BACKWARD BASEBALL

By Gary Norris Gray, Staff Reporter

Major League Baseball cannot get the story straight or attract inner city children i.e. African and Latin-X- Americans to the game. The Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series this year over the Tampa Bay Rays four games to two.

The Series ended with another Covid-19 controversy, the continuation of low numbers of Black players, and the failure to promote Black players and coaches into higher positions, the lowest television ratings ever, managers and coaches using analytics instead of their brains to manage the game, the game continues to recycle old managers and cheaters too, shutting out young coaches, stifling the future.

This has got to change. 

The Big Blue Tricycle won their 7th World Series, 6th since moving from Brooklyn, New York. They did it with Black free agent outfielder Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox, one of the best players in the game. Betts pushed the Los Angeles Dodgers over the top with his play in the field.

They also did it with the strong pitching of Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw finally getting that monkey off of his back. The Bull pen showed up and shutdown the Rays offensive machine. Kershaw had a great game five outing and winning two World Series games.

The Dodgers did it with Tampa Bay using analytics instead of hearts and minds. The Series ended on a sour note as Dodger third basemen Justin Turner tested positive for Covid-19. He joined the celebration on the field after being told to isolate in the clubhouse. Turner’s defiance smacks of privilege because we all know that if Justin were a Black or Brown player he would have never left the clubhouse.

This is just another one of baseball’s growing hypocrisies. MLB will continue to investigate this incident but if nobody else test positive the incident will be forgotten and the Dodgers will move on.

Justin Turner breached the coronavirus protocols and that’s why the series was moved to Texas instead of being played in Los Angeles and Tampa Bay to prevent events like Turner.

Turner defeated the purpose. Once again we are staring at, “Nothing to see here move on, and nothing to see. There is something to see, the lack of enforcement of the rules by Major League Baseball.

The League continues to struggle with the number of Black players on the field. The Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers had the most in this year’s playoffs.

That should be a calling card for the other teams to investigate how the Dodgers and Rays won.  This is a continuing work in progress with two other teams not having any brothers on the field this year.

There are 80 Black players currently in MLB and that percentage has remained constant at eight percent for the past 15 years. There needs to be improvement. There has to be a commitment by the league to truly increase the numbers of Black professional baseball players. It is just not there now.

The League struggles with the number of Black executives, part owner and former New York Yankee Derek Jeter of the Miami Marlins and football star Patrick Mahomes part owner of the Kansas City Royals are the only two African Americans.

Both are of mixed families and both are light skin. Coincidence, Maybe. Major League Baseball continues to want their executives, presidents, and managers to look like them.

Young Blacks are now playing basketball and football because they do not see anyone that looks like them on the baseball diamonds. In recent television advertisements, they see the faces of the aforementioned Kershaw, Mike Trout, and Bryce Harper.

Don’t get it twisted they are great players but a Black face would help recruitment in the inner cities to Major League Baseball.

The League also struggles with Black leadership on the field and in the front office. This week the Chicago White Sox hired 76 year old Tony LaRussa and the Detroit Tigers hired A.J. Hinch to be their 2021 managers.

LaRussa will become the third oldest manager in MLB history behind Connie Mack-Philadelphia and Jack McKean-San Diego both were in their 80’s.

LaRussa will go back to Chicago where he did not win a World Series. Why? because he wore out the bull pen and he strained his starting rotation.Why? because it was his first manager’s job. LaRussa learn his lesion in Chicago and put it to use in Oakland and St. Louis.

Hinch was the manager of the Houston Astros and the skipper of the 2017 sign stealing scandal. Many baseball fans still have not forgotten and The New York Yankees, Oakland A’s, and Los Angeles Dodgers can’t wait to give him a piece of their minds.

Hinch will become the Tigers 39th manager in franchise history. With all of those third base coaches and assistant managers Detroit could have done better.

Baseball continues to look bad allowing this to happen. MLB continues to avoid the promotion of Black stars on the field like Mookie Betts (Dodgers); Aaron Judge (Yankees); Tim Anderson (White Sox); Andrew McCutchen (Phillies); Josh Bell (Pirates); Jackie Bradley Jr. (Red Sox), Lorenzo Cain (Brewers); Adam Jones (D-Backs); Khris Davis (A’s); Jason Heyward (Cubs); Byron Buxton (Twins); Dee Gordon (Mariners); and Justin Upton (Angels).

Jackie Robinson called out MLB for this change in 1972 nine days before he passed not much has happen since. There have been 50 Black managers since player-manager Frank Robinson-Cleveland Indians in 1975. MLB is following in the footsteps of the National Basketball Association with one Black manager per year.

In 1999, MLB created the Bud Selig Rule, requiring teams to interview at least one person of color for high ranking positions. It also created the Major League Baseball Diversity Fellowship Program. This was to recruit and retain people of color and women establish roots in the league.

First basemen John Young of the Detroit Tigers ten years (1989) earlier tried to establish a program for inner city children called (RBI) Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities based in Los Angeles. The program has stalled since Young’s death in May 2016.  

Currently there are only two Black managers in 2020: Dave Roberts of the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers and Dusty Baker of the Houston Astros who both got their teams to the playoffs in 2020.

Baker has lead five different teams to the postseason: Astros, Nationals, Reds, Cubs, and Giants. No other manager in Major League history can say this.

Cito Gaston won back to back World Series (1992-93) with the Toronto Blue Jays, not many can do this either but the road is long, heavy, and still difficult for African American coaches.

Caucasian coaches often take the shortcuts by networking with each other when a job is open. The New York Yankees sent a message to all minority managerial candidates in 2017 by hiring one of their own Aaron Boone, stay away if you did not wear pinstripes or if you’re a person of color.

Elston Howard got the message in the 1970’s, Willie Randolph got the message in the 1990s, and not much has changed in 2020 with the New York Yankees or Major League Baseball. The Yankees are the symptom of this growing problem.

Young Black coaches toile in the minors for years until their retirement never getting a chance to show their managerial skills and Major League Baseball continues to move on.

The LaRussa and Hinch hiring should be questioned. Both men should be expelled from baseball for life for breaking the rules. It is just another point that baseball does not want to really change. They are comfortable the way it is.

LaRussa has pennants and championships while Hinch has a bad moral legacy. Baseball will legitimize these moves by the White Sox and Tiger administrations. Baseball will move into the next decade with only two Black, two Latino, and one Asian manager.

More young African Americans will walk away from this great game if baseball does not give a faithful effort to include Black players.

Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian, Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston, Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor News Radio Network, Disabled Community Activist. Email glcgray@gmail.com

©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod

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