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On June 10, the evening of the MLB Draft, Commissioner Rob Manfred read a statement in support of Black Lives Matter. Each team’s general manager/president of baseball operations/head honcho held a sign on their live feed that read, “Black Lives Matter, United for Change.” Since games have resumed, players are now “permitted” to kneel in support of Black Lives Matter, and pitcher’s mounds displayed BLM emblems (before giving way to advertisements).

As Baseball Prospectus’ Shakeia Taylor wrote, MLB’s words and actions accomplish very little. “What MLB’s Black Lives Matter campaign lacks is bite. It lacks substance and effort. It lacks … a plan of action. T-shirts, pre-anthem kneeling, a suddenly ‘woke’ social media team, and a video voiced by a legendary Black actor are not actually effective in fighting systemic racism.” Instead of performance, MLB could make a more significant difference by evaluating their own practices that repress Black players. 

As one of the authors of this article discovered, white players are promoted through the minors at a 3-4% higher rate than their BIPOC counterparts. To discern why this occurs, it’s important to take a more granular look at the underlying biases—specifically regarding positions on the field—that contribute to promotion bias as well as the overall dwindling participation of Black players in MLB.

In studying where players of different races end up on the field, we found three major trends. One is that Black players have been systematically locked out of the catching position to an extraordinary degree. Two, Black players everywhere else on the field tend to get pushed into the outfield, even those that start out at theoretically more valuable positions in the infield (shortstop, second base). Finally, and most depressingly, these barriers to equitable participation of Black players have not improved at all in the last decade, despite the movement towards a theoretically more objective player-evaluation methodology that should have cut through racial biases.

Before we get to the results, here are a few quick notes on our methodology. As in a previous study, we used invaluable race/ethnicity data provided by Mark Armour and Daniel Levitt. (Their data only covers players who made the majors, which is an important limitation.) They broke players down into one of four categories: African-American, Asian, Latino, and White. Racial identity is more complex than any single categorization can encompass (for example, Afro-Latino people make up a significant subset of the players in MLB), but this grouping is a first step towards understanding biases in MLB. The data set uses African-American/Canadian as separate from Latino, and Afro-Latino players are classified as Latino for the purposes of the data set and this article.

We broke down each player and season by the position they spent the majority of their defensive time at. This method flattens versatile players to their most common spot on the field. We also examined the position each player debuted at (where they spent their first season in the majors). For this study, we excluded pitchers; while there are racial biases in whether players become pitchers vs. position players, we wanted to focus only on the latter group.

Two major disparities jump out from this chart. The most glaring concerns a lack of Black catchers—there are about one-tenth as many Black catchers as there should be (~2%), based on the proportion of catchers among other races (~20%). Second is the overwhelming majority of Black outfielders. While outfielders compose about 25-40% of the player-seasons among other races, they make up about 70% of the Black players in baseball. We’ll treat these two disparities in the following sections.

Why Are There So Few Black Catchers?

On September 23, 2017, A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell knelt during the national anthem in support of Black Lives Matter. This act was somewhat more common in the NFL, albeit no less controversial, where Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid led a movement that spread to nearly all 32 teams. In MLB, though, Maxwell knelt alone. A few weeks ago, ESPN’s Howard Bryant profiled his exile from MLB. (Coincidentally, he signed with the Mets a few weeks later.)

Even without kneeling and the saga that ensued, Maxwell is unlike any of his MLB peers. According to our data, which runs through 2016, he is the only Black catcher to play in MLB who debuted after 2009, and one of only two who debuted after 1999. 

The overall percentage of Black players in MLB has dwindled from 13.6-6.7% over this timeframe, but clearly there is not even representation at all positions, and Black catchers in MLB have all but disappeared. 

In April, The Undefeated’s Claire Smith wrote an excellent piece exploring the absence of Black catchers. She described many potential reasons in her article, including unequal access to catching equipment, biases of both old-school and new-school scouting methods, and stereotypes about tools needed for each position.

While all 30 MLB organizations share some blame for the dearth of Black catchers, the problem has roots that reach into collegiate, high school, and even youth leagues. Plenty of players transition off of catching in the minors, but very few switch to catcher from other positions. More than likely, if a player isn’t drafted or signed as a catcher, they’re never going to become one (with a few exceptions such as Robinson Chirinos and Isiah Kiner-Falefa). Major League Baseball teams may be less likely to draft Black catchers for several of Smith’s aforementioned reasons, but a big part of the problem is that many Black players don’t reach draft eligibility as catchers in the first place. To foster real, genuine change, MLB will not only have to address their own scouting, drafting, and development systems, but also work with their feeder leagues– including the NCAA, Little League, and showcase circuit promoters– to encourage better positional representation at all levels.

Athletic Black Players Are Funneled Into The Outfield

The flipside of the nearly-complete absence of Black catchers is an overabundance of players in the outfield. That comports with stereotypes of Black players expressed in scouting reports and evaluations: mainly that they are “speedy” but “raw,” and thus perhaps unsuitable for the infield.

Black players are especially prevalent in center field. Considering the athleticism required to play there, there ought to be many more Black shortstops than there are, but instead they are significantly under-represented at that position.

Black players are significantly more likely to debut in the infield than they are to stick there. It’s normal for players to move towards the outfield as they get older, slower and less defensively proficient, but the proportion of white outfielders remains basically the same in debut seasons and full careers. Black players, by contrast, are significantly more likely to begin at second base and shortstop and then later get moved out to center or left field.

The skew towards outfielders has other implications for Black players in the league. As Cameron Maybin observed in an interview with Howard Bryant, “if a guy shows any athleticism, he gets pushed to the outfield, so we’re really competing against each other for the same jobs.” Concentrating all the players of one race into a handful of positions limits their opportunities. Because two-thirds of outfield positions are not especially defensively valuable, the practice also limits wages. A great shortstop is in line for a significantly larger payday than a great left fielder.

And since players tend to move down the defensive spectrum as they get older, the bias towards the outfield may also limit Black players’ longevity in the league. A player who starts at shortstop can move to third base before transitioning into a corner outfield spot or first base. But a player who starts in left or right field has nowhere left to go, so without a standout bat, they may end up out of the league altogether.

***

You might expect that these positional disparities would have started to disappear in recent years. With the rise of sabermetrics and a focus on data over ill-defined and empirically-unsupported stereotypes, Black shortstops (for example) should have ceased being unjustly shifted into the outfield.

Unfortunately, the statistics show that biases against Black catchers and towards Black outfielders have persisted. In the last 10 seasons (2010-2019), there were fewer Black player-seasons at backstop than in the 10 years prior (2000-2009). The same regression appears for the outfield: Black players spent more time in the three outfield spots in the last 10 years than in the decade before.

To some extent, racial biases in positions occur before front offices ever get involved. Racist decisions made when future major leaguers are children may push them onto athletic tracks that result in their shunting to specific positions. But that does not absolve front offices of a responsibility to combat those decisions. If the game is to improve its representation and eliminate racism, it has to start with decision-makers taking small and large steps alike, from asking why a Black prospect shouldn’t try their hand at catching to encouraging feeder leagues (like the NCAA) to take on their own racial biases.

There is also a performance-based argument for front offices to take on racism (although that shouldn’t be nearly as persuasive as the moral imperative). It’s undoubtedly the case that plenty of Black outfielders would have made more valuable shortstops, catchers, or second basemen (or pitchers, for that matter). By never allowing them that chance, teams have gravely misallocated their talent and likely wasted the abilities of some of their best players.

Some of baseball’s more pernicious racial disparities ultimately stem from these positional imbalances. For example, managers are overwhelmingly drawn from the ranks of former catchers, so decisions about where on the field to put a promising prospect can manifest decades later as a severe paucity of Black coaches and skippers. The only way to solve this issue and others is to correct the problem at the source: when Black players are funneled away from their natural positions on the diamond and into the outfield. That’s a job teams, front offices, scouts, and coaches at all levels ought to take seriously, for the good of the game.

Thank you for reading

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jssharo
7/31
"Racist decisions made when future major leaguers are children may push them onto athletic tracks that result in their shunting to specific positions. But that does not absolve front offices of a responsibility to combat those decisions."

But it really does. You just don't start becoming a catcher at age 18 and have any success at it. Nothing MLB realistically can do about it. And that might be a good thing for the black athletes who might have been catchers but play other positions instead; catchers probably make less and have shorter careers than any other positions.
Robert Arthur
7/31
"You just don't start becoming a catcher at age 18 and have any success at it."
Russell Martin, the Hall of Fame-caliber catcher who played for 14 years and made more than $100 million, would like a word. He converted to C from 3B at around age 20.

In all seriousness, I know that the conventional wisdom is that catcher takes a long time to learn and perhaps there are more catcher-conversion failures that we don't hear about. But there also seem to be cases like Martin and Isiah Kiner-Falefa who can convert and in some cases even become better players for it.
jssharo
7/31
Fair points but your response is anecdotal and thus limited.

A separate but related question is the idea of conversions to catcher once players pass into the MLB coaching sphere. I would think we would need more data than is available, I would like to know who usually initiates them, conversion success rates (and what defines success?), ages, race/ethnicity and quite a bit more.

And Russell Martin as a HOF case, ehh? Not convinced --- you would be giving a lot of weight to the newer fielding stats to get him there, wouldn't you.
Mike Juntunen
8/01
Buster Posey and Austin Barnes are also examples of players who converted to catching as collegiate or professional players.

It is not as uncomon as you make it out to be.
kozysnacker
7/31
"Black players, by contrast, are significantly more likely to begin at second base and shortstop and then later get moved out to center or left field."

To clarify, does this suggest Black players get shifted at the lower levels or after MLB debut? In other words, were they counted as 2B/SS in the chart above, then later moved to CF?
Robert Arthur
7/31
The chart in the article is for all player-seasons. I also looked at the distribution of positions for only *debut* seasons (in MLB). Thus, Black players sometimes debut at SS/2B, but then move off them later on in their MLB career.
kozysnacker
7/31
Okay, I see that now. The mention of examining debut seasons in the paragraph before the chart had thrown me off. Thanks for clarifying, Rob.
Paul Willard
7/31
No one cares BP. Push your social cases somewhere else.
BRIAN DUNN
7/31
Very much agree. i don't come here for social science.
John Johnston
7/31
Agreed. BP, we come here for baseball, not for social engineering. Please have this stuff published elsewhere.
Harvey Leff
7/31
Lenny Webster was great!
David Sullivan
7/31
Quiet down, snowflakes. And stop saying "we". Not everyone on this site is an old white guy scared of confronting the possibility that his favorite "scrappy" infielder benefited from an unequal playing field.
John Johnston
7/31
David, my favorite baseball player is Satchel Paige and I’m nobody’s snowflake and if you knew anything about me then you’d know that I’m not scared of anything. So watch the childish insults.
David Sullivan
7/31
I can't be racist! My favorite baseball player is black! Also I'm anonymous on the Internet so let me brag about how tough I am. That's some good use of cliches.
John Johnston
8/02
Wow, David, you really are a personally insulting troll with no arguments and just false ad hominem attacks. This is my real name, I’m not anonymous, and I spent my life running to danger, not away from it. But then a troll like you only lives to try to get under people’s skins, so...goodbye. Go lie about someone else, I’m going to ignore you.
StarkFist
8/01
I find this kind of article fascinating. I saw the title, knew what it was about, and clicked it because of that. You, on the other hand, had the option of skipping it, being the title left little to the imagination.
Craig Goldstein
7/31
Then don't click on the articles that don't meet your desired outcome. Pretty sure the title was clear on this one. We're going to continue publishing articles like this.
Cal White
7/31
I'm with you, Craig. This was an interesting article.
Craig Goldstein
7/31
Clearly disproved by the people in the comments saying they appreciate the article and research, but thanks for playing.
Jaswant Brar
7/31
I come here only for the social science. So I guess I cancel you out.
Jeremy Pink
7/31
I care.
vavoulis
7/31
Disagree. I find this to be both extremely interesting, and important. Keep it up BP!
Cliff Mayo
7/31
Well written and well supported. Thanks for this.
Jeremy Pink
7/31
Interesting case to watch: This year, the Milwaukee Brewers drafted Central Michigan's Xavier Warren, a switch-hitter lauded for his athleticism (played mostly SS at CMU), and the Brewers intend on moving him to catcher, which he played back in high school.
Daniel R. Epstein
8/01
Thank you, Jeremy. I wasn't aware of Warren and I will definitely be interested in his progress. I would also question why, if he could play catcher in high school and play catcher in the minors, he couldn't play catcher in college.
John Johnston
7/31
Whites are dramatically underrepresented in the NBA. I have never once seen an article about the racism that must be involved in that.

Seriously, do you even care that a bunch of us don’t care for this stuff? I know your standard reply is “Well, then, don’t read it,” but these articles are taking up money and space that could have been spent on articles about actual baseball and not social engineering.
Craig Goldstein
7/31
No, I don't care that a bunch of you don't care for this stuff.
Steven Goldman
7/31
Respectfully, John: Baseball is an expansive subject and there's no pulling it apart from the world in which it is played. Jackie Robinson should have taught us that. Hell, Fleet Walker should have taught us that. This publication has always been dedicated to exploring the reality of every aspect of the game. You expect us to gerrymander our coverage to suit your ideological preferences, which is unfair to us, to other readers, and to the subject itself. It contravenes our entire mission and would limit us to doing the least-challenging work when our place in the world has been based on doing the most-challenging work.

What's difficult for me to understand or empathize with is a reader who says, "Please challenge my assumptions on platooning or the bunt or the shift or if Mike Trout is as good as he looks or if the ball is juiced but don't you DARE ask me to have the same open mind about the following list of baseball topics." That bifurcation is not on us to interrogate.

Finally, as someone who has commissioned literally thousands of articles for this site, who has edited the site and the books, I can attest that when we have a good story we don't kick another good one out the door. No publication does that and we don't. We just make room for one more. Whatever you're here for, we publish the same amount of it we would regardless of what appears in the commentary section.
Nick Faleris
7/31
This is a really thoughtful response. Thanks for taking the time to lay it out as you did.
Llarry
7/31
Is there *any* evidence that the NBA is passing over white guys simply for being white? They've gone out and signed white guys from places like Spain and Lithuania, which tells me that they're not finding what they're looking for in the US. Doesn't sound like systematic racism to me...
cblok
7/31
Baseball (and other sports) all operate within the real world with all its social issues. The sport employs real people who have individuality and identities that make them who they are. Baseball donates and endorses all types of causes (e.g., cancer research, youth initiatives, the military). It has fans all across the world from all races, ethnicities, socioeconomic status, etc. So when you say articles like these aren't "actual baseball" I struggle to understand what you mean. Baseball is made up of the people in it and who support it.
David Sullivan
7/31
I have no idea if you're dumb or not, but that's a really dumb argument.
kozysnacker
7/31
Not that you were sincerely curious, but the reason why racial disparity in NBA is different is that the average white kid does not lack the resources or the opportunity to play the sport at a competitive level. In contrast, to play high-level amateur baseball is to engage in travel teams and private coaching that the average black kid can't afford.
Llarry
7/31
Roy Campanella. Elston Howard. John Roseboro. Elrod Hendricks. Earl Battey. They could play the position. And today's kids can't? You're right, I just don't get it.

Russell Martin is from Canada. While he may have converted from 3B later, could he have had more exposure to C growing up?

I know there's no good way to separate Latino and Afro-Latino, but I remember the days of Manny Sanguillen, Ellie Rodriguez, and Paul Casanova, and wonder if the same effect has been happening, just more invisibly.
John Dalton
7/31
👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼Great piece!
Richard Cramer
7/31
Is it possible that the positional decision-making is itself objective, but an unfortunate consequence of earlier disadvantages, such as are cited in connection with Covid-related racial disparities? (I remember Campanella and Roseboro in a much darker time ..)
Maureen Mielke
7/31
Not this crap again!
Patrick
7/31
This is a thought-provoking piece, for sure. It's the same kind of question as "Why are there (proportionally) so few black quarterbacks?" and the answers are probably similar.
Llarry
7/31
Yes, it seems to be very similar. For years, black college quarterbacks got shifted to other positions (Marlin Briscoe...), which is probably part of why Warren Moon first went to Canada. In the '70s, Joe Gilliam (Steelers) was the first starter, but he lost the job through personal (drug) issues. James Harris was able to hold down the job, and then Doug Williams actually won a Super Bowl (and MVP). That helped a lot, but even throughout the '90s and '00s, black quarterbacks were generally seen as runners first, passers second (Michael Vick). Randall Cunninghham and Donovan McNabb managed to become real passers. Finally, today, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson can do pretty much anything they want in or out of the pocket, but it's been a long time coming.
Jim Maher
7/31
I read an article some years ago about why so many major leaguers, especially short stops, come from San Pedro de Macoris (?) in the Dominican Republic, attributing it as I recall to playing in small spacer requiring ultra fast reflexes. Might more African-American centerfielders be related to greater speed covering space and Latino infielders related to the conditions they learn the game in? Correlation doesn't prove causation. Other explanations should be sought. For that matter, left handed pitchers hit the majors older than righties-- I doubt that proves bias against lefties. But as a hypothesis racism certainly is a possibility.
newsense
7/31
Most MLB position players were SS at some point (in HS or college if not as pros). So in a sense you could have a team of position players who are all MLB caliber hitters and are notionally all "shortstops", most of whom must be moved down the defensive spectrum, if you have two players who are equally good at an infield position but one is a better outfielder, that player ends up in the outfield. Generally that has something to do with sprint speed relative to other forms of agility or quickness and Black athletes tend to outperform whites in that category. It's similar to Adam Smith's theory of comparative advantage.
Craig Goldstein
7/31
This logic doesn't hold up at all. Maaaaaybe for center field, but not at all in terms of "sprint speed" in regards to other outfield categories, and also ignores prior research both here and elsewhere regarding systemic biases against Black players, nor does any of it address the lack of Black third basemen or catchers.
newsense
7/31
It doesn’t explain catchers but 3B are infielders so the same logic applies. Also note that the SS imbalance favors Latinos more than whites. Where does that come from. Most of the logic in this article consists of:
1. Obviously racism exists
2. Here is a racial disparity
3. Racism must be the explanation
Craig Goldstein
7/31
I disagree, in that many corner outfielders are less athletic than third basemen. Your logic also doesn't address that there would clearly exist within the talent pool players that aren't uniformly athletic and have similar skill sets to the white players that end up on those other infield positions. And yes, racial stereotypes can drive Latinos to certain positions, just as it can drive African-Americans off them. I'm not sure that proves what you're implying it does.
Mike Juntunen
8/01
Newsense, the issue with your comment is that you make a common mistake: You assume racism is a motivation. That to be racist something must be done with the intention of discriminating or treating people differently. That is racial animus. Racism is about -outcomes-. If a policy or a decision has a disproportionate impact on people of different racial backgrounds, -that policy or decision are racist even if they had the best intentions-. Racism is a result. The way baseball handles black baseball players is racist - because it has outcomes that are not just different, but worse for black players. -That doesn't mean the people making the decisions are intentionally trying to do that-. It makes no statement whatsoever about their motivations. It is a description of the outcome.

Hope this helps.
Michael Jones
8/02
That may be your definition of the word, but I don't believe that's how most people view it. For most people, when you talk about racism, you're talking about an evil, inappropriate and ugly attitude towards a certain people. The word racist and racism, when used, is a nasty charge and implies an improper motivation. Go accuse someone of a racist action, and then see if they accept the explanation "Oh, I don't think you meant to be racist on purpose, you just happened to be racist because the result of your policy."
Jim Maher
8/13
ACtually I disagree-- there are more people with lactose intolerance who are Black, and more with Cystic fibrosis who are White. If I have more patients in my practice who are being treated for lactose intolerance who are Black and more with Cystic fibrosis who are whitd, that doesn't mean that my policy for treatment is racist. If my treatment for lactose intolerance had a disproportionate impact on Blacks, that is just because there are more of them. You assume that we are all the same, but we are biologically different in many ways--- not superior but different. More Blacks are opting out of the NFL because of sickle trait-- that is appropriate and not racist.
Maureen Mielke
7/31
I see BP comment moderators must have same philosophy as Chinese State internet censures/moderators.
Craig Goldstein
7/31
It's remarkable how removing a racist comment from someone suddenly makes them analogize it to oppressed speech. It's not really that hard not to be offensive. If you are, I'm going to remove it.
John Johnston
7/31
There are a thousand things I could write in response, but I’m not going to write any of them because your mind is obviously made up.
John Johnston
7/31
That was my response to Craig’s response to me, way up the thread. The BP comment software is truly awful.
Chad Ronnander
7/31
There are so many problems -- or maybe I should say non-problems -- with this article, I don't know where to begin.
There are few Black catchers. There are (comparatively) many Black outfielders. And overall, the percentage of Major League players who are are Black has declined significantly over the past few decades. All of this is true. But these facts are not proof of racial bias, and the article offers little else other than to assert over and over again on this flimsy evidence that (White) baseball is guilty of a grave injustice.
The article says nothing, because it knows nothing, about where individual players might actually want to play. It says nothing, because it doesn't want to know anything, about how center fielders are paid compared to catchers. It ignores the fact that many Black kids seem to be choosing other sports or career paths instead of baseball -- or that other people of color might be competing effectively for the same spots. It implies that the players themselves should perceive a great injustice -- even though there is no evidence that any of them do.
(Cameron Maybin's statement is only true of all the players -- they are competing against each other for the same jobs. We knew that already. And is the other going to accuse Maybin of racist language for saying that Blacks who play the outfield have shown "athleticism"?)
On this flimsy evidence, we get a lot of unjustified phrases like "practices that repress Black players," "systematically locked out," "gravely misallocated their talent," and "funneled away from their natural positions ..." This is becoming all to common these days. We don't have to prove anything, we just use a bunch of loaded phrases and defy anyone to challenge our point of view.
Bad writing. Black folks have a plenty uphill battle as it is. We don't need you picking fights for us where there really aren't any. We're doing just fine in baseball. Focus on helping us control the police forces and the really important stuff, or just write about baseball.
Pelatti
8/01
If the premise of this article is true, that there are so few black catchers because of racism, it seems there would be a competitive advantage to recruiting undervalued black players to the catching position (or more generally to any position since black players are undervalued according to your thesis). I find it very hard to believe that the MLB, consciously or unconsciously, would prioritize racism over competitive advantage. There are so many smart analysts in the MLB, presumably almost as smart as (if less moral than) the analysts at BP, that could recognize this and leverage it to advantage.
Mike Juntunen
8/02
Friend, I don't think you understand how racism works. Teams are not consciously or unconsciously choosing racism over competitiveness; they are allowing racism to skew their perspective to perceive black players as less capable of filling certain roles and more capable of filling other roles, based on preconceptions about athletic ability and intelligence.

This is exactly what you saw with black quarterbacks in the NFL for years - black athletes who were successful college QBs were pre-emptively moved off the position for WR roles, often being drafted at a position they had never played, in the perception that they could not handle the complexity of the NFL playbook and QB role, but that the athleticism that had let them succeed as QBs 'despite that' would allow them to flourish at the athletically-demanding WR position.

It's only very recently - with guys like Mahomes, Newton, Wilson, etc - that NFL teams allowed these guys to even attempt to stick at the QB position. Warren Moon had to go demonstrate that he was the best QB in the history of the CFL for an extensive period to get a chance at an NFL QB job. The racism is usually unconscious, but it is in the perception of what the player is capable of or CAN BECOME capable of, because players are pushed into roles in development based on their perceived potential in most cases.
Michael Jones
8/02
This is to Mike J. What you describe was well documented in football, but where's the evidence that that is happening in baseball with respect to the catching position? This same author wrote an article about 5 months ago about the wear and tear on the body that catching does. The same article described the cases of Josh Donaldson being a non-prospect before he switched positions. And the fact that Bryce Harper caught in high school and junior college. Isn't it possible that African-American baseball athletes take a look at factors like that and say "I don't think I want to play catcher."

The author didn't even attempt to make the African-American quarterback parallel to the catching position. The people quoted in the article didn't say they wanted to play catcher and were told no.

It's quite possible that African-American youths look up to African-American baseball players, see that they don't usually play catcher and want to play the positions they typically do play. But that doesn't establish a racist reason for the lack of African-American catchers.

Let's suppose that a coach sees a young man and sees that he is the fastest player on the field. Is it racist to think that that player's speed would be more valuable at another position? I can imagine a coach leaning in that direction no matter the race. This article assumes racism from the fact that African-American athletes are underrepresented at the position without evidence.
newsense
8/01
My argument is based upon the idea that skill sets are not uniform- this comes from Adam Smith. There are Black players whose skill sets are more similar to the majority of white players and vice versa. That’s why there are some black infielders and white outfielders - the numbers are disproportionately low, just not zero.
Craig Goldstein
8/01
And it's the same argument trotted out when there were disproportionately low Black QBs in the NFL, etc. I understand the theory, I think it's a weak one.
newsense
8/02
If you reduce racism to the existence of disparities, everything is reduced to quotas and there is no point in any deeper understanding of how things come about.
Craig Goldstein
8/02
Except it's not simply reduced to disparities. This is one article among many on the subject, including a linked one that address BIPOC players getting promoted at a lower rate than white players.
newsense
8/03
Your citing other articles that, with various degrees of credibility, identify racism is sports repeats the logic that I called out earlier:

1. Obviously racism exists
2. Here is a racial disparity
3. Racism must be the explanation
newsense
8/02
Calling an argument weak without explaining why is the weakest argument of all
Craig Goldstein
8/02
I don't think it's particularly necessary to explain why applying Adam Smith's constructs to racial subsets is a bad idea, much less a weak one, and as I said the very same arguments were made about Black quarterbacks and it was weak then, too.
newsense
8/03
Again, no explanation other than my theory is less conducive to your worldview. The point is that you think you KNOW what the correct explanation is, so you can't be bothered to fairly consider other points of view. That's inimical to what BP has stood for. BTW, I am not convinced my theory is correct, it just bothers me you won't consider it on the merits.
Craig Goldstein
8/03
I don't claim to know the correct explanation but I find the information presented more compelling than your theory. I know in the other post you're claiming it follows those 1-3 steps, but you're also unwilling to accept that it seems like it is that because some other less plausible explanation might exist. Adam Smith's theories are great starting points but a ton of work has gone into proving that we're not rational actors but rather ones subject to a significant number of biases and heuristics and a lot of those are racist (intentionally and not) because our brains function by categorization and stereotyping to make sense of the amount of data we take into account. I don't really accept that this is just the "natural order" because across sports and other jobs it's proven out not to be about distributing resources efficiently so much as it is about power dynamics.
newsense
8/01
Yes corner outfielders can be less athletic than 3B. But it’s a question of relative ability at the two positions:

Say there’s an objective rating on a 1-10 scale

Player A
3B 6
LF 9

Player B
3B 5
LF 5
Player C
3B 9
LF 6

If you’re choosing from A and B, A (more athletic) plays LF and B plays 3B.

If you’re choosing from B and C, B plays LF and C (more athletic) plays 3B
3B
Robert Hightower
8/01
Whatever happen to " someone else is just better than you"? Not having organized baseball in majority of black communities in cities is killing the black player opportunities.
John Johnston
8/02
There is also the argument that baseball requires a large group of people to play it and special equipment and a special field, where all basketball requires is a ball and a hoop, which makes basketball much easier to play as a young man in an urban environment. I’m not sure that I buy that argument but I’ve heard it repeatedly from people of multiple colors.
Michael Jones
8/01
In this entire exercise, has anyone identified any comment from any African-American player who said that he wanted to play catcher, but was either told that wasn't a place for African-Americans to play? Or has anyone identified any comment from any African-American players that they felt, even if it was unstated, that the catching position was off-limits to them?

With the African-American quarterback situation, we have documented evidence of people saying the position was off limits for various reasons, not the least of which was the ugly conclusion that they didn't think African-Americans had the mental capacity to play the position, or that they thought their fanbase couldn't handle the fact that an African-American would be in such a prominent position on the field.

I've never seen anything like this in regards to the catcher position. I didn't play major league baseball, or even in college, but if this is something that's rooted in youth sports, I can tell you the overwhelming majority of people, regardless of color, have no interest in catching because of the wear and tear it takes on your body. I remember very clearly when I put on the tools of ignorance, that people looked at me like I was crazy.

Isn't it just possible that African-Americans, by and large, just don't want to play catcher? And that they are the smart ones?
John Johnston
8/02
An interesting point. When I played baseball - no, not professionally - nobody want to be a catcher. Starting with Little League, people were drafted into it, usually shorter and, well, squattier people. (I got put at third base because I had reflexes and an arm.) Catcher was never considered a glory position (and neither was third base) like pitcher, shortstop, or center fielder. My friend remained stuck at catcher all the way through high school - he liked to play, but he would have rather played another position. As far as I’m concerned, anybody who wants to play catcher is welcome to it.
John Johnston
8/02
Want = wanted. BP, when are you going to get some commenting software from this century that actually allows editing typos?
brewerstt
8/03
I think this article invited more pushback than it might have, if handled differently. The title promises more than the article delivers. The article shows a disparity, but the rest amounts to a hypothesis that is a reasonable one to explore, but that is not provided any robust support here. At a site where such an article rests side by side with scientifically robust analysis, it would have been a better idea to present this material less excitedly, that is, here are some interesting new findings, and here are some questions it raises that deserve further inquiry.
Nick Faleris
8/03
I sort of felt the same. Incredibly interesting data. Not sure the legwork gets us to the various conclusions asserted by the authors, but it has had me thinking ever since I read it. I hope BP follows through on this thought with a deeper dive delivering a little more meat.
brewerstt
8/04
Agreed.
H
8/03
"I used, with permission, a database of race information originally gathered by Mark Armour and Daniel Levitt for their landmark study on the demographics of MLB. A limitation (but for my purposes, in some ways a strength) of the data is that it only covers players who received at least some MLB playing time"

If anyone in the comments wants to mess around with this sort of data on their own time, I know Out of the Park Baseball has this sort of information this fairly easily available in their master.csv file (historical for everyone who reached MLB). It's not exactly the same as the stuff they published, but it's something that's easily manipulable and can be combined with other databases as all major "playerID" values are contained in the same place the ethnicity tag is given.
I've had some fun messing around with it (though I'm not sure about the rights issues for actually publishing anything derived from it).
H
8/03
"Unfortunately, the statistics show that biases against Black catchers and towards Black outfielders have persisted. In the last 10 seasons (2010-2019),..."

Do we really have a large enough dataset? At least with Catchers, we're dealing with such a small sample that one positive outlier would randomly make the data would look dramatically different without changing any of the underlying fundamentals. I think we at some point really do need minor league data for these analyses.

Of course, it's easy for me to sit here and demand someone else undertake a massive new project to categorize every player who reached AA or AAA in the last 20 years but I think that's really the dataset we need.