SBD/April 10, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLB To Create Task Force To Study Decline In African-American Players

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Frank Robinson will be one of 17 members of the new task force
MLB today will announce the "creation of a formal task force ...to help reverse the decline" of African-American players on active rosters, according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. The 17-member committee will "consist of owners, executives and coaches," including Baseball HOFer Frank Robinson, White Sox Exec VP Kenny Williams, Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg and Southern Univ. baseball coach Roger Cador. The league is "alarmed by its historic low 7.7 % of African-American players on opening-day rosters this season." That percentage is a drop from 8% last season and the lowest since the Red Sox became the "final team to integrate its roster in 1959." The Cardinals, Giants, Mariners and Rangers all opened the '13 season "without a single African-American player" on their rosters (USA TODAY, 4/10). In N.Y., Tyler Kepner noted Tigers President & GM Dave Dombrowski will serve as chair of the committee, which "includes several other front-office executives." Stanford AD Bernard Muir, MLB Scouting Bureau Senior Dir Frank Marcos and former Mets manager Jerry Manuel also will be involved. Society of American Baseball Research Dir Mark Armour said that the "highest percentage of African-Americans playing in the majors ... was 19 percent in 1986" (NYTIMES.com, 4/9). In Seattle, Larry Stone noted the "paucity of black faces has definitely caught the attention of Mariners announcer Dave Sims, the highest-profile African-American in the organization." Sims said, "I'm focused on it all the time. ... There are so few black American guys in baseball, it's disturbing for me." He noted that the "most common explanations generally center on the cost of the sport." That includes "equipment and joining the traveling teams now widespread in youth baseball." Stone noted there also is what Sims calls "'the coolness factor,' a reference to the fact that baseball doesn't have the same cachet in the black community as basketball and football" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/7).

LOOKING IN THE MIRROR: ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said the RBI Program is “something that has become synonymous” with MLB, and fans can fault MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB “on a plethora of issues over the years, (but) this is not one of them.” Smith said Jackie Robinson “breaking the color barrier was because blacks were not allowed” in MLB. Smith: "Once we are allowed, we make our own decisions. That’s all baseball is obligated to do, and I think they’ve gone beyond that and have done other things to try to generate interest from the African-American community. ... If more African-Americans are not interested in playing (baseball), that’s not Major League Baseball’s problem. That’s ours” ("First Take," ESPN2, 4/10). 

WHO SUCCEEDS SELIG? In Phoenix, Bob McManaman notes if Selig follows through on his pledge to retire at the end of his current contract in December '14, whoever succeeds him will "have a lot on his plate." Issues include the "extended use of instant replay, the future of the World Baseball Classic, further globalizing the sport, increasing sanctions on proven drug users, and if the new one-game wild-card format really works." A "realistic short list" of candidates likely would include MLB Exec VP/Baseball Operations Joe Torre, who is "certainly well-respected and liked throughout the industry." However, Torre turns 73 in July and it is uncertain whether he would "accept the gig even if they offered it to him." Former Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa "can rub some people the wrong way, but who's to say that isn't what baseball needs?" MLB Senior VP/Standards & On-Field Operations Joe Garagiola Jr. has "got the clout," and he is "about the right age" at 62. But MLB Exec VP/Economics & League Affairs Rob Manfred "might be the most logical choice." He has "played a prominent role in collective-bargaining negotiations, he's entrenched into baseball's economics, and he has Selig's ear" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/10). SportsBusiness Journal's Eric Fisher last month identified several possible successors, with Manfred, MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan and former U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) heading the list.
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