At the Saturday conference on the Gross-Simmons study, Lawrence Summers compared the meager number of conservative professors to the startling decline in the number of black players in major league baseball (now down to 8.4 percent). Blacks are well-represented among the best players, “but it appeared that there were not any African-American .250 hitters.” Alas, the implication here – that baseball deliberately cuts the percentage of blacks by discriminating against all but the best African-Americans – is wrong. The main reason for black decline is the structure of the amateur draft. Since the draft does not apply to foreign-born players, teams can circumvent the draft by aggressively seeking promising players outside the U.S., most commonly in Caribbean countries. Every major league team now has a training camp in the Dominican Republic. Vince Gennaro, a consultant to many major league teams, says the international market “is the place where the high-revenue teams can leverage their economic advantage.” Another factor is that the draft has shifted sharply toward players in college, where there are fewer blacks and a dwindling number of athletic scholarships. Polls also show that black youths are much less interested in baseball than they are in basketball and football. One reason may be that black culture puts a high premium on improvisation (jazz, hip hop, the transformation of modern basketball). Baseball may be the sport most resistant to improvisation.
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