A Response to Ken Rosenthal on the Red Sox and Race

Collin HagerSenior Writer IOctober 15, 2008

It seems, for whatever reason, every few months, an article has to be written regarding race in sports. One of the most color-blind of occupations must be analyzed by everyone with a forum to do so.

While many feel that sports is as true a meritocracy as you will find in America, there are those that feel the need to debate the makeup of a particular team or league.

Ken Rosenthal took that charge in his article posted on FoxSports. Rosenthal argues that it is possible that some free agents could shun the Red Sox because of the makeup of their roster. He breaks down the roster, identifying the one African-American (Coco Crisp), the multiple Latin Americans (Cora, Ortiz, Lugo, Lowell, Lopez, and Delcarmen), the two Japanese players (Okajima and Matsuzaka), the one Native America (Ellsbury), and the remaining white players.

That is 40 percent of the 25-man roster that can identify themselves on a survey as non-white players. Yes, there are other teams that are much better, but there are many teams that are as bad if not worse.

Rosenthal made sure to identify that the Phillies have two star players on the roster that are African-American, and that the Rays, Dodgers, and Brewers have solid non-white contingents on their teams as well.

Those are the facts that have been established. There just needs to be more to the story.

These are not your father's Red Sox. This is not the team nor the city that it was when racial divides caused players to not want to show up. Boston embraces athletes not because of their color, but because of their success. Randy Moss, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen will vouch for that.

Manny Ramirez was given plenty of rope with regards to his antics simply because he produced on a yearly basis. These items are hardly discussed in the piece. His reference to the Red Sox preferring a conformist player is nonsense. The Red Sox wanted a player that wasn't going to fake injuries or ask out of the lineup.

They wanted a distraction gone from the clubhouse. Tell me with a straight face that Kevin Millar and Johnny Damon were conformists.

The overriding point Rosenthal makes is that the lack of diversity in Boston MIGHT be a POTENTIAL reason why SOME free-agents COULD be PERSUADED not to sign with the Red Sox. How many caveats do we need to put into that statement? 

Could there be as many players that will see a team that sells out Wednesday day-games in April and May, that is regularly in the playoffs, that competes for a World Series each year, and has the money to throw around? The second scenario seems just as likely.

Not only that, Rosenthal himself pointed to the Red Sox as an example of a melting pot in action for his article on May 27. He states that the team is even more than a cultural melting pot, as they are able to blend youth and experience, wealth and hunger all in to one. Unfortunately, it's physically impossible for both of these articles to be true.

More to the point, why do we continue to harp on the lack of diversity in baseball? On WEEI of Boston, Michael Holley pointed out to Rosenthal that his own network boasts a total of zero non-white analysts in their baseball coverage.

Jemele Hill of ESPN.com was the first national writer I had seen in a long time take on the lack of white running-backs in the NFL. We still hear about the NFL's lack of African-American quarterbacks and coaches, though (and should, to a degree). No one talks about the lack of American-born white players in the NBA.

The larger aspect to this is simple. At some point, society in general will stop needing to write these articles and make references to race. I'm not sure when, but eventually the idea that teams award jobs based on merit will sink in.

Progress has been made since the people in charge of all teams judged ability on skin color. Rosenthal himself justified many of the trades Boston made within his own piece as having been good for the team and excellent baseball moves.

We can all argue that there needs to be more diversity in every sport. Yet, no fan worth his salt would tell you that they would sacrifice winning for greater diversity. There is too much money at stake for owners in this era to have their judgment of a player based solely on race or ethnicity. The Red Sox and every other team knows this.

Jobs and contracts are offered based on performance and need. It's time that every writer (including this one) stopped trying to create issues where there aren't any to be had.