Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Where have you gone Jackie Robinson?

So, now that the big TD awards are behind us (List of amazing winners here), it's time to turn our attention back to baseball.

The World Series starts tonight. (Why the teams needed 5 days off to rest, I do NOT understand. Kind of eradicates the idea of playoff conditioning. I mean, each team is now rested and can start whomever they want as a pitcher.)

Anyway, I'm working on a book about baseball and numbers so I'm thinking about the little things in the game right now, and the not so little things.

One thing struck me as I was looking at the rosters of Boston and St. Louis. They are almost exclusively white players. This is definitely true of the starting pitching, and mostly true of the starting lineups in general.

This is worth noting, because it signals a trend in baseball, that baseball itself is trying to address - the decline of African-American players. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig launched a task force at the beginning of this season to look at the causes and some possible solutions.

When Jackie Robinson joined Brooklyn in 1947 he ushered in an era of integration. The percentage of African-American players in the game peaked around 30 years later, which is now around 30 years ago. It was about 19%. Now it's closer to 7%. (The folks at SABR have a great analysis of the numbers here. It is worth noting that there is a rise in players from Latin America and Asia.)

I won't get into all the reasons why this is important. Let's just say if baseball is "America's pastime", it needs to better reflect "America's demographics."

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