By Devon POV Mason | Contributor
Professional baseball has changed and looks to continuously change with “ANALYTICS.”
In fact, It’s gotten so bad that Black Ace C.C. Sabathia has just come out and said what we all know: “Black baseball players are forced to play baseball the White way.”
From the defensive shifts to the devaluing of athleticism and other aspects of the game like stolen bases and bunts. The authenticity of the game is dying and giving way to a data-infested robot show with a focus on home runs, spin rates from pitchers and hitters’ exit velocity.
All of these things have altered the way the game is played, managed and consumed. The most glaring way that baseball has changed is in the complexion of the guys who play the game.
Watch any major league game and you’ll quickly notice the lack of MLBbros. It’s exactly why we started MLBbro.com.
Analytics Is The Op
Being forced to play and manage under a new metrics-obsessed and often talent-oppressing culture has contributed to the decline of African-Americans in the sport.
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) July 8, 2021
In fact only 7% of the players on Opening Day rosters this season were African-American, down substantially from a high of 18.7% in 1981, according to the Society of American Baseball Research.
That’s pretty sad in a country where Black people currently make up 13.4% of the population according to U.S Census Bureau stats and Black and Brown players dominate MLB’s All-Time record books, leaving no misconceptions about their impact on the game’s history.
Playing a sport that’s predominantly white like baseball means that there are a multitude of factors Black and brown players will always have to contend with, that have absolutely nothing to do with their on-field ability.
Power In Numbers
Yankees legend C.C. Sabathia recalls himself reeling during the summer of 2016, much like the rest of us, following the murders of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.
That was just the latest in a long string of Black Americans dying at the hands of officers.
But instead of finding comfort in his teammates, he was met with a stereotypical response: “Why don’t they just obey?”
An Excerpt from “Till The End”, a new autobiography of pitcher CC Sabathia, addresses the pressures Black players face to play baseball “the white way.”
When you see a lack of Black players who are willing to speaking out about social issues, systemic problems and police brutality, it’s because of the lack of diversity. There are just not enough Black players for one to feel comfortable enough to take a stand — unlike the NBA or NFL where there’s strength in numbers.
Ex-A's catcher Bruce Maxwell, who took a knee during the national anthem, can't find work,… https://t.co/ueIprwA3aK
— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) December 13, 2018
Lack of Diversity Leads To Cultural Alienation
Sabathia says there were times in Cleveland where he was the only Black player on the entire roster. The Yankees only had four or five Black players at most, on its 24-man roster each season during most of C.C.’s tenure in the Bronx.
“That’s a lonely place to be at any point in your career, but especially if you’re a younger guy trying to prove yourself in the game. You want to hold onto your job and you want to feel like you’re part of the team, not an outcast, not an angry Black guy,” Sabathia lamented.
”And you want fans to love you. LeBron is probably the only athlete who is so good that as soon as he’s back on the court everyone forgets what he just tweeted about social injustice.
But the rest of us would hear about it from the fans and media. You can play baseball for a long time, have a lot of fun, and make a lot of money. But right now this sport isn’t for us, and we know that. And if the game doesn’t change, it’s going to be in trouble, and not just with Black people.”
It’s Bigger Than Baseball
Sabathia recalls spending fifteen minutes in a Boston Louis Vuitton store without one sales associate even acknowledging him, and it wasn’t because they were archrival Boston Red Sox fans either. And how about Willie Mays arguably the greatest player ever, not being able to purchase a home in the wealthiest San Francisco areas when he played for the Giants in the 50’s and 60’s.
Not much has changed as far as how Black players are treated.
This country has always done a really good job of reminding you that even if you’re rich and famous, many people still consider you less than when you’re Black.
Black baseball players should be free to express themselves comfortably and exist within their culture. The thought that players of color have to be fearful of being authentic is just one of the systemic ills that have made baseball a sport that’s not easily digestible for Blacks.
Until MLB has more Black ownership, leadership in the dugout and in the front office, Black players will continue to be forced into an analytics box where their potential is stripped from them as they attempt to fit a certain number or personality mold created by a person who could never understand the depth of their genius.