Monday, July 12, 2004

Major League Baseball Too White?

Yes, according to Houston Chronicle columnist Richard Justice. On June 20, Mr. Justice published an article contending that the Houston Astros, as well as Major League Baseball in general, do not have sufficient African American representation. Justice apparently was driven to switch from sports reporter to civil rights analyst in the wake of the Richard Hidalgo trade. Hidalgo, who was the Astros lone African American in the starting lineup, has failed for years to live up to the Astros' expectations. On June 15th of this year, Hidalgo lost his starting job. He had been hitting .198 over the prior 6 weeks, and was due $15 million next year if the Astros were to pick up his option. Obviously, trading Hidalgo was a sensible move both competitively and financially.

Unfortunately, Richard Justice doesn't seem to understand that the Astro's objective as an organization is to win. He doesn't understand that $15 million is too much to pay for a player like Richard Hidalgo. Justice seems to think that the trading of Hidalgo was another example of the Astros' racial bias. In the heat of the pennant race, Justice apparently believes the Astros are more intent on bleaching their lineup than with winning a pennant. Obviously, any baseball fan with half a brain could see that the Astros made a smart move. In an attempt to fabricate additional evidence to support his theory that the Astros discriminate against African Americans, Justice states that only 3 of their 49 players drafted in 2004 were African American. In other words, the Astros were only 2 players shy of matching the demographic makeup of the US. Justice concludes the Astros are racially biased against blacks because they trade an over-paid player and because they fell 2 players short of drafting a representative number of blacks? (What is sad is that I pay for this half-witted analysis to be delivered to my door each morning).

Justice then poses the question: "Do I believe the Astros are racist?", to which he answers "I absolutely do not". He states that if the Astros were racist, they would have responded to this "issue" with a statement to-the-effect of "we're color blind and simply have attempted to acquire the best players". Interesting that Justice believes that a public declaration of being color blind would be evidence of organizational racism. Exactly what does one have to state today to deflect accusations of racial bias?

Fast forward to today, and Justice again attempts to make news out of the fact that African American representation in baseball is dropping. Justice again fumbles with statistics to make his point when he cites the fact that African Americans represent only 10% of big league baseball players today, vs. 1974 when 27% of major league players were African American. seems that the current numbers are much more reflective of US demographics than the 1974 figures. Why is this a problem? Why is he spending two columns on race issues in baseball, when the racial disparity in the NBA is much more stark? According to Justice, baseball, unlike the NBA, has a history of problems with issues of racial fairness. So to follow this logic, because baseball has supposedly had a problem with racial issues, the National Basketball Association is exempt from analysis? It is OK for African Americans to comprise more than 75% of NBA rosters, but the 10% representation in baseball is a sign of racial bias? In other words, African American representation in the NBA is a factor of 7 times greater than the US population, yet it is baseball that is racially biased.

Mr. Justice, please stick to your expertise, that is sports writing. Your attempts to make a story where none exists are insulting to those of us who see through your unsubstantiated contentions of institutional racism. As in life, lets let everyone compete and may the best players win.

As a Detroit Pistons fan, I was delighted to see Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, and Rip Hamilton bring the NBA championship back to Detroit. You won't hear me publishing nonsense about how the Pistons aren't white enough, because results, not player's colors, are what truly matters.

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