Overall diversity and gender hiring is on the rise within Major League Baseball, according to the latest data compiled by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida.
The 2018 MLB Racial and Gender Report Card, created by the institute known as TIDES, gives MLB a B+, or 88 points, for its racial hiring practices, up from 82 points in the 2017 report. The league scored a C, or 71 points, for its gender hiring practices, up from 70 points in 2017 (see charts). The league’s overall grade was a C+/B- with a combined score of 79 points, compared to 76 points in 2017.
The annual report card tracks gender and diversity data among all owners, general managers, players, coaches and full-time front-office professional staff from each MLB team as well as all professional staff at MLB headquarters. The player data is compiled from Opening Day 2017 while the owner, general managers and managers data is compiled from April 1, 2018. All other data is compiled from Dec. 31, 2017.
“Overall, it’s a very positive development that both gender and racial scores went up,” said Richard Lapchick, the primary author of the study and director of TIDES. “It is a reflection of the emphasis put on it by the league office. The greatest needs are at the team level both at the senior level, general manager and manager level.”
TIDES gave MLB the overall C+/B- grade in the belief that its assessment could have resulted in either grade and was too close to differentiate between the two.
On the field, 42.5 percent of all active players on 2017 Opening Day rosters were people of color, an all-time high, but only 7.7 percent were African-American, the lowest percentage since TIDES began its reporting in 1991.
“It reflects to a large degree who is playing youth sports and the access that young people have to play baseball is limited in some ways,” Lapchick said.
While this year’s TIDES report incorporated data from 2017 Opening Day rosters, MLB’s data of this year’s Opening Day rosters show that African-Americans made up 8.4 percent of all players, 63 total, and is the highest over the last six seasons.
While the league’s gender hiring increased, Lapchick said there is more room for improvement for MLB to hire more women. “Not only with MLB, but it’s all professional sports that are behind on the gender side,” he said.
Driving the overall gains is an added focus under MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to increase diversity within the league. Last year, the league unveiled its MLB Diversity Fellowship Program that is open to people of color and women to increase professional front-office opportunities by placing recent graduates into 18-month to 24-month entry-level jobs, particularly in baseball operations. MLB also has a Pipeline Diversity Program that it began in 2016.
“What we’re seeing and what this data shows is that investing in diversity does work, and that the investments we’ve made are working,” said Renee Tirado, MLB vice president of talent and head of diversity and inclusion. “There is still a lot more to do be done, but we see this as a positive and a sign of progress.”
Since Manfred has made boosting diversity within baseball among his priorities after succeeding Bud Selig in 2015, he last year promoted ambassador for inclusion Billy Bean to vice president and special assistant to the commissioner and Tirado from senior director of recruitment to her current role. Those moves followed Manfred’s 2016 hire of Tyrone Brooks from the Pittsburgh Pirates to help run the Diversity Pipeline Program.
MLB is also slowly beginning to shed a decades-long reputation of decision makers in team baseball operations departments being entirely populated by men. Veteran executives such as Jean Afterman, the New York Yankees’ assistant general manager, and Pam Pitts, the Oakland A’s director of baseball administration, are being joined by a growing group of women including Sarah Gelles, Baltimore Orioles director of analytics and major league contracts, and Haley Alvarez, hired this past offseason by the A’s as a scouting coordinator.
“As we’ve seen a lot of front offices get younger, you’ve also seen a new perspective come in and a lot of the old processes fade away,” Tirado said. “A lot of the younger leaders see the world in a different way. But it’s also important to remember that baseball is not an easy career for any gender. It’s a lot of games, a lot of hours, a lot of demands. And our focus remains to ensure we’re helping develop the best people possible for the industry.”
Staff writer Eric Fisher contributed to this report.