… San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick didn’t start this referendum, but he has become, like Crispus Attucks or Curt Flood or Rodney King, the flashpoint of a reckoning much larger than himself and long overdue. He stood up by kneeling down, and not only has he yet to move, but others — many black men and at least one white woman, soccer player Megan Rapinoe — are now kneeling with him.
These are the gestures we say we respect: the tough, uncompromising American virtue of commitment and conviction, of making it plain in the face of opposition and being right. Adam Jones, the brilliant Baltimore Orioles center fielder, also made it plain that baseball, the original civil rights sport with the deepest connection to the American story of sports and social justice, won’t willingly be one of the fronts where the battle is fought. Baseball, Jones said, is not the black-dominated world of football or basketball, saying that the game lacks the untouchable wealth of black superstar power, and even a reputable volume of rank and file for it to support a similar form of protest. In demographic and attitude, Jones said baseball is “a white man’s game.”
“Brilliant” is a bit of a stretch for Adam Jones, who is getting paid $16 million this season to play centerfield and hit about 3% better than the league average (OPS+ of 103). “Adequate” or perhaps “proficient” might be more accurate.
Instead, the baseball industry has essentially confirmed Jones’ suspicions through a deafening silence of incuriosity that further severs it from its groundbreaking past, and the truth of the matter is sinking into the soil: Baseball is a white man’s game, and is so by the specific design of the people who run it. In a country full of world-class black athletes, baseball cannot seem to attract many. Nothing Jones said is statistically, factually or anecdotally remarkable except for that he took the remarkable step of actually saying it.
Major League Baseball is 8 percent African-American and more than 30 percent Latino, signed in large numbers for pennies on the dollar. Economically, Latino players are treated as far more disposable than Americans or players from the Asian market, and have been treated with second-class attitudes for just as long.
Baseball has never been very good at evolution or change. The game has two black managers, no black owners and one black general manager. It has one Latino owner, no Latino managers and one Latino general manager. …
The game has cultivated the front-office posture of a Fortune 500 company, placing another barrier to advancement for people of color by preferring young, often unproven Ivy League talent over people of color who have deep institutional knowledge of how baseball works and is played but now lack the graduate degrees that have become the new prerequisite.
In other words, the Moneyball revolution has led to the hiring for front office jobs of a lot more guys who look like Jonah Hill than guys who look like Howard Bryant. But Mr. Bryant’s anger at all the Jonah Hill-types now getting front office jobs isn’t anti-Semtitic, so don’t get mad at him. He’s anti-white, so that means he is good.
… The game is rooted in its anachronisms. Even its coded language — play the game the right way — repels the stylish flairs of a modern player, kids raised in a time of selfies and TV highlights. Unlike football and basketball, which have better adapted to the people who play, making it more attractive to younger players, baseball forces its strict, traditional culture on kids born in the 1990s and 2000s.
The best baseball player of this decade is Mike Trout, who is headed for having the highest Wins Above Replacement statistic in American League for the fifth consecutive season. Trout just turned 25, so he is on pace to be one of the top ten players ever, perhaps the best.
But that just shows how racist baseball is.