are attempting to use as a development system for their future hirees, it would seem that more doors are open—and yet the numbers have gotten worse across the board.

This is due to the lack of women and people of color writing in an analytics or evaluation capacity for mainstream sites. The questions then are: How do we more effectively reach a broader base with opportunities for mentorship, exposure, and potential advancement in the world of baseball? A lot of baseball writers come out of team-specific communities—how can we reach into these communities and find talented people there? How can we encourage an environment where these people will flourish?

This particular point is made more difficult by the fact that a good number of team-based communities are either indifferent or actively hostile toward their female fans, in particular, and this part of the culture is not limited to those communities. It’s hard to find women writing about baseball when those women are inherently treated as something lesser—when the default is to assume that they don’t know those jobs.

The only way any of this will be solved—both the lack of inclusion of women and of people of color—is through concerted effort. Both the league and these outside sites must find and hire and develop anyone with an interest. It’s not easy, this. It takes actual effort to find people, instead of just relying on the hundreds of resumes that pour in for every hiring call, but it’s a much-needed effort. MLB’s nascent support of women’s baseball is a step in the right direction for increasing the gender diversity of their on-field staff, but these girls are at most 16 years old, meaning that we can’t expect to truly see the results of these experiments for nearly a decade to come.

Both sides of the equation are playing chicken, seeing who will “solve” diversity—particularly gender diversity—first. Women don’t write about baseball (in general) because they don’t grow up playing it, or when they try, they are excluded and discouraged from roles that men are welcomed into with mentors and open arms. If there were more women in baseball decision-making roles, perhaps there would be more women writing about them. If there were more women writing about baseball decisions, perhaps there’d be more women in those important roles[3]. Too many people don’t know that a front office career path is something they could even consider, or are pushed away from baseball before they can make that discovery.

It’s 2017. It’s time to do better. After all of this, one thing is clear. All the report cards in the world are only so much finger wagging if MLB, and the community in general, doesn’t actually make an effort to change things. If we do make this effort, it will only be for the best. The highest quality work comes out of having a wide pool of viewpoints, experiences, and opinions from which to draw, and baseball as a whole will only benefit from the highest quality work possible.

[1] Author Note: The last thing I want to do is imply that the other 78 women employed in vice president or equivalent roles are not important to their clubs. Their work is vital to the success of baseball—but Baseball Prospectus is not AdAge, a law review, or Fast Company. We deal with the game itself, for the most part.

[2] This isn’t to say that Anderson excluded women deliberately, but that there are few to include.

[3] This also goes for more writers of color, especially women writers of color. Baseball has a lot of problems it’s not really open to discussing.

Kate Morrison is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kate's other articles. You can contact Kate by clicking here

Related Content:  MLB,  TIDES

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