Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Make of this what you will

I am very hesitant to bring up race (and politics and religion) here since that's not what we're here to discuss. We're here to discuss (mostly) baseball. And then I read this from Ken Rosenthal, who discusses the lack of non-White players on the RedSox. This is not to bash the Sox whatsoever. I had no idea and there's a part of me that wonders if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Is it good that I didn't notice race or bad that I didn't notice the homogeneous face of the club?

[I once had a lengthy discussion with someone back in the early 90's who was adament that the Yanks needed to get "whiter" to appeal to the higher spending corporate folks. I'm no angel and maybe I am excessively naive, but I took the stance that the city would embrace a winner regardless of skin color. Is Paul O'Neill any more beloved than Bernie Williams? Mariano might be sainted once he's done playing. Did the Yanks get "whiter" over the years? Charlie Hayes gave way to Boggs to ARod. Jeter's a child of an African-American man and a white woman. Knoblauch became Cano. Tino to Giambi. Posada/Girardi to just Girardi. Net change in the IF: none. Chad Curtis/Strawberry to Hideki in left. Bernie to Damon/Melky. Paulie to Abreu. Again, very little change. Wang's in the rotation where once Doc Gooden pitched. The balance of the starters have been, for the most part, White. Saint Mo is still the Sandman. Bottom line, I think NYC is diverse enough that race plays less of an issue than other cities. Bottom line, winning helps.]

I'll jump around the article a bit:

The Red Sox's sudden abundance of white players, though, appears nothing more than a coincidence, a fluky snapshot in time.
I think this is true. But Rosenthal gets right to the ever present undertone about Boston:
If not for the Red Sox's past, if not for Boston's reputation, the issue might not be even worth raising.

But the Sox carry a special burden.

They have a shameful history of discrimination, one that their present ownership group has tried to address. And a perception has long existed among some African-American athletes that Boston is hostile to players who are not white.
Now, about what the facts tell us:
Of the Red Sox's current players in the ALCS, the only African- American is outfielder Coco Crisp.

The only Latin Americans are designated hitter David Ortiz, who is from the Dominican Republic, and utility infielder Alex Cora and reliever Javier Lopez, both of whom are from Puerto Rico.

Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is Native American. Pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima are from Japan. Reliever Manny Delcarmen is of Dominican descent, and injured third baseman Mike Lowell was born to Cuban parents in Puerto Rico.

The Sox's composition is surprising in an era in which rosters are more diverse than at any point in the game's history, even as the number of African-American players continues to decline.

So why bring all this up? The luring of non-White free agents.
The question is whether the Red Sox will lose players they want because of the makeup of their club, the perception of the city or both. Players generally seek comfort as well as money when they make career decisions.

It's also worth noting that there are many other clubs with a similar racial profile (Phillies, Indians), but Rosenthal seems to focus on the Sox simply due to the city's history.
Clearly, this is not the same franchise that passed on Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays before becoming the last club to integrate in 1959, 12 years after Robinson's debut. The Red Sox did not sign an African- American free agent until 1993, and their failure to win a World Series for 86 years was due in part to their racial practices.

All that changed after a group led by John Henry purchased the team in 2002. The Sox established diversity and community-outreach programs, and the team's message of inclusion extends to the clubhouse, where manager Terry Francona fosters a diverse, tolerant environment. The Sox's 2004 World Series championship team was an exuberant mishmash of cultures and personalities.
What do you think?

UPDATE (10/14/08, 3:35pm): With a big thanks to loyal reader/watchdog/all-around good guy tadthebad, here's Rosenthal from earlier this Spring, extolling the RedSox ability to integrate. It only leaves me more confused on what he was trying to do with the main article.
The Red Sox are a better example of a melting pot, but they are not just a cultural melting pot. The Sox are a blend of players young and old, gifted and ordinary, wealthy and hungry. The pieces — from Manny Ramirez to Dustin Pedroia, Daisuke Matsuzaka to Jonathan Papelbon — could not be more disparate. But somehow, under the leadership of manager Terry Francona, they all pull toward a common goal.

If the Red Sox can make it work, any team can.


Ron Rollins said...

By my math, that's 36% of the roster that's non-white. Before Manny ran himself out of town, it was 40%.

I've having hard time understanding the point of this article? How is this racist?

Or is the point that they should go out and sign more non-white players? Which certainly wouldn't be racist at all.

Stories like this cause more problems than they will ever solve. And why wait until the LCS to write it? If its a problem today, it was a problem in spring training. This is just some hack journalist trying to meet a deadline and isn't good enough to actually write about the game.

Jason @ IIATMS said...

Ron, that was sort of my point. He talked out of both sides of his mouth.

I can't quite figure out what he was trying to get across, other than saying that it MIGHT be a problem for free agents....

I just wanted to get it out there to discuss.

tadthebad said...

Check out Rosenthal's piece from April of this year...among other things, he praises the Sox for their "melting pot clubhouse" (paraphrase). Rosenthal was on WEEI today, and his latest column and comments on air today were not appreciated by the listeners.

To further ron's commentary, how would going out and specifically targetting any racial demographic be anything but racist? Columns such as these are dangerous and march us further away from the ideals King spoke of...judged by the content of their character (or their ability to get on-base) not by the color of their skin... Lost a lot of respect for Rosenthal today.

Jason @ IIATMS said...

Thanks for the tip, tad!

I just cannot understand why he thought this was relevant, now. Makes little sense? The playoffs aren't compelling enough?

5150bosox said...

how come nobody ever mentions how "Hispanic" Minya has been making the Mets? Lets keep all the PC crap out of sports!