Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Blacks aren't black...

...if they are Hispanic, at least that's what Cleveland Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia says:
Still, it's not enough to Sabathia, who along with Florida's Dontrelle Willis are the only prominent black starting pitchers in the majors.

"That's amazing. That's unbelievable," he said. "I don't think people understand that there is a problem. They see players like Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado and just assume that they're black."
Jose Reyes: , and Carlos Delgado:

These players are obviously black. They also speak Spanish. So, it is a little disingenous for anyone to say that Major League Baseball has only a few black players. It may be true that very few professional baseball players are American born and raised blacks, but that doesn't mean there aren't blacks. Delgado is from Puerto Rico and Reyes is from the Dominican Republic. Given their dark complexions, it may be safe to say that they have descended from slaves, so I don't think that Sabathia, unless he is ignorant, is holding that against them. He is simply complaining that there aren't enough guys from the 'hood in the big leagues? Is that even a legitimate complaint?

Essentially, Sabathia claims that the problem is two-fold:

One of the reasons for baseball's decline among African Americans may be that struggling inner-city families can't afford the necessary equipment. Aluminum bats, balls, gloves and uniforms cost money, a fact that pushes kids toward basketball because all you need to play is a ball and a hoop.

In addition, because there are so few African-American major league stars, kids don't identify with them the way they do with today's top NBA and NFL players.

I'm not sure the affordability issue is correct. I'd argue the lack of playing fields is the problem. But overall, the breakdown of hte family units in the inner cities, particularly among blacks, has had huge socio-economic implications, among them probably is the lack of time spent playing baseball, a family-oriented, tradition based game. Inner city families have always been poor, so that doesn't seem like the proper analysis of the "problem." Also, is he saying that most blacks live in the inner cities? I'm not sure that's correct. If not, shouldn't we be seeing more blacks from the suburbs making the big leagues?

The second "problem" seems circular in reasoning. There aren't enough blacks in baseball because blacks can't watch ohter blacks play, so they don't try to play themselves, even though there over 8% of the league is made up of blacks (as of 2005, per the article). BUT, since there were so many black stars of the 50's and 60's, should the 70's and 80's seen an increase in the number of black players, followed by a further increase in the number of black players in the 90's and now? And why is that blacks always need to have role models to be able to accomplish something? Can Carlos Delgado or Jose Reyes be role models for American blacks, even if they aren't from the same place? My all-time favorite player is Barry Bonds, but he's black, so he isn't really a favorite? What does this say about the will of American blacks? They aren't capable of having non-black role models? That's absurd and insulting.

The bottom line, I think, is that Sabathia is just whining like a baby. There isn't a real problem that needs to be addressed. Surely, baseball is losing great athletes to other sports like basketball and football, but baseball is different. You don't have to be the fastest or the strongest or the biggest to succeed at baseball. Baseball is much more difficult and failure is the norm (especially on offense). There may be fewer blacks in baseball, but the game is better in spite of it, so there isn't really a problem, other than a crybaby mentality among players like CC Sabathia.