ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — As Major League Baseball celebrates the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, a diversity report finds that the league could do a better job of identifying and hiring minority and female candidates for top decision-making jobs.
The annual report card released Tuesday by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida shows a drop-off from a year ago in MLB's racial and gender hiring practices. Major League Baseball received a B in racial hiring, a C for gender hiring and an overall C+ grade this year.
The league scored an 82 in racial hiring, down from 90.5 last year, and went from a 74.3 in gender hiring to 70 this year. Overall, MLB scored 76, which is down from 82.4.
"It's always discouraging when the numbers decrease," said Richard Lapchick, the report's primary author. "We are always looking for things to get better and to break new records each time."
MLB often celebrates its diversity among players, even as it struggles with race and gender in its front offices. The league continues to be overwhelmingly white and male at the managerial level, and the same holds true for team front office positions, where people of color and women have found it hard to break through.
At the team level, MLB received an F in racial hiring practices for managers. Out of 30 skippers, Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Dusty Baker of the Washington Nationals and Rick Renteria of the Chicago White Sox are the only ones of color, down from a high of 10 minority managers as recently as 2009. The study also gave a C grade at the general manager level, where there are four men of color running teams, a slight decline from the high of five.
"So we are close but still below in the GM category and just way below in the managers category," Lapchick said.
For gender hiring practices at the team level, the study gave MLB a D+ at the senior administrator level and a C- at the professional team administrator level.
The grades in racial and gender hiring at the league office level, however, were much higher. Former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and successor Rob Manfred have made diversity hiring a point of emphasis.
MLB received an A- in racial hiring practices, where people of color make up 28.1 percent of the central office professional staff. The league office received a C- for gender hiring practices, with women making up 29.3 of its workforce.
Of the executive level positions (VP level or higher) in the central office, 15 are held by people of color and 20 by women, according to the study.
Dan Halem, the chief legal officer for MLB who also oversees human resources and diversity, acknowledges the league could do better in diversity hiring but believes initiatives put into place under Manfred's watch will see the numbers improve over time.
Instead of just following the Selig Rule that requires teams to interview a diverse pool of candidates for jobs, the new approach is to make certain there is more diversity at the lower levels, in hopes of improving the pool of candidates when higher level positions such as general manager come open.
"It's a work in progress," Halem said. "The commissioner, when he became the commissioner in 2015, made diversity in all of these areas one of his top priorities. He put together a lot of well-funded programs in the last couple of years to try to do better.
"But it's going to take a little bit of time before we really see results from these programs in actuality."
Laphick applauds the effort MLB is making to improve the diversity numbers at the league office level, but says something needs to be done sooner rather than later to improve the abysmal showing at the team level.
"They have to figure out a way that it extends to the club level because clearly it's the club level that has the less positive numbers both in terms of race and gender, particularly in senior leadership positions," he said. "There has to be some type of program instituted that will help those numbers spike faster than they have been spiking."