Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How Many Black Players Are Optimal?

After recently reading this article, and thinking back to some of the interviews given by Torii Hunter this season, I did some quick googling.

The 2000 Census lists African-Americans as 12.9% of the total population. A press release from MLB lists the percentage of foreign born players in MLB at 29.0%. That would mean we'd expect 9.1% of Major League players to be African-American? The aforementioned article mentions that African-Americans constitute 8.5% of all Major League players. As the difference between 9.1% and 8.5% in a pool of 842 is only 5 players, aren't things proportional? Is the issue that there is no longer a disproportionate number of African-American players as in years past?

Criticism of the development money spent by Major League teams in Latin America when compared to the money spent in America's inner cities seems misguided to me as it is the result of the Rule 6 Draft excluding Latin American prospects (save for those in Puerto Rico if memory serves). Development academies in Latin America are run by individual teams, and those teams are much more likely to sign the prospectus produced by their own academies.

It has been suggested that Major League Baseball, as a collective, fund development academies in America's inner cities so the costs would be shared among all 30 teams, which would get rid of any problems with players from such academies entering the Rule 6 Draft. But if the slice of African-American players is very nearly the same size as the slice of African Americans in the general population, does major league baseball really need to?

There is speculation that the influx of talent from Asia will end the Rule 6 Draft anyway. With higher priced players falling in the draft due to "signability" concerns and teams not able to trade draft picks, the draft doesn't create much parity as it stands now anyway. This could be good for baseball on a global scale as it would potentially allow an exchange of talent between America and Asia and Latin America so that professional leagues in other countries could field a level of play equal to the Major Leagues.

Different time zones and the logistics of teams flying all over the world make the idea of, say, a MLB franchise in Tokyo, Seoul or Caracas seem unlikely even in the distant future. But some sort of configuration of competitive national leagues and a huge emphasis placed on the World Baseball Classic seems sort of plausible.

I'm not sure how to wrap this rambling post up. I guess it looks like the world is starting to push MLB to an equilibrium of sorts, and it will be interesting to see how the world's premiere league responds.


John said...

Wow. I can't believe we've spent this much time talking about this and this is the first time I've ever heard the numbers put in the context of the general population. Nice job Kyle.

Vikes Geek said...


It would be interesting to see the numbers for "white" players in MLB versus the general population. Based on the logic of forming inner-city camps to attract inner-city kids (I think that's actually code for a more specific sub-set of kids), maybe there's an even stronger argument for setting up baseball camps in the rural heartland.

John Sharkey, Esq. said...

Are there any good numbers out there comparing economic class to representation in baseball (or other sports)? If, traditionally, more high-level talent comes from the low end of society (because athletics are often the only means of escape from poverty, while upper-class kids go to Harvard instead), it'd be interesting to see whether or not that holds today.