Major League Baseball 2011: A Diversity Check

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Major League Baseball 2011: A Diversity Check
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
March 31, 2011: Barry Bonds waves to supporters in California. His trial has sparked debates about diversity in baseball.

How does Major League Baseball grade for diversity in 2011—64 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color line? 

Take a walk with me along the river of my thoughts and grading scale, and you’ll probably be able to pick my brain for the answer by this column’s end.

No longer just a buzzword in college business classes, diversity is a must in almost every walk of global corporate life. 

Those who believe in trickle down philosophies will agree diversity in practice has leaked from the board room to bored people in rooms across America’s heartland.

Americans who are mired in the mud of self-hatred and bigotry are being forced to get over it.  Largely relegated to inner circles and family free-for-all discussions, racism is on the way out and diversity is here to stay. 

The dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is alive and kicking in certain parts of the nation, yet it’s severely lacking, still, in others. 

I was afforded the opportunity of reciting his I Have a Dream" speech in fourth grade at an assembly, and I’ve monitored the words taking shape in society for many years now.

Major League Baseball was once a secret society—a segregated society with secrets.  Prior to 1947—as has been well documented—African-Americans were excluded from being members. 

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
March 29, 2011: The Giambi brothers leave court in California. They testified at Bonds' trial.

Robinson helped advance the international African-American spirit, which had been burning across the land—especially after WWI and throughout the 1920s.

After he came along and did what he did, the independence movement in Africa and the Civil Rights Movement in America took hold.  Perhaps it was more than coincidence.  America has become one of the most diverse places on earth.

Diversity means respecting many backgrounds, cultures and ways of thinking.  Recognizing differences in so-called “race,” gender, sexual orientation and ability is what’s up. 

As English is known as the “language of success,” diversity is now the perspective of success.  To be successful in America these days, one almost has to be down with O.P.P—that stands for "other people’s perspectives." 

Diverse experiences and outlooks must be respected.   It’s essential in the global marketplace and in society.  Hearing every voice and singing of inclusion—indeed lifting every voice and promoting positive environments is a valuable skill. 

The way the diversity movement is going, promoting diversity and positive vibes could become indispensable skills sooner than we all think. 

Treating others with respect regardless of color, religion, national origin, age, sex, citizenship, military or veteran status are all protected by federal, state or local laws.  MLB had better be in compliance or else.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Sept. 8, 2010: Hunter scores against the Twins in Minnesota. He's been outspoken in recent years.

New York City, for example, prohibits discrimination based on creed.  The New York Yankees have to respect the creed of inclusion from Reggie Jackson to Robinson Cano, Hedeki Matusi and the remarkable captain Derek Jeter.

Remarks, comments, jokes or gestures ridiculing, threatening or demeaning people is against the law—period.  And this goes a long way in promoting positive vibes in the realm of diversity. 

My grade for MLB is based on the following criteria: 1. Encouraging all opinions and ideas.  2. Viewing differences as assets.  3. Accommodating various strengths.  4. Working together in mixed teams to design and implement creative solutions.  5. Serving broad markets effectively and sensitively. 

MLB has players from almost every nation on the earth, except native Africans it seems.  Africa isn’t represented in the World Championships of Baseball.  This is one place where the league could improve its diversity.

How does baseball do in the area of equal employment opportunities?  Well, Dusty Baker and Ron Washington are the only African-American managers in the majors.  There aren’t any female owners or general managers.  You tell me.

Compensation—salary and benefits—can be said to be based more on negotiating skills than discriminatory factors. 

J. Meric/Getty Images

A-Rod, Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols rank among the highest paid players in the world.  Baseball—like most professional sports organizations—gets an A for employees’ salary and benefits.

A season or two ago, there was a perhaps beneficial declaration by Torii Hunter, who stated Dominicans are manipulated—signed young, paid less and treated poorly.  Hunter wasn’t the first one to speak up about this issue. 

Dominicans, however, largely ignored the controversy—along with the rest of baseball because Hunter’s beliefs weren’t viewed as necessarily being true.  Hunter’s comment controversy helped people get past the longstanding issue after taking yet another look.

In terms of fairness in disciplinary actions, MLB’s image has improved over the years. 

It wasn’t too long ago when Gary Sheffield complained Jason Giambi gets away with yelling at teammates.  Giambi was considered a leader, while Sheffield was considered a poor teammate when he does it—the argument went.

Now there is a culture in professional baseball where it is viewed as being equally wrong for any player to berate a teammate.  Ask the highly, um, motivated Carlos brothers of the Cubs—Silva and Zambrano.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

If Barry Bonds’ trial is perceived as only racially motivated, then people are missing the facts.  Most of the steroid era players have been exposed, Bonds is the only one to go to trial.  People forget, thought, Roger Clemens is also going on trial. 

It’s only Mark McGwire—the biggest cheater of them all, according to whistle blower Jose Canseco—who has gotten away untarnished. 

In terms of untarnished recruiting, hiring, placements, upgrades, promotions and lateral movement, baseball deserves a D-minus—or worse. 

Social and recreational programs need to be expanded in more places where poor people are prevalent such as Detroit and Jackson, Mississippi.  All so-called “races” could benefit.

In terms of terminations of employment and recalls, “Last hired, first fired” appears to be the norm for minority baseball managers and front office employees.

Working conditions are outstanding considering what they once were during the Jackie Robinson days.  No black cats have been spotted on the field and racial epithets aren’t tolerated.  Overall, I give MLB’s diversity a grade of C.

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