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African-Americans in the Draft: 1987-2007


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#1 philly sox fan


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Posted 24 July 2008 - 09:30 PM

Each spring MLB (or some related party) releases a report on the ethnic and/or racial demographics of major league baseball. Recently that has meant a decreasing percentage of blacks and increasing percentage of Latin and other international (primarily Asian) players. The report elicits some media commentary about what a tragedy/shame it is that the sport that rightly celebrates Jackie Robinson’s historical, transformative breaking of the color barrier is now losing black participation. And generally after that blip of attention the issue fades until the next report a year later.

Frankly, it’s not an issue that I’ve been particularly interested in for a number of reasons, primarily a belief that as long as there are not systemic barriers to participation – and there are not – then it doesn’t matter whether or not blacks are playing baseball or basketball or perhaps better still sitting in anonymous cubes wasting away their work day reading about baseball (or basketball) on the web. This year, possibly because more online writers have addressed it and done so in a more substantive way, the issue has had a little more staying power. Here are a few links:

JC Bradbury wrote a thoughtful data driven post on some possible underlying causes. The first graph - the decline of black players from 1991 and on - is particularly relevant because those are the players I’ll be focused on.

Link

Unfortunately, the next two are BP subscriber articles.

Joe Sheehan making the “it doesn’t matter” case:

Link

David Laurila’s interview with Orlando Hudson focuses on the issue from a player’s perspective:

Link

Of course, I’m interested in the issue from a draft perspective. That’s a good place to start because that is the mechanism through which black players enter professional baseball. But more specifically what drew me to this topic is the idea that a changing mix of black and white players might help to explain some things that I had noticed in the late 1980s and 1990s drafts that I’ve studied. Superficially, it had seemed that black college players were much more prevalent in the 1980s. Would that hold up to greater scrutiny and if so would that help explain why the college advantage of the 1980s evaporated in the 1990s?

When I compiled position specific data I noticed how black college outfielders dominated that position. At about that time, I read a BA draft preview article lamenting the lousy 2008 class of college outfielders. It featured a picture of two disappointing – and white – college outfielders. While BA made those two kids the poster boys for the down year, was the real reason that college outfielders have slipped because there just aren’t very many good black ones anymore? I don’t want to wade too far into the “blacks are fast and therefore better in the outfield” stereotypes, but it is a stereotype with a basis in truth. Since integration black players have dominated speed categories (SB and triples) and from Mays to Griffey have often been the iconic five tool centerfielder.

Anyway, let’s just dive into the data and see what kind of trends we can find.

Here are the black college players from the 1987-1996 drafts (note: I set a 20 WARP minimum as that’s a good low end cutoff for a useful career as a regular).

Table
Year Rd Pick Team Player Pos School State WARP
1987 2 47 Cle Albert Belle OF C LA 69.7
1988 17 428 Hou Kenny Lofton OF C AZ 77.9
1988 3 76 Mon Marquis Grissom OF C FL 65.3
1988 1s 30 StL Brian Jordan OF C FL 48.9
1988 18 463 Oak Darren Lewis OF C CA 25.7
1989 1 7 Chi-AL Frank Thomas 1B C AL 105.6
1989 43 1121 LA Eric Young OF C NJ 46.2
1989 1 23 Bos Maurice Vaughn 1B C NJ 43.3
1991 1 12 Chi-NL Doug Glanville OF C PA 23.8
1991 7 201 Pitt Anthony Womack SS C NC 20.7
1992 1 28 Fla Charles Johnson C C FL 44.0
1992 1 4 Bal Jeffrey Hammonds OF C CA 20.5
1992 50 1391 SF Marvin Benard OF C ID 19.5
1994 1s 29 NYM Jay Payton OF C GA 26.7
1994 28 781 Det Dave Roberts OF C CA 20.6
1995 3 65 Fla Randy Winn OF C CA 41.2
1996 2 37 Minn Jacque Jones OF C CA 32.6


Looking at the position column you can see that these players were predominantly outfielders - 13 out of 17 with a couple slugging 1B/DHs, a shortstop and a catcher.

A little over half exceeded my 40 WARP threshold for “good” players. Six of those eight players, including some truly great ones, were drafted in just the three drafts from the late 1980s. The players drafted in the 1990s tended to be more in the useful 20-ish WARP category and rarer overall – nine players in these seven drafts vs eight players in the previous three drafts.

It does seem that colleges did more routinely produce great black players in the 1980s and the decline in black college players may have played a significant role in the overall decline in college productivity seen in the 1990s.

(Note: I “one dropped” Dave Roberts who is multiracial/multiethnic. Right or wrong (or really wrong), you just can’t broach this topic without “one dropping” people. It’s another reason I’ve steered clear of the topic in the past. I can sort my data by school, position, team, etc, but – and this isn’t a bad thing – you can’t sort by race/ethnicity. So Dave Roberts is “black”.)

Here’s another quick table to summarize these findings and look at the per draft averages for 1987-1989 and 1990-1996.

Table
Year 20 40 60+ WARP
1987 1 0 0 1 69.7
1988 4 1 1 2 217.8
1989 3 0 2 1 195.1
1990 0 0 0 0 0.0
1991 2 2 0 0 44.5
1992 3 2 1 0 84.0
1993 0 0 0 0 0.0
1994 2 2 0 0 47.3
1995 1 0 1 0 41.2
1996 1 1 0 0 32.6
1987-89 2.7 0.3 1.0 1.3 160.9
1990-96 1.3 1.0 0.3 0.0 35.7


On average, the number of black players who exceeded 20 WARP dropped by about 50% from 2.7/draft to 1.3/draft. Interestingly, the relative quality of those players also dramatically changed. Almost all of the black players from the 1980s were good to great whereas almost all of the black players from the 1990s were more useful to solid. As a result there is a huge per draft drop in black college production from 160 WARP/draft to 35 WARP/draft.

There aren’t enough black JC players to establish much of a pattern, but for completeness sake let’s look at those players as well.

Table
Year Rd Pick Team Player Pos School State WARP
1987 3 72 StL Ray Lankford OF JC CA 67.7
1987 7 180 Cinn Reggie Sanders SS-OF JC SC 65.2
1988 30 767 Ana Damien Easley 2B-SS CC CA 36.5
1993 17 488 Atl Jermaine Dye OF CC CA 41.7
1993 13 366 SD Gary Matthews OF CC CA 21.9


Black JC players come in pairs? There were three very good black JC players drafted in these ten drafts. All three were outfielders and two were from the late 1980s which exacerbated the notions that black players tend to be outfielders and that the late 1980s were very, very productive in terms of non-HS black players.

There isn’t much new to see here, but here is the JC summary table:

Table
Year 20 40 60+ WARP
1987 2 0 0 2 132.9
1988 1 0 1 0 36.5
1989 0 0 0 0 0.0
1990 0 0 0 0 0.0
1991 0 0 0 0 0.0
1992 0 0 0 0 0.0
1993 2 1 1 0 63.6
1994 0 0 0 0 0.0
1995 0 0 0 0 0.0
1996 0 0 0 0 0.0
1987-89 1.0 0.0 0.3 0.7 56.5
1990-96 0.3 0.1 0.1 0.0 9.1


Next we’ll move on to the HS players looking to see if the decrease in black college players was offset by an increase in black HS players.

Table
Year Rd Pick Team Player Pos School State WARP
1987 1 1 Sea Ken Griffey OF HS OH 109.8
1987 1 12 Mon Delino DeShields SS HS DE 50.5
1987 2 49 Tor Derek Bell OF HS FL 26.3
1987 13 331 Mil Troy O'Leary OF HS CA 18.2
1988 1 15 SF Royce Clayton SS HS CA 50.2
1988 2 34 Bal Arthur Rhodes OF HS TX 37.3
1988 3 63 Tex Darren Oliver LHP HS CA 35.2
1990 5 129 Chi-AL Ray Durham 2B HS NC 63.7
1990 4 123 Ana Garrett Anderson OF HS CA 53.8
1990 1 24 Mon Rondell White OF HS GA 45.2
1990 1 10 NYY Carl Everett OF HS FL 33.4
1990 1 2 Det Tony Clark OF HS CA 27.8
1990 4 103 Chi-AL James Baldwin RHP HS NC 25.5
1991 18 488 Chi-AL Mike Cameron OF HS GA 60.3
1991 1 14 Mon Cliff Floyd 1B HS IL 48.1
1991 7 180 Minn LaTroy Hawkins RHP HS IN 34.9
1991 1 4 StL Dmitri Young OF HS CA 31.1
1991 1 20 Cinn Calvin Reese SS HS SC 23.8
1992 1 6 NYY Derek Jeter SS HS MI 73.4
1992 1 19 Tor Shannon Stewart OF HS FL 37.9
1992 1 9 NYM Preston Wilson OF HS SC 23.9
1993 1 14 SD Derrek Lee 1B HS CA 62.0
1993 1 20 Minn Torii Hunter OF HS AR 34.9
1996 2 46 Phl Jimmy Rollins SS HS CA 41.0
1996 2 40 Mon Milton Bradley OF HS CA 23.1
1996 3 86 Col Shawn Chacon RHP HS CO 19.0


Again a majority of these players are outfielders (fourteen out of twenty-six), but there is more positional diversity in this group with six middle infielders, two 1B and four pitchers (there were no C pitchers).

There does seem to be a trend towards more good to very good black HS players in the 1990s although it’s not a consistently strong one. There was a very strong group in 1990 and 1991 and absolutely nobody in 1994 and 1995. It’s probably easier to see in a summary table.

Table
Year Total 20 40 60+ WARP
1987 4 2 1 1 204.8
1988 3 2 1 0 122.7
1989 0 0 0 0 0.0
1990 6 3 2 1 249.4
1991 5 3 1 1 198.2
1992 3 2 0 1 135.2
1993 2 0 1 1 96.9
1994 0 0 0 0 0.0
1995 0 0 0 0 0.0
1996 3 2 1 0 83.1
1987-89 2.3 1.3 0.7 0.3 109.2
1990-96 2.7 1.4 0.7 0.6 109.0


In any given year the number of players jumps around from 0 to 3-4 to 5-6. You can see in the per draft average rows at the bottom that overall number of players and WARP is very similar, except at the very high end – the 60+ WARP players – where there was just Ken Griffey in the three late 1980s draft and there have been four so far in the 1990s with Rollins and Bradley likely to reach that plateau as well. The overall per draft average is spot on between the two periods although the good more recent players are still productive. In the end we may see a small increase from ~110/draft to ~125/draft or something like that.

That small improvement – and perhaps deceptively small because the key elite group is much stronger in the later period – combines with the large college decrease to create a substantial C/HS change amongst blacks. In the 1987-1989 drafts the college advantage was 160 to 110 WARP (roughly a 60/40 split). In the 1990-1996 drafts the HS advantage will be about 125 to 35 WARP (roughly a 80/20 split the opposite direction). Where black players used to provide the overall college ranks with a 50 WARP/draft advantage there is now a 90 WARP/draft disadvantage. That’s a swing of ~140 WARP/draft.

That swing is large enough to account for about 25% of the difference between the two periods – a significant factor, but not a prime driver. So while it is true that colleges abruptly stopped producing elite black players, it’s important to remember that the number of white college players dropped just as significantly. It’s just that since there were more whites to start with the drop isn’t quite so dramatic as to fall so close to zero.

Here is the complete summary table including all school types.

Table
Year Total 20 40 60+ WARP
1987 7 2 1 4 407.4
1988 8 4 2 2 377.0
1989 3 0 2 1 195.1
1990 6 3 2 1 249.4
1991 7 5 1 1 242.7
1992 6 4 1 1 219.2
1993 4 2 1 1 160.5
1994 2 2 0 0 47.3
1995 1 0 1 0 41.2
1996 4 3 1 0 115.7
1987-89 6.0 2.0 1.7 2.3 326.5
1990-96 4.3 2.7 1.0 0.6 153.7


In the total column you can see that from 1987-1992 there were 6-8 black players who exceeded 20 WARP per draft except for 1989. We’ll look at more recent drafts in a bit but from 1993-1996 there were 1-4. In terms of elite 60+ WARP players though you can see that 1987 – thanks in part to the very unusual presence to two very good JC players – really stands out. It’s hard to know what to make of this since I’m catching the decline in black players well past the mid-1970s peak. If you really wanted to track this phenomenon you’d want to see how those players who made up that peak came into the game in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Are the 1987/88 drafts which had black players produce ~400 WARP/draft a blip, part of a decline that was already gathering steam in the 1980s or the end of a solid plateau before things really started to decline more rapidly? It’s hard to say without a fuller data set.

Regardless of how these data fit a larger historical pattern, I’m interested in that drop from ~325 WARP/draft in the late 1980s to ~150 WARP/draft in the 1990s. There is a very noticeable decline in total WARP production from the 1987-1989 to the 1990-1996 drafts. Just looking at the first eleven post-draft years the 1987-1989 average is 1406 WARP vs an 1125 WARP average from 1990-1996. And there’s no overlap – the lowest draft in the 1980 interval is higher than the highest draft from the 1990s. I had initially attributed that to increasing international competition faced by the more recent draftees, but this suggests that perhaps as much as 50% of that difference comes from a decrease in black players. When people express concern with the declining participation of blacks in baseball this is that decline – two players per draft including one very good 60+ WARP player – from levels that had already been declining.

That’s an interesting and novel way to look at the relative shift in draft production from a strong college orientation in the 1980s towards C:HS balance in the 1990s, but has this pattern continued into the 2000s? Let’s take a subjective look at the 1997-2007 drafts. I’ll split this interval into two smaller chunks – 1997-2001 (enough time for players to establish themselves) and 2002-2007 (more speculative and prospect based).

#2 philly sox fan


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Posted 24 July 2008 - 09:48 PM

African-American Players in the Draft – 1997-2001

I should again point out that all racial distinctions are my best guesses and I may be “one dropping” one player and not another. I tried to focus only on players that I expect will exceed 20 WARP for their careers, but I did add in some players who fall short of that standard in the dry years – like the 1997-2001 collegians.

Table
Year Rd Pick Team Name Pos School State
1999 5 151 KC Ken Harvey 1B C NE
1999 8 245 Sea Terrmel Sledge OF C CA
1999 24 727 Bal Willie Harris 2B-SS C GA
2001 5 140 Phl Ryan Howard 1B C MO
2001 38 1134 Pitt Rajai Davis OF C CT


I think Ken Harvey was actually a terrible half season, lone Royal “All Star”, but this period basically produced Ryan Howard and that’s it. The overall decline seen in the early and mid-1990s absolutely dropped off a cliff in the late 1990s. I don’t have any explanation for why that happened, but it certainly did.

Howard is the first MVP caliber black collegian since Frank Thomas and Mo Vaughn in 1989 and the first real (ie non-Harvey type) All-Star since Charles Johnson in 1992. And Johnson is in the college bin largely because Scott Boras was his agent, er advisor, and the Expos were the team that drafted him out of HS. The 1990s were just a terrible decade for elite black college players for whatever reasons.

Here are the few black JC players in this period.

Table
Year Rd Pick Team Name Pos School State
1997 43 1280 Tor Orlando Hudson SS JC SC
1999 7 222 StL Coco Crisp OF JC CA
1999 10 306 Phl Marlon Byrd OF JC GA


Hudson has been a very good player. Byrd was a good prospect who had a nice rookie year and then dropped off into the fringy starter level. Crisp looked like an emerging high quality player when the Sox acquired him after his age 25 season. Let’s just say he still plays great defense.

Here are the black HS players in this period.

Table
Year Rd Pick Team Name Pos School State
1997 1 5 Tor Vernon Wells OF HS TX
1997 4 132 Col Chone Figgins SS HS FL
1998 1 3 Chi-NL Corey Patterson OF HS GA
1998 1 20 Cle C.C. Sabathia LHP HS CA
1998 6 176 Mil William Hall SS HS MS
1999 2 52 TB Carl Crawford OF HS TX
1999 2 57 Mon Brandon Phillips SS HS GA
2000 8 223 Chi-NL Dontrelle Willis LHP HS CA
2000 26 779 Pitt Ian Snell RHP HS DE
2001 4 120 SD Joshua Barfield 2B HS TX
2001 6 190 LA Edwin Jackson RHP HS GA
2001 16 493 Chi-AL Christopher Young OF HS TX
2001 32 949 TB Joey Gathright OF HS LA


This is a pretty solid group and it continues the pattern of HS superiority amongst black players that had been established in the early and mid-1990s. The depth isn’t that great and really only Sabathia is a clear cut star. However, the other players that are bolded have been very good (at least for a time) so the HS ranks produced one or two pretty good black players per year in this period in comparison to the college ranks which only produced Howard.

#3 philly sox fan


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Posted 24 July 2008 - 09:52 PM

African-American Players in the Draft – 2002-2007

By necessity the players highlighted will be much less accomplished and more prospect oriented.

Table
Year Rd Pick Team Name Pos School State
2002 2 66 SF Fred Lewis OF C LA
2002 3 80 Det Curtis Granderson OF C IL
2003 1 2 Mil Rickie Weeks 2B C LA
2003 4 115 Phl Michael Bourn CF-SS C TX
2004 8 246 Chi-NL Eric Patterson SS C GA
2007 1 1 TB David T Price LHP C TN


Granderson was somewhat of an under the radar prospect who has become a very good player. Weeks was supposed to be a great player by now and isn’t (and may never be) for whatever reason. With Howard in 2001 this looks like a bit of an early 2000s uptick in elite black collegians, but the next few drafts look barren unless there’s a late blooming sleeper still percolating somewhere between Weeks and Price, who of course may be no more destined for greatness than Weeks.

There have been a few other black college 1st round picks that I recognize in this period – Dewon Brazelton, Richie Robnett, and John Mayberry. Mayberry may still have a chance at a career. And Weeks little brother Jemile was the 12th overall pick this past June. It does seem to me that there may be a slight increase in 1st rd black collegians although that may just be due to the fact that there’s more coverage of prospects now including pictures of players in the BA Handbook for example and as a result I’m more aware of the race of even some first rounders who never really made it.

Here are the black JC players in this period.

Table
Year Rd Pick Team Name Pos School State
2002 4 121 LA Delwyn Young 2B CC CA
2002 10 294 Ana Howard Kendrick 2B CC FL
2006 2   68 Chi-NL Donald Veal LHP CC AZ


Young’s been a guy with a good bat, no glove rep who is struggling to cement a spot with the Dodgers. Veal was a well regarded wild hard throwing prospect a couple years ago whose stock has dropped a lot. Kendrick has had a hard time staying healthy, but has a good chance to be a star.

You can’t draw much of a conclusion from a handful of players, but it does seem like there may be some mid and late round steals to be found in black JC draft sub-population of amateur players. Whether these are late bloomers or what, they seem to have fallen between the cracks both from the college and pro perspective.

Here are the black HS players in this period.

Table
Year Rd Pick Team Name Pos School State
2002 1 2 TB B.J. Upton SS HS VA
2002 1 7 Mil Prince Fielder 1B HS FL
2002 1 19 LA James Loney 1B HS TX
2002 3 74 TB Elijah Dukes OF HS FL
2003 1 1 TB Delmon Young RF HS CA
2003 1 12 NYM Lastings Milledge CF HS FL
2003 1s 37 Sea Adam Jones SS HS CA
2003 6 181 LA Matthew Kemp RF HS OK
2005 1   1 AZ Justin Upton SS HS VA
2005 8   259 NYY Austin Jackson CF HS TX
2006 1   10 Det Cameron Maybin CF HS NC
2006 1   11 Pitt Andrew McCutchen CF HS FL
2006 4   136 LA Joshua Bell 3B HS FL
2006 15   455 Chi-AL Chris Carter 3B HS NV
2007 1 14 Atl Jason A Heyward OF HS GA
2007 1 28 Minn Ben D Revere CF HS KY


From a prospect perspective the 2002 and 2003 drafts produced a tremendous crop of elite black HS players. These players, the 2003 quartet in particular, have struggled somewhat to translate those elite prospect rankings into elite major league production, but they’re all still ridiculously young. There’s the potential for a lot of All Star appearances from those players.

The more recent drafts have been more hit (2006 with Maybin and McCutchen as elite prospects) or miss (2004 with nobody of note as of now). The 2008 draft produced several elite black HS players in the first couple of rounds including Aaron Hicks the first graduate the MLB’s recent Compton baseball academy. It’ll be a while before we see who actually emerges.

At least from a prospect perspective it does seem that HS edge that was first established in the early 1990s has continued (and perhaps grown) right into the mid-2000s. The reasons for this are unclear to me. In general, the explanations for the movement away from the C domination of the 1980s to a more balanced period in the 1990s have to do with changes in the college game including a reduction in scholarships and a renewed commitment on the part of MLB as an industry to spend more money to sign elite HS players. It does seem that those mostly financial reasons would have a greater impact on the generally poorer black community. But I’m sure there are a host of issues that have contributed to the dramatic change in equilibrium between black college and HS players.

Obviously we don’t know how the players from the more recent drafts will turn out and I’m sure there will be a few sleepers that I missed, but I thought it would be interesting to tack on a best (and very optimistic) guess about the 1997-2007 drafts to the previous 1987-1996 summary table. So the next table is actual data for the older drafts with each player categorized by his career WARP and then a speculative, optimistic guess about how the more recent players may turn out.

Table
Year Total 20 40 60+
1987 7 2 1 4
1988 8 4 2 2
1989 3 0 2 1
1990 6 3 2 1
1991 7 5 1 1
1992 6 4 1 1
1993 4 2 1 1
1994 2 2 0 0
1995 1 0 1 0
1996 4 3 1 0
1997 3 1 1 1
1998 3 2 0 1
1999 4 2 1 1
2000 2 1 1 0
2001 3 1 1 1
2002 6 1 2 3
2003 6 2 2 2
2004 0 0 0 0
2005 2 0 1 1
2006 2 0 1 1
2007 3 1 1 1


The drop from 6-8 players per draft in 1987-1992 to four or fewer player in 1993-1996 seems to have persisted into the mid-2000s. Outside of the bump up to six players in 2002 and 2003 there looks to be a plateau in the 2-4 players per draft range. The number of players in the 60+ column may stay about the same at roughly one per year, however. In the BP interview with Orlando Hudson he made mention of a common refrain in these types of discussions that black players have to be stars because there doesn’t seem to be much room on the bench for black players. My projections about the recently drafted players suggest that may be truer now since there are fewer 20+ WARP players for the same number of elite 60+ WARP players. A fuller, longer dataset is needed to really determine if there’s been any change in that regard.

We can sort of back calculate the number of black players in older drafts if we assume the ratio of 20+ WARP players to total players has stayed the same. Right now 8% of players are black. If we base that on 750 roster spots (the real number would be higher given the usual turnover), then there are about 60 black players and those players have mostly come from drafts that produced 6-8 players (prior to 1993) and 3-4 players (1993 and later).

In the mid 1970s when blacks made up over 25% of the players there were 650 roster spots. That would be about 160 black players – roughly 100 more than are in the game now and a decrease of over 60%. You know, when I put it in those terms, it really is a lot of players.

Anyway to get those 160 players the draft would probably have to have produced something like twelve 20+ WARP black players per draft. So the draft era might be split along these lines:

1965-1975: 12+
1976-1986: ?
1987-1992: 6-8
1993-2007: 3-4

And the real question mark in terms of understanding this phenomenon is what happened in the late 1970s to mid-1980s. Was there a sudden drop at some point in there? If so, why? Has there been a gradual erosion? And more specific to the beginning of this piece how have the C and HS ranks changed? There was definitely a significant C drop off in the early 1990s, but had the college numbers been consistent before then or were the late 1980s an upwards blip that makes the drop off look more dramatic? This is such an understudied area that there are a lot more questions than answers.

#4 philly sox fan


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Posted 24 July 2008 - 09:54 PM

There is one more thing I wanted to look at. The whole issue of a couple of white players embodying this year’s disappointing crop of college outfielders is interesting because my recollection is that in general college outfielders – white, black, blue, pink, whatever - have been a pretty poor group of players for quite some time. I went through the 2000-2005 drafts and grabbed every college outfielder who made the majors and from the more recent draft a few recognizable, but non-elite, prospects.

In these six drafts there were 56 college outfielders that met my criteria. That’s an average of nine per year. I list them all in a table below and I bolded just twelve that were at least interesting and a couple of those are the mostly because of their Sox connection - Murphy and Murton. You should be able to recognize a lot of the other players as that kind of Murphy/Murton type – a tweener good 4th OF, but questionable starter on a good team.

Table
Year Rd Pick Team Name Pos School State
2000 1 12 Chi-AL Joe Borchard OF C CA
2000 4 104 KC David DeJesus OF C NJ
2000 6 176 Sea Jamal Strong OF C NE
2000 6 178 Tor Richard Thompson OF C VA
2000 14 426 Cle Ryan Church OF C NV
2000 22 645 Mon Jason Bay OF C WA
2001 1 15 Tor Gabe Gross OF C AL
2001 1 23 NYY John-Ford Griffin OF C FL
2001 1s 41 SF Todd Linden OF C LA
2001 2 62 NYY Shelley Duncan OF C AZ
2001 3 91 Tor Tyrell Godwin OF C NC
2001 3 105 Atl Adam Stern OF C NE
2001 4 131 Oak Marcus McBeth OF C SC
2001 5 146 Hou Charlton Jimerson OF C FL
2001 7 214 Col Cory Sullivan OF C NC
2001 8 234 Pitt Chris Duffy OF C AZ
2001 9 277 Cle Luke Scott OF C OK
2001 38 1134 Pitt Rajai Davis OF C CT
2002 1 16 Oak Nick Swisher OF C OH
2002 2 59 Chi-AL Jeremy Reed OF C CA
2002 2 66 SF Fred Lewis OF C LA
2002 3 76 Bal Val Majewski OF C NJ
2002 3 80 Det Curtis Granderson OF C IL
2002 3 97 SF Daniel Ortmeier OF C TX
2002 6 171 Col Sean Barker OF C LA
2002 7 201 Col Ryan Spilborghs OF C CA
2002 8 231 Col Jeff Salazar OF C OK
2002 9 263 Fla Eric Reed OF C TX
2002 9 273 Chi-NL Adam Greenberg OF C NC
2002 19 555 Cinn Chris Denorfia OF C MA
2002 30 910 Sea T.J. Bohn OF C NE
2003 1 15 Chi-AL Brian Anderson CF C AZ
2003 1 17 Bos David Murphy CF C TX
2003 1s 32 Bos Matthew Murton CF C GA
2003 2 39 Mil Anthony Gwynn CF C CA
2003 2 42 KC Shane Costa CF C CA
2003 2 57 Mon Jerry Owens CF C CA
2003 2 62 Oak Andre Ethier CF C AZ
2003 4 119 Hou Joshua Anderson CF C KY
2003 7 210 Ana Reggie Willits CF C OK
2003 4 115 Phl Michael Bourn CF-SS C TX
2003 24 699 Mil Drew Anderson OF C NE
2003 3 87 Mon Kory Casto RF C OR
2004 1s 36 Oak Daniel Putnam CF C CA
2004 4 111 Tex Brandon Boggs CF C GA
2004 2 64 Hou Hunter Pence LF C TX
2004 3 100 SF John Bowker LF C CA
2004 25 748 LA Justin Ruggiano LF C TX
2004 2 50 Col Seth Smith RF C MS
2005 1   14 Cle Trevor Crowe CF C AZ
2005 1   23 Bos Jacoby Ellsbury CF C OR
2005 3   109 NYY Brett Gardner CF C SC
2005 4   114 Wash Justin Maxwell CF C MD
2005 1   19 Tex John Mayberry RF C CA
2005 1s 36 Oak Travis Buck RF C AZ
2005 2   61 Bal Nolan Reimold RF C OH


Really with a slightly stricter threshold there might only be seven quality starters – Bay, Granderson, Swisher, DeJesus, Pence, Ethier and given his recent struggles a somewhat generous, homer nod to Ellsbury.

Granderson, of course, is the only key black college outfielder. Whether or not that lack of high quality black college outfielders is a significant issue or not, this is a pretty unremarkable group. In order to really put it into context we need to see other sub-groups, ie HS outfielders, C infielders, etc, but for whatever reasons it looks like the 2000s draft won’t be known for their elite college outfielders.

#5 templeUsox


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Posted 24 July 2008 - 10:54 PM

Thanks Philly.

One of the reasons for the near absence of any African American talent from the collegiate ranks has always been pinned on the scholarship situation in college baseball. While many college football players receive full scholarships, it is the rare, elite baseball player to receive a full scholarship. This might have the effect of deterring African Americans from college baseball and into other college sports.

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 11:45 PM

Fantastic legwork, philly.

Some hypotheses for consideration, that I do not have data to test:

- Possibly the most significant demographic change in the past 20 years in MLB is the massive influx of Latino players, in part as a result of improved scouting. It stands to reason that opening up a new continent of potential players would raise the quality of "replacement level," so a measurable decline in WARP among a subset of US players may be in part attributable to higher threshold for admittance.

- Following the above, an overall decline in the percentage of black players may not necessarily represent a disproportionate decline relative to all North American players. E.g. If MLB is 35% Latino, 10% Asian, 47% non-hispanic white, and 8% black, then black players may not be disproportionately under-represented compared to white players, or North American players overall. IOW, and influx of foreign-born players may account for a reduced percentage of North American players of all races. (the above numbers are made up for illustration)

- If the proportion of non-North-American players at the MLB level *has* significantly increased in the years in question, then it may be more revealing to look at the overall representation of HS and college players as an indicator of whether there are fewer African-Americans in baseball.

Even if we accept as a given that there is no overt discrimination or racial barrier to entry, the question is still an interesting and relevant one, and worth asking.

#7 paulftodd


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 01:39 AM

The War on Drugs has disproportionately affected the African American community, since the laws have more severe penalties for drugs that they take, and they seem to be targeted more for arrest than whites. About 10% of black males at the age of 18-24 are in prison or jails. Half of African American males drop out of high school, a higher rate than the 30% in the 70's. Furthermore, basketball and football are much more popular sports than baseball in black communities. It's much easier to find a court to play on than a baseball stadium in an urban environment.

http://www.nul.org/n...05/lockdown.pdf

Also, from 1960 to 1999, fertility rates dropped 55% among African Americans, so the number of draftable African Americans relative to the total African American population, which is 12% of the total population, is lower. And while our population since 1970 has increased 50%, much of the increase was in the hispanic population, and they out number African Americans in the US today, plus there is the pool of hispanic and asian talent we now scout outside the US. Non-hispanic white population in the MLB has dropped from 70% to 47%.

We should also ask why African Americans were so over represented in the 60's relative to their percentage in the population. One reason is not PC so I will leave it alone. But part of the reason may have been economics of making baseball a career was not very attractive to some whites. This was before free agency. Years in the minors and even if you made the big leagues, salaries were so low you had to take a job in the off season. I remember Yaz being razzed for his obscene salary of 165,000 dollars a year a couple of years after winning a triple crown, So perhaps African Americans were more likely to want to take a chance on making baseball a career given the conditions that existed then, and now they have more opportunities in the NBA and NFL, as well as college scholarships; and whites are more inclined to consider baseball as a careeer given the exodus of blue collar jobs and high cost of college today, and the prospects of earning 350 K per year even as a bench player, and far more as a star.

I would think MLB would make some effort to set up summer baseball camps for poor kids (black , hispanic and white). Maybe they do already. They might find a gem who otherwise would never be noticed and end up in jail, but even if they don't, it's good PR and keeps the kids out of trouble to boot.

As I looked into this I noticed our prison and jail population has increased to 2.3 million people from several hundred thousand in 1970, and 44% of them are African Americans. Thirty percent of all African American males have spent some time in prison or jail (guess that explains the reduced fertility rates). We have the highest prison incarceration rate in the world. Something is seriously messed up here.

I am letting MLB off the hook on this one. There is a problem though, but it's not baseball related.

#8 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 07:51 AM

That is a really interesting study, philly.

Ugh, I hate to go down this road, but I will do so as best I can. Is it just my perception, or do the Sox not seem to have many African-American players in the system at all these days? Joe Thurston is in Pawtucket of course (and hitting very well), but my impression is that there are not many others in the system, and that the Sox have not drafted many under the current regime. Of course the Sox have a large number of Latin American prospects these days, and have greatly increased both their Latin American and Asian presence, so it may not matter at all. But it was just something I had noticed.

Last year the Sox had only one African-American player on their major league roster, Coco Crisp. Of course, Ortiz and Lugo have darker complexions than Crisp but "don't count" under this system, so I don't think it really matters, but it does seem that the roster looks very different now than it did say in 1999, when the Sox suited up 7 African-Americans throughout the course of the season. Thankfully during last year's title run we were spared any commentary about the team makeup since the presence of Latin Americans and Asians in key playing roles for the team short-circuited any such talk.

#9 CaptainLaddie


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 08:03 AM

That is a really interesting study, philly.

Ugh, I hate to go down this road, but I will do so as best I can. Is it just my perception, or do the Sox not seem to have many African-American players in the system at all these days? Joe Thurston is in Pawtucket of course (and hitting very well), but my impression is that there are not many others in the system, and that the Sox have not drafted many under the current regime. Of course the Sox have a large number of Latin American prospects these days, and have greatly increased both their Latin American and Asian presence, so it may not matter at all. But it was just something I had noticed.

Last year the Sox had only one African-American player on their major league roster, Coco Crisp. Of course, Ortiz and Lugo have darker complexions than Crisp but "don't count" under this system, so I don't think it really matters, but it does seem that the roster looks very different now than it did say in 1999, when the Sox suited up 7 African-Americans throughout the course of the season. Thankfully during last year's title run we were spared any commentary about the team makeup since the presence of Latin Americans and Asians in key playing roles for the team short-circuited any such talk.

SJH, this is a league-wide problem. Don't let your white guilt get the best of you here. :)

The number of black baseball players has steadily declined over the last forty years. Right now, IIRC, there are 3 (edit - thanks Rip) African American starting pitchers with big league contracts - Edwin Jackson, Dontrelle Willis and CC Sabathia. There's a handful of other guys who have had cups of coffee (one guy on the Reds springs to mind) but for the most part, things have changed. Baseball is glamorous as basketball or football - you don't get huge signing bonuses and make $40M in your first contract as a baseball player, as you can as a football player; you can't get a shoe commercial like you can as a rookie in the NBA. These sort of things weigh the minds of a lot of young black athletes - it's not a matter of opinion, you can see the results.

Now, baseball has had made some strides - they have inner-city baseball academies, but the problem persists.

I don't really get bothered by this any more, simply because there's no reason to. This team has a diverse racial makeup - Latinos, Whites, Blacks, Asians - and they all seem to genuinely get along.

Edited by CaptainLaddie, 25 July 2008 - 08:13 AM.


#10 The Allented Mr Ripley


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 08:09 AM

Right now, IIRC, there are 4 African American starting pitchers with big league contracts - Kelvim Escobar, Edwin Jackson, Dontrelle Willis and CC Sabathia.


Escobar is Venezuelan.

#11 CaptainLaddie


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 08:13 AM

Escobar is Venezuelan.

Three it is !

#12 curly2

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Posted 25 July 2008 - 08:23 AM

Ian Snell makes four.

#13 Lefty on the Mound


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 09:15 AM

I don't understand why people need to make a big distinction between "African-American" and dark-skinned Latin players for the sake of generating statistics. Both types were equally separated from white (sorry, caucasian-american) players and forced to play in the old Negro leagues (eg. Luis tiant Sr.).

The fact is there are more players in the major leagues with dark skin than ever before. If you're going to lament the fact that fewer of them come from African roots than Latin roots, then to be equitable you should lament how very few white players come from Irish roots.

The very best players from all over the world now play in the major leagues. We should enjoy their performances and ignore their ethnicity.

#14 The Allented Mr Ripley


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 09:29 AM

I think the distinction is made because there's a definite decline in American-born black players in the last 30 years. Overall the amount of minorities in MLB is increasing, but the trend regarding African-Americans is specific and all the more startling because it's the inverse of what's happening with minorities from Latin America and Asia.

Edited by The Allented Mr Ripley, 25 July 2008 - 09:29 AM.


#15 Drocca


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 09:32 AM

Well, the distinction becomes important in my mind because there are less and less fields in urban African-American communities and less young African-Americans playing the game. If you love the game, you want kids to play it because you want them to discover the love of the game too. All colors, races, religions, orientations, etc...

#16 Myt1


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 09:38 AM

I don't understand why people need to make a big distinction between "African-American" and dark-skinned Latin players for the sake of generating statistics. Both types were equally separated from white (sorry, caucasian-american) players and forced to play in the old Negro leagues (eg. Luis tiant Sr.).


Because we like to be as precise as possible, and, given the relatively different roads that Americans take to get to MLB vs. how foreign born players do, there are a number of factors that might account for the decline in the black-american-born MLB population. I don't think anyone here is saying, "There are fewer because MLB is racist!" which seems to be the argument that your post is addressing.

The fact is there are more players in the major leagues with dark skin than ever before. If you're going to lament the fact that fewer of them come from African roots than Latin roots, then to be equitable you should lament how very few white players come from Irish roots.

This is foolish for the reason I stated above. There's little difference in the road to the majors for a white guy of Irish descent vs. a white guy of German descent.

The very best players from all over the world now play in the major leagues. We should enjoy their performances and ignore their ethnicity.


Well, maybe. Maybe the some of the best athletes who would be even better baseball players end up doing something else, or get removed from the population. Maybe, as paul wrote above, whites are now more incentivized to pursue the game. It's an interesting discussion to have.

Just because people are talking about a subject that might make you vaguely uncomfortable doesn't mean it's verboten. If you disagree with someone's conclusions, do that. If you don't want to have a conversation about this issue, then don't.

#17 yep

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Posted 25 July 2008 - 09:41 AM

I don't understand why people need to make a big distinction between "African-American" and dark-skinned Latin players for the sake of generating statistics. Both types were equally separated from white (sorry, caucasian-american) players and forced to play in the old Negro leagues...


Well, maybe we don't need to make any distinctions at all, but people still do. And generally speaking (which is a dangerous business), in the US, black North Americans do not generally tend to identify with dark-skinned latinos, and vice-versa, any more than "white" Americans see themselves as part of the same ethnic group as light-skinned latinos (or vice-versa). If there were no white non-hispanic players in baseball, it would be worth asking why, even if there were plenty light-skinned latino players.

#18 Frisbetarian


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 10:00 AM

I would think MLB would make some effort to set up summer baseball camps for poor kids (black , hispanic and white). Maybe they do already. They might find a gem who otherwise would never be noticed and end up in jail, but even if they don't, it's good PR and keeps the kids out of trouble to boot.


I have been in contact recently with Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI) about doing some volunteer work, and perhaps teaching some classes, for their members. This is a tremendous program, started in 1989 by ex-MLB player John Young, who had a cup of coffee with the Tigers. Since then the program has expanded to over 200 cities with over 120,000 participants each year. Graduates of the program include Coco Crisp, Carl Crawford, Dontrelle Willis, James Loney, and Jimmy Rollins. If you get the chance, I strongly suggest you check out the site, and if you feel the declining number of African-Americans in baseball is an issue, you may want to give them your support.

Nice work, Philly, in illustrating an issue that both needs and deserves discussion.

#19 templeUsox


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 10:22 AM

Well, the distinction becomes important in my mind because there are less and less fields in urban African-American communities and less young African-Americans playing the game. If you love the game, you want kids to play it because you want them to discover the love of the game too. All colors, races, religions, orientations, etc...

And from a selfish standpoint, you want the best athletes available trying to play the game, since it will most likely increase the quality of the game you love.

#20 LahoudOrBillyC


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 11:13 AM

Count me as somone that is very interested in getting more African-Americans into the game. I would like to see this broken down by college and high school. Also, aren't there more undrafted players making it to the majors then previously--international players?

#21 LahoudOrBillyC


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 11:26 AM

One thing that might be of interest. Although it has been widely reported that at one time 28% of all major league players were African American, this is absolutely untrue. On a recent episode of "Costas Now" both the host and his guests, including Dave Winfield who apparently has been working on this problem with MLB, cited this incorrect statistic.

I studied this issue in some depth last year, starting in 1947 up into the early 1990s. I was going to take it further, but beginning in 1991 the data is available in the report that Richard Lapchick did--I went far enough to convince myself that our data were the same. There is another study I found that did what I did, and got essentially the same numbers.

Anyhow, American-born blacks made up about 18 to 20 percent of the pool from the mid 1970s into the mid 1990s, never exceeding 20%. Beginning about 1998 the numbers dropped like a rock.

One of the problems you run into in this study is how to define an African-American. I found pictures of every guy, made a determination photographically, and then figured out where they were born. Back in the day, all of the people you would identify as "latino" were born outside of the US (or in Puerto Rico). Today it is tougher. For example, Alex Rodriguez, who is largely of African descent and born and raised in the United States, was considered Latino by the Lapchick study. I can only assume that the study determined that if your heritage came directly from Africa to the US you are African American, while if it detoured into the Carribean, even if it got to the US many years ago, you are not.

Similarly, many players today are bi-racial, which was less common earlier. Roy Campanella, whose father was Italian, was certainly considered black when he played. I am not sure how the Lapchick study dealt with Derek Jeter, or players who are less than 50% black.

Edited by LahoudOrBillyC, 25 July 2008 - 11:29 AM.


#22 absintheofmalaise


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 11:53 AM

A big factor is the cost of not just playing baseball in the rec leagues and high school, but also the cost of getting noticed by colleges and MLB teams and followed. Colleges,primarily, scout HS players in the summer and fall tournaments that are put on for traveling teams. They also get the results from various showcases that are put on by local associations and follow some of those players during their seasons. All of these cost money. Showcases will run anywhere from $50 to $300 each and if you don't do well on that day you need to go to more of them. If you are good enough to get invited to play on an elite traveling team it can easily cost $5000 to play in the summer tournaments between the fees to join the team and the travel costs. The elite teams will subsidize a few players that can't afford to pay, but those guys are usually good enough to play for D-1 schools. It's usually about $500-$1000 to play on a fall travel team. I know at East Cobb, they charge $100 just to try out for a team.

#23 Lefty on the Mound


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 12:24 PM

Just because people are talking about a subject that might make you vaguely uncomfortable doesn't mean it's verboten. If you disagree with someone's conclusions, do that. If you don't want to have a conversation about this issue, then don't.


The subject does not make me uncomfortable. Look...if Manny and Coco had grown up in Boston in the 1960's, they both would have had rocks thrown at them when they got off the school bus in Southie. Yet some of us feel compelled to be ocncerned that there aren't more Crisps than there are Ramirezes.

Drocca posted that "the distinction becomes important in my mind because there are less and less fields in urban African-American communities and less young African-Americans playing the game". Are there more and more fileds in urban Latin-American communities or Asian-American ones? I suggest that for this concern that a more pertinent statistic would be the percentage of players coming from urban communities.

African-Americans are no longer the prevailing minority in the US. Why should it be surprising that they are not the prevailing minroity in major league baseball?

#24 Myt1


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 12:47 PM

The subject does not make me uncomfortable. Look...if Manny and Coco had grown up in Boston in the 1960's, they both would have had rocks thrown at them when they got off the school bus in Southie. Yet some of us feel compelled to be ocncerned that there aren't more Crisps than there are Ramirezes.


Who is "compelled" to be concerned? And why do you insist on looking at the similarities between blacks and latinos through the lens of racism? The catty parenthetical "(sorry, 'caucasian-americans')" in your previous post belies your own feelings about this matter, not those of anyone else. If you don't want to have this discussion because you think everyone is merely motivated by white guilt, then either say that or just leave the thread.

The drop in black, american-born MLB players is probably the result of a number of factors that are not applicable to foreign born latinos. Thus, there's an area of discussion.

Drocca posted that "the distinction becomes important in my mind because there are less and less fields in urban African-American communities and less young African-Americans playing the game". Are there more and more fileds in urban Latin-American communities or Asian-American ones? I suggest that for this concern that a more pertinent statistic would be the percentage of players coming from urban communities.

I suggest that the more pertinent statistic is that the Latin American countries we are talking about are not urbanized the way many of the american black communities are. Much of the rise in the Latin population of MLB is due to the rise in international players, not american-born latinos, so I don't know why you want to concentrate on urban latin-american communities. The rise in Asian players in MLB has roughly nothing to do with Asian-Americans, so I have no idea why you're bringing up Asian-American communities.

African-Americans are no longer the prevailing minority in the US. Why should it be surprising that they are not the prevailing minroity in major league baseball?


Your demographic point is to one side. We're talking about the decrease in American born black players vs. the influx of international players. So who cares about the prevailing minority in the US?

Moreover, american born blacks constitute the vast majority of players in the NBA and NFL. So what factors affect baseball uniquely? And we're not having a discussion about surprise. We're talking about causes and effects.

Edited by Myt1, 25 July 2008 - 12:49 PM.


#25 yep

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Posted 25 July 2008 - 12:53 PM

...if Manny and Coco had grown up in Boston in the 1960's, they both would have had rocks thrown at them when they got off the school bus in Southie...


For good or for ill, rock-throwers in Southie may not be the final determinant of a person's ethnic identity. Some would suggest that Manny or Coco are better people to ask about their ethnicity than Southie rock-throwers from the 70s. White Latinos and non-latinos certainly seem to have no trouble drawing a distinction, why should dark-skinned latinos and black Americans be assigned to the same race?

For that matter, if skin color is the only determinant, then is there no such thing as hispanic or latino?

#26 ScotianSox

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Posted 25 July 2008 - 06:44 PM

Just for curiosity sake, how does the decline in Bback Americans compare to the decline of white Americans? Has the black American/white American ratio changed significantly or is this largely a result of their being a lot fewer American players than there were 30 years ago? I suspect it is some of each.

Edited by ScotianSox, 25 July 2008 - 06:44 PM.


#27 Monbo Jumbo


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Posted 25 July 2008 - 08:00 PM

Only one data point, but...

Posted Image

This is the sandlot ball field in the AA neighborhood I used to live in. That was my house under construction beyond right field. This pic is taken standing on home plate. My neighbor Mike used to mow the field. It had bases and a backstop and benches. He and I tried to interest the county in purchasing and saving the field, but they were only interested in larger baseball complexes, not a single field.

Mike told me stories about how he and all the neighborhood played baseball on that field everyday when they were kids. One of the kids in that regular game, his cousin, made it to the minor leagues in the Mets system. Mike is my age, early 50s. He told me how the kids these days have no interest in baseball. The field was only used by Mike when he'd pitch to his son, or hit flies for his son to shag. The rest of the local kids just wanted to play hoops.

The field is half gone now, a McMansion sits in right and center field.

Here's a case of kids having there very own private ball field they could use anytime they wanted, and it sat idle for lack of use. Just one data point.

#28 paulftodd


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Posted 26 July 2008 - 12:18 AM

For good or for ill, rock-throwers in Southie may not be the final determinant of a person's ethnic identity. Some would suggest that Manny or Coco are better people to ask about their ethnicity than Southie rock-throwers from the 70s. White Latinos and non-latinos certainly seem to have no trouble drawing a distinction, why should dark-skinned latinos and black Americans be assigned to the same race?

For that matter, if skin color is the only determinant, then is there no such thing as hispanic or latino?


My understanding is that ancestors of todays dark skinned Latinos came over on the same slave ships African Americans did. Only 5% of the slave trade went to British North America (500,000 slaves vs 11,000,000 total). Of course, there was some intermixing between the Spanish, French Dutch, Portugese and British slaveowners and slaves, and even after the slaves were freed after abolition. So few are 100% African, and are mixed to some degree or another with Caucasian races, and the language and culture of their former colonists linger to some extent or another.

While many American born blacks consider themselves African American, black hispanics generally do not consider themselves African-whatever. Guys like Pedro are strongly nationalistic and consider themselves Dominicans, Venezuelans, Jamaicans, etc. So while Manny, and Big Pappy are not African American to many blacks most whites make little distinction between them, and from what I can see, most baseball fans are color blind. If you can hit you rock, no matter what color you are. Being white with 280 OBP does not make you popular. Popularity is performance based (so long as you don't get caught doing steroids or beating your wife), and generally has nothing to do with skin color (there are some dumb people of all colors who are exceptions).

In 1972, African Americans were 10% of MLB, increasing to 20% in 1972, and peaking at 27% in 1975 (as lahoud said though, this number may be overstated) . The Red Sox 1967 World Series roster was 24% African American and that team was beloved, although some players like Reggie smith had some problems when racial tensions were high. The bleachers made life tough for him in CF. But those were special times.

Edited by paulftodd, 26 July 2008 - 12:20 AM.


#29 paulftodd


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Posted 26 July 2008 - 12:27 AM

I have been in contact recently with Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI) about doing some volunteer work, and perhaps teaching some classes, for their members. This is a tremendous program, started in 1989 by ex-MLB player John Young, who had a cup of coffee with the Tigers. Since then the program has expanded to over 200 cities with over 120,000 participants each year. Graduates of the program include Coco Crisp, Carl Crawford, Dontrelle Willis, James Loney, and Jimmy Rollins. If you get the chance, I strongly suggest you check out the site, and if you feel the declining number of African-Americans in baseball is an issue, you may want to give them your support.

Nice work, Philly, in illustrating an issue that both needs and deserves discussion.


Thanks for the link. It sounds like a great program, if I ever get back to the US I might look them up.

#30 philly sox fan


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Posted 26 July 2008 - 07:45 AM

One of the reasons for the near absence of any African American talent from the collegiate ranks has always been pinned on the scholarship situation in college baseball. While many college football players receive full scholarships, it is the rare, elite baseball player to receive a full scholarship. This might have the effect of deterring African Americans from college baseball and into other college sports.


One of questions I asked myself while doing this is to what extent is this a NCAA problem as much as a MLB one? I don't know any numbers of black participation in college baseball and don't watch much, but in the few CWS games I saw I didn't notice any blacks outside of Jemile Weeks. I know there have been anecdotal stories - often based on the low scholarship level - that black participation in college baseball is very low.

It may not be an actual "problem" that needs to be solved for the NCAA, but it has interesting ramifications for MLB. We mostly talk about the elite amateur players in terms of where they come from for the draft and it doesn't much matter whether those players sign out of HS or go to college because they'll eventually enter pro ball. But college provides an important secondary development level for non-elite amateurs who go to college for 3-4 years competing against top competition and improving their skills and then enter pro ball as mid and late round filler picks. With some frequency those players do become David Eckstein or Kevin Youkilis. If D1 colleges do have very low black participation, then the black Ecksteins don't get that chance to continue to develop and at least put themselves on the map as future organizational filler late rd draft picks.

#31 philly sox fan


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Posted 26 July 2008 - 08:06 AM

I don't understand why people need to make a big distinction between "African-American" and dark-skinned Latin players for the sake of generating statistics. Both types were equally separated from white (sorry, caucasian-american) players and forced to play in the old Negro leagues (eg. Luis tiant Sr.).

The fact is there are more players in the major leagues with dark skin than ever before. If you're going to lament the fact that fewer of them come from African roots than Latin roots, then to be equitable you should lament how very few white players come from Irish roots.

The very best players from all over the world now play in the major leagues. We should enjoy their performances and ignore their ethnicity.


I struggled with that distinction as well. At one point I was going to look at "white" players from both school types to compare to the black player data, but then realized that there were several Latin players - Manny Ramirez and Julio Lugo for a couple Sox examples - who were in these drafts and both not black and yet would not have been able to play pre-Robinson. Do I want to make that distinction? Do I want to lump Hispanics in with whites as "non-Black"? Does whether or not an American born Hispanic player would have been able to "pass" pre-Robinson have any relevance at this point?

Hard to answer, uncomfortable questions, so I mostly punted.

I definitely started with the opinion that it doesn't matter one way or the other because there isn't systematic racial barriers, but the decline is really quite substantial (although interesting note from LaHoud that it may be overstated) and for the reasons mentioned - we love baseball, we want the best possible players playing it to continually raise the level of play - I do think it is important for MLB (and the NCAA perhaps) to be actively thinking about keeping as many young black ahtletes interested in baseball as possible.

It's not the best analogy, but we want MLB working to develop baseball talent in foreign countries because every new sub-population that the game can tap makes that overall talent pool deeper. It doesn't make sense for MLB to be making long term investments in China and Europe while not also making significant investments in Compton or wherever where the payoff can be much quicker. And to be fair, MLB is making some investments in those areas with contributions to the RBI program and the couple academies that have been opened.

I do think that as fans of the game we have an interest in the efforts made by the game's institutional caretakers to keep expanding the talent pool to be every vigiliant about potential players falling out of that talent pool.

#32 philly sox fan


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Posted 26 July 2008 - 08:23 AM

Just for curiosity sake, how does the decline in Bback Americans compare to the decline of white Americans? Has the black American/white American ratio changed significantly or is this largely a result of their being a lot fewer American players than there were 30 years ago? I suspect it is some of each.


The JC Bradbury link in the first post has a graph on the percentage of whites in baseball between 1991-2007. Between 1991-1997 the percentage dropped sharply from 68% to 58%. It's been ~60% since.

From 1991-2007 the African-American % dropped from ~18-8.

And Latinos from about 15 to 30%.

Those percentages don't exactly add to 100, but they're close enough. If you base everything on 750 roster spots you end up with numbers roughly like this:

Whites: 510 players in 1991 down to 450 players in 2007. That's a drop of 60 players which is a 12% decline from 1991 levels.

Blacks: 135 players in 1991 down to 60 players in 2007. That's a drop of 75 players which is a 56% decline from 1991 levels.

Latinos: 110 players in 1991 up to 225 players in 2007. That's an increase of 115 players which is an increase of 105% from 1991 levels.

So Latinos have taken rsoter spots from both groups, but despite the fact that the white:black ratio was over 5:1 in favor of whites, the black players have lost more roster spots and therefore seen a much bigger percentage decrease.

#33 ScotianSox

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Posted 26 July 2008 - 08:45 AM

So Latinos have taken rsoter spots from both groups, but despite the fact that the white:black ratio was over 5:1 in favor of whites, the black players have lost more roster spots and therefore seen a much bigger percentage decrease.


Thanks, I guess I should have investigated that further myself. I'll go back and read that article. That is a pretty dramatic change. I was always one to brush this off before (every year when the report came out) but now I see the value of looking into this phenomenon. It shows a more extreme decrease than I had really imagined and even though I usually don't worry about this kind of thing (as long as there is no obvious discrimination) but I think there probably is something strange going on here.

I think a bunch of people are hitting the spot when they say that baseball has become more organized (and therefore expensive) in North America over the last few years. I don't see any kids every just playing pickup baseball anymore around here. Even when I was a kid (not that long ago) the pickup games were a dying out. Besides the cost of playing organized baseball (fees, travel, etc) there is the whole issue of parental support to get them involved (time, transportation, involvement) which I'm sure makes it harder for inner city kids to get involved. It just becomes easier to go play some hoops. It's too bad, really, we all just want to see the highest level of baseball possible so involvement of all races (and nationalities, really) is ideal.

#34 Super Nomario


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Posted 26 July 2008 - 02:40 PM

I think a big reason is the scholarship issue - specifically, in 1993, the NCAA imposed a limit of 11.7 scholarships for a (roughly) 30-man roster. That means few if any players are on full baseball scholarships. Starting next year, new regulation will enforce more even distribution of this money, meaning few players will even be on half scholarships. Certainly this change could have had a major impact on athletes coming from impoverished backgrounds, many of whom are unfortunately minorities.

Source:
http://online.wsj.co...html?mod=sports

Edited by Super Nomario, 26 July 2008 - 02:49 PM.


#35 philly sox fan


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Posted 26 July 2008 - 09:51 PM

I think a big reason is the scholarship issue - specifically, in 1993, the NCAA imposed a limit of 11.7 scholarships for a (roughly) 30-man roster. That means few if any players are on full baseball scholarships. Starting next year, new regulation will enforce more even distribution of this money, meaning few players will even be on half scholarships. Certainly this change could have had a major impact on athletes coming from impoverished backgrounds, many of whom are unfortunately minorities.

Source:
http://online.wsj.co...html?mod=sports


I've always believed that the scholarship issue was a key one as well, but I recently read someplace (forgot to note the exact source) but the decrease to 11.7 scholarships in 1993 was a 10% drop from 13. Every little bit helps, but considering the overall cost of college (and it's gone up much faster than inflation) and the fact that scholarships are sliced into small pieces anyway, I'm not sure that relatively small decrease can be a primary driver. It's not like there used to be 20-25 kids on full rides and all of a sudden the financial help was dramatically cut.

#36 ookami7m

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Posted 26 July 2008 - 11:24 PM

I get that the decline of Scholarships would limit the #s of African-Americans playing college baseball, but how much does it affect the #s playing in High School who get drafted? Admittedly those that are borderline draftees would maybe more likely to play basketball/football and get that college scholarship where they can, but does that still explain the drop in HS draftees as well?

#37 LahoudOrBillyC


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Posted 27 July 2008 - 12:22 AM

So, philly, back when 20% of the players in MLB were African-American, how many of them went to college? I have always been under the impression that even a generation ago most of the black players were drafted out of high school, while the white players were more of a mix.

If I am right, then the scholarship issue is not germane.

#38 Myt1


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Posted 27 July 2008 - 10:12 AM

So, philly, back when 20% of the players in MLB were African-American, how many of them went to college? I have always been under the impression that even a generation ago most of the black players were drafted out of high school, while the white players were more of a mix.

If I am right, then the scholarship issue is not germane.


Sure it is. There's been a concerted efforts by some front offices to begin concentrating on college players.

The degree to which it might be an issue is certainly open to discussion, but of course it's relevant.

#39 philly sox fan


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Posted 27 July 2008 - 03:09 PM

So, philly, back when 20% of the players in MLB were African-American, how many of them went to college? I have always been under the impression that even a generation ago most of the black players were drafted out of high school, while the white players were more of a mix.

If I am right, then the scholarship issue is not germane.


Well, my detailed knowledge of the draft doesn't go back much further than 1987 so I really don't know. It is clear that between 1987-1989 there were a lot of very good black college players and more from college than HS. And that extends back a few more years to Barry Larkin and Barry Bonds who were both drafted out of college in 1985.

Let's do a real quick cursory look thru b-ref's draft data.

1986

Sheffield was from HS and went in the 1st.

No significant black collegians in the first 3 rds. Ex-Sox Reggie Jefferson was a 3rd out of HS.

1985

Larkin and Bonds, C, 1st

Brian McRae, HS, 1st

Nobody else in the first 3 rds although did learn that the Sox drafted Constantino Martinez in the 3rd out of a Tampa HS. He didn't sign, went to college and became a 1st rd pick for the Mariners and then a part of the EE.

1984

Shane Mack and Odibbe McDowell were high 1st rd collegians. Neither had great careers, but were very highly regarded as young players.

No other significant blacks in the first 3 rds.

1983

No significant blacks in the 1st 3 rds.

1982

Shawn Dunston, Dwight Gooden, and yes Sam Horn were 1st rd HS picks.

No other significant blacks were drafted and signed. Larkin and Bonds were both drafted out of HS in the 2nd rd. Bonds didn't sign because of something like a 6k difference and I know Jim Callis has made the argument that one reason the college ranks stopped dominating the draft at the end of the 1980s is because teams stopped letting guys like that get away over 6k. And it is more generally true that signing bonuses started dramatically increasing in that period. More money means more premium talent signing sooner.

I have no idea why it happened, but it does look like 1984-1989 was a golden age for college baseball prospects in general and more specifically for black college players. I remember Rany Jazayerli started his draft study in 1985 and mentioned something about the 1984 Team USA squad being a significant touchstone in the overall development of college baseball or something like that. He never addressed the race issue though.

The mid-1970s peak would have been populated by players drafted in the early 1970s so let me do a cursory look at the first 3 rounds from those drafts. Oh, and keep in mind some of these players are before my time and I may miss some racial identifications.

1970

Jerry Hairston from HS in the 3rd.

As a Sox aside Fred Lynn was an unsigned 3rd rd pick from HS by the Yankees. I did not know that.

1971

Jim Rice, HS, 1st rd

That's it for blacks although interesting to note that Brett and Schmidt went back to back in the 2nd rd although those picks, 29 and 30, would be in the first now. That sounds familiar so I probably heard that somewhere before but a little amazing to see. That has to be the best two consecutive picks in draft history, right? Can't imagine any two that could be better than that. And I hope Sox fans will be content if Kelley is only the 2nd best 30th pick in draft history.

1972

Chet Lemon, 1st, HS

Ellis Valentine, 2nd, HS (may not have been that good, but the Expos were my first NL team in the early 80s)

No other blacks, but picked up another couple of HoF players drafted close together. Eckerlsey was #50 and Gary Carter was #53. That was early 3rd rd then. Both out CA HS.

1973

Dave Winfield, 1st, C (a real exception as an all around athletic freak)

Eddie Murray, 3rd, HS

And the Sox finally got their man getting Lynn in the 2nd.

1974

Lonnie Smith, Gary Templeton and Willie Wilson all 1st, HS

I thought I had remembered Wilson as an undrafted guy who came out of the KC academy. Maybe he just played at the academy? Ah, Frank White was an unsigned player from 1970. Were there more very good unsigned players in the 1970s? Blacks in particular? Beats me.

But just from that quick look at the first 3 rds, it definitely seems true that most significant black players - in fact all but Winfield - were from the HS ranks.

So in terms of the C/HS dynamic it appears that there were two inflection points - in the mid-1980s it switched heavily towards elite black players coming out of college and then right at the start of the 1990s it switched back to them coming from HS and declining overall.

The scholarship decline and bonus increase may partially explain the second point. I have no clue about the first, but when people talk about the great college drafts of the mid to late 1980s they are largely talking about that big influx of elite black college talent.

LoBC's research that the mid-1970s peak was really closer to 20% than 27% is very interesting. The MLB data that Bradbury links to has the 1991 percentage at 18%. Based on my beleif that the 1970s peak was at 27%, I assumed that what I was seeing was already part of the long decline. If the percentage in 1975 was really 20% than there wasn't much of any decline between the mid-1970s and early 1990s. The real decline starts then. That shifts the timing of the problem (if you believe it is one) though I'm not sure it really suggests any different underlying causes. It does more specifically tie things to the "be like Mike" NBA era.

It's also interesting that the ~20% plateau was initially supported by a heavy HS mix and then right at the end by a heavy C mix. I guess that means that if you just followed the HS line there must have been a huge drop in the early to mid-1980s. It may actually be that more high end black players are now coming out of HS then did 20 years ago. That would be interesting - and again if you think this is a problem - perhaps a hopeful sign.

#40 LahoudOrBillyC


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Posted 27 July 2008 - 07:23 PM

LoBC's research that the mid-1970s peak was really closer to 20% than 27% is very interesting. The MLB data that Bradbury links to has the 1991 percentage at 18%. Based on my beleif that the 1970s peak was at 27%, I assumed that what I was seeing was already part of the long decline. If the percentage in 1975 was really 20% than there wasn't much of any decline between the mid-1970s and early 1990s. The real decline starts then. That shifts the timing of the problem (if you believe it is one) though I'm not sure it really suggests any different underlying causes. It does more specifically tie things to the "be like Mike" NBA era.

Here is a study that mirrors what I did, and has the benefit of being on the web. This was done for a class that Jules Tygiel taught at USF. Tygiel, recently deceased, was probably baseball's most respected scholar on baseball integration.

Bob Timmerman's Data

His data ends at 2002, but the numbers have continued to decline, and was about 8% in 2007.

Edited by LahoudOrBillyC, 27 July 2008 - 07:24 PM.