From Jeff Passan @ Yahoo.com:

“You see guys like Jermaine Dye without a job,” Minnesota Twins second baseman Orlando Hudson said Monday. “Guy with [27 home runs and 81 RBIs] and can’t get a job. Pretty much sums it up right there, no? You’ve got some guys who miss a year who can come back and get $5, $6 million, and a guy like Jermaine Dye can’t get a job. A guy like Gary Sheffield, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, can’t get a job. …

“We both know what it is. You’ll get it right. You’ll figure it out. I’m not gonna say it because then I’ll be in [trouble].”

What Hudson wants to say: He believes there is a racist element to the free-agent market in baseball, and that it’s paralyzing the 36-year-old Dye’s ability to earn what non-blacks with commensurate numbers received in the offseason.

“Call it what you want to,” Hudson said. “I ain’t fit to say it. After I retire I’ll say it. I’ve got a whole bunch of stuff to say after I retire.”

Read the article…I don’t know enough about all of the individual players on other teams to pass judgment, but I’m fairly certain that the market for older players has dropped off. I don’t know if Hudson has a point or not.

But then it says this…

While some will accuse Hudson of race baiting and paranoia, the reality is quite the opposite: He is taking public a concern that promotes discussion and forces MLB to be honest with itself about the precipitous drop in African-American players over the last two decades.

Has the overall number of non-white players in MLB dropped or just the # of African-American (possibly being more than made up by the number of players from Latin America)?

This kind of stuff sends me right over the edge, I don’t root for white players, black players, brown players, or green players (if there were any)…I root for guys I like regardless. Why does it have to be about race?

30 Responses

  1. TC

    Maybe, maybe not. I tend to doubt it, but I’m not in that situation so I’m not going to second guess a guy who is.

    If he is right, it is truly sad. 🙁

  2. Travis G.

    I’m not going to blast him for making these comments, because Hudson’s privy to more information than I am and sees first-hand how black and white players are treated, but I think he’s off-base.

    Sheffield and Dye can still hit a little, but they have no defensive value and, at least in Dye’s case, wanted full-time player money. Teams are putting more emphasis on defense as the metrics have improved and drug testing diminishes the value of aging sluggers who can’t field a position. Teams have also begun rotating players into the DH slot to rest their older, drug-free players, instead of employing a full-time guy there.

    Ken Griffey Jr., however, provides a strong counter-argument to both my points and Hudson’s: He’s an aging black player who can’t field a position or hit too well but still got a job.

    • Steve Price

      Ken Griffey Jr.,

      My two cents: fans pay to see Ken Griffey, Jr., play even to this day. I see him a in a lot more commmercials than I do Orlando Hudson, Jermaine Dye, or Gary Sheffield.

      • pinson343

        My two cents:fans pay to see Ken Griffey, Jr., play even to this day.I see him a in a lot more commmercials than I do Orlando Hudson, Jermaine Dye, or Gary Sheffield.

        Also about Junior, Seattle management is smart. They’re not giving him a free ride. At least in 2009, was credited by management and other players for improving the clubhouse atmosphere, which apparently had been a big problem. He mentors the young players and brought Ichiro out of his shell.

        Of course, the main thing is they love him in Seattle, he fills the seats.

        In any case, this will be Jr.’s last season.

  3. VTNReds

    Is it really that straightforward?. I don’t know what his experience has been, but isn’t money almost always the deciding factor (as in so many other things), especially w/ the economy the way it’s been? It’s a risky proposition to sign an aging player (like, I dunno, Orlando Cabrera) and I think most teams want to invest in younger guys. Also, the “hinting” really bugs me–why not just come out and say it?

  4. Jeff Meyer

    I agree – I’m not in that situation so can’t say anything for certain, but my guess is that an organisation signs players predominantly based on game performance, not race. I’m sure there are still vestiges of institutional racism that govern some actions and decisions within some organisations, but by and large I think baseball seems to have moved on from the embarrassments of its past.

    My other guess is that if you want to find the reasons for the drop-off in African-American baseball players you’d need to do a comprehensive study looking at communities, schools, funding for sports programs, etc, over the last two decades. Players coming into the league during that time frame will have been kids who grew up with soccer and basketball programmes in their high schools and colleges. Are African-American youths choosing to play soccer or basketball more than baseball in high school? I don’t know, but it would be interesting to find out. Another thing: I moved out of the US about a decade ago so my perception may be skewed, but my sense from abroad is that MLB doesn’t market itself very well.

  5. Mike Martz

    I don’t like any major league players who don’t play for the REDs! In fact I can’t bring myself to watch a baseball game that the REDs are not part of! 😛

  6. BJ Ruble

    Both Dye and Sheffield wanted starting jobs and upwards of 4+ mil a season. For guys of their ability at this point of their career it would dumb to pay them that type of money + guarantee them a starting job. If they were willing to be part time/bench players like a bunch of others, they would have been offered jobs. Just because they are not signed doesn’t mean they weren’t offered jobs, just means they think so highly of themselves they won’t accept a lesser role.

  7. Steve

    I’m not saying I agree or disagree with Orlando Hudson. The reality is that none of us are in a position to know whether or not major league baseball teams discriminate on the basis of race.

    It’s difficult to determine because discrimination is no longer an all-or-nothing issue, like before the league was officially integrated and no black players were hired. With that shameful history we have to continue to be careful in this area.

    Today, black players are employed, even a few old ones, and some white players have a difficult time finding jobs. But that misses part of the point.

    The issue is whether or not teams are willing to pay white players more than black players, even a little bit. Clubs may exhibit that preference based on their own personal prejudice or, more likely, because they perceive their specific fan base as preferring to go see white players.

    If every fan, as Bill declares for himself in this post, really didn’t have a preference for the race of their players, then this wouldn’t be a motivation. But the fact that Bill doesn’t have a bias doesn’t mean that bias doesn’t exist among other segments of fans.

    [While racism is not a problem here at RLN (and one of the reasons I really love the site compared to other Reds blogs), the latent or explicit disrespect for black players and Dusty Baker shows through at other fan sites. Any time someone uses a negative name for Dusty, like Crusty, I wonder if race is part of their attitude. It’s certainly easy enough to criticize Baker without name-calling.]

    Again, let me stress I’m not saying this IS the case, only that it would be the explanation of how it worked were it so.

    My inclination is to say that Jermaine Dye is finding a tough market primarily based on his poor second half last year and advanced age. But there may still be enough racism around that the market for black players is still just a bit more difficult than it is for white ones.

  8. The Mad Hatter

    Who here would prefer Sheffield 2010 and Dye 2010 over Dickerson 2010? The difference is about 4 or 5 million for the season and Dickerson will provide better production and better difference. You can use the same idea with Gomes and Nix. I seem to remember Gomes having a tough time finding a job this off season. Could it be that bad defensive, high strikeout, good power guys are not that valuable in today’s game?

  9. The Mad Hatter

    Dagnabit, difference = defense, whoops

  10. davidmp2

    Tim Dierkes at MLBTradeRumors.com has the answer:

    •Gary Sheffield hit well in 312 plate appearances for the Mets last year, but was lousy the year prior. The 41-year-old is a big negative on defense. He battled knee, back, and hamstring injuries, and sat out a game in August when the Mets declined his request for a contract extension.

    •Passan provides good examples in Kenny Lofton and Ray Durham. But Lofton was said to be asking for $2.5-3MM by some, $6MM by others. In the spring of ’08 Lofton was a near 41-year-old part-time player with suspect defense. Durham, 37 at the time, turned down an $850K offer from the Nationals. He was still able to hit, but his defense was questionable. Isn’t it possible that the common thread here is age and defense rather than race? Luis Gonzalez and Jim Edmonds couldn’t find anything after the ’08 season either.

    •Passan names three white players who did get paid this winter: Aubrey Huff, Garrett Atkins, and Xavier Nady. Presumably Passan is implying that if these three got $3-4.5MM, Dye should’ve too. However, Huff and Atkins were both named by team execs are two of the worst signings of the offseason. It’s very possible that the Giants and Orioles just made bad signings. One exec told me he preferred Hank Blalock, who signed a $925K minor league deal, to Huff. And the Cubs made similar offers to both Dye and Nady. Nady was coming off a lost season, but he’s younger and had more first base experience.

    •Dye has been picky; he said yesterday that to move his family to Washington, D.C. he’d require “a little bit more.” When the Rangers were interested, there was word that Dye did not want a full-time DH job. Dye appears unwilling to settle for the $1.5-2MM players like Jim Thome and Russell Branyan received.

    •Hudson referred to players who missed a year and got $5-6MM. Presumably he’s talking about Ben Sheets, but the situation isn’t comparable to Dye. Coco Crisp snagged $5.5MM (also from the A’s) coming off a 49-game season cut short by surgeries on both shoulders. The pair of moves was about the A’s making injury upside plays. Unlike the older free agents forced out of the game, Crisp is known for his defense.

    •Hudson’s point deserves consideration, but he has to acknowledge the shift toward defense and youth as well.

    • Steve

      Passan names three white players who did get paid this winter: Aubrey Huff, Garrett Atkins, and Xavier Nady. Presumably Passan is implying that if these three got $3-4.5MM, Dye should’ve too. However, Huff and Atkins were both named by team execs are two of the worst signings of the offseason. It’s very possible that the Giants and Orioles just made bad signings.

      If anything this seems to prove Hudson’s point. Clubs were too eager to sign Atkins and Huff, for whatever reason. The fact that they are already acknowledged as bad signings only highlights them as questionably motivated.

      Still not saying there is race (much) involved, but the MLBTradeRumors piece seems way too eager to exonerate the clubs.

  11. davidmp2

    As for the drop in African-American players in the major leagues, the shift has EVERYTHING to do with football and baseball dominating the African-American demographic. Statistics have proven time and time again that African American youths PREFER to play basketball and football over baseball. That isn’t racism, that’s a sport (not a particular professional league, but a sport) appealing to a certain demographic.

  12. pinson343

    I don’t have the numbers, but I don’t believe the number of non-white players has dropped, as the number of Latin players keeps growing.

    As has been said, African American youth prefer basketball and football. As for older players, it’s tougher on all of them now. I’m not sure Hudson is wrong, but I’m skeptical. His giving Sheffield as an example does not help his case. Sheffield is selfish, and for better or worse, very outspoken. His personality puts him at a disadvantage, not his race.

    • Travis G.

      Sheffield is selfish, and for better or worse, very outspoken. His personality puts him at a disadvantage, not his race.

      Curt Schilling is pretty outspoken, too, and he doesn’t have quite the same reputation as Sheff.

      • pinson343

        Curt Schilling is pretty outspoken, too, and he doesn’t have quite the same reputation as Sheff.

        Schilling is outspoken, and a lot of people (including me) think he’s full of it. His official presidential endorsement in 2008 was widely ridiculed.

        But he’s not selfish in the sense of me first, team later.

  13. Mark in cc.

    I didn’t know Jonny Gomes was black.

  14. Furniture City Red

    Well, I’ve never been black or a MLB player, so who am I to say Hudson is full of it – He would know what it’s like to be a black MLB player better than I would….I will say that Sheffield and Dye could both be playing now if they would lower their price.

  15. Chris Garber

    Hudson’s off his rocker on this. It’s not as bad as the stuff Torii Hunter was saying in this article – http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/2010-03-09-part-3-baseball-roundtable_N.htm?obref=obinsite – but still wrong.

    Garrett Atkins and X Nady will never be the player Dye was – but Dye’s body has about 300,000 miles on it. Contrary to the implication Hudson implies and Passan megaphones, Jermaine Dye wasn’t blackballed. He just refused to play for $500k less than he wanted.

    This may be misinterpreted, but I honestly don’t care much if fewer black kids want to play baseball and more Latin American kids do. Ideally, ALL the world’s best athletes would playing baseball, but ultimately, I don’t feel a need for quotas of any kind. Same way I don’t care that there are fewer white guys in the NBA than there were 50 years ago.

    • Travis G.

      I honestly don’t care much if fewer black kids want to play baseball and more Latin American kids do. Ideally, ALL the world’s best athletes would playing baseball, but ultimately, I don’t feel a need for quotas of any kind. Same way I don’t care that there are fewer white guys in the NBA than there were 50 years ago.

      I don’t think the issue is that black kids are playing Little League or high school baseball and then being culled from the prospect herd as they encounter stiffer competition. The issue is that fewer black kids are taking up baseball in the first place, which deprives the game of some potentially great players and possibly lifelong fans.

      Neither of those developments is good for baseball, despite the influx of foreign talent.

      • Bill Lack

        I don’t think the issue is that black kids are playing Little League or high school baseball and then being culled from the prospect herd as they encounter stiffer competition. The issue is that fewer black kids are taking up baseball in the first place, which deprives the game of some potentially great players and possibly lifelong fans.Neither of those developments is good for baseball, despite the influx of foreign talent.

        True, but they’re also not evidence of any type of racism.

      • Travis G.

        True, but they’re also not evidence of any type of racism.

        Never said it was, although there could be a racial element to why black kids in America don’t want to take up baseball.

        My overarching point in this discussion is simply that racism does, of course, exist in baseball, as it does everywhere else. And like most present-day racism, its imprint is most felt in the subtle influence race plays in our perceptions of people.

        For example, consider fans’ (and your own) perceptions Ryan Freel and Chris Dickerson. They’re quite similar players, as speed-dependent, injury-prone outfielders who had to reach their peaks to get any ML playing time. But Freel is perceived as a gritty, hard-nosed player while Dickerson is viewed as getting by on his talent.

        Maybe I’m of-base in those characterizations, or maybe I’ve simply betrayed my own biases and prejudices. That’s how racial perceptions work!

      • pinson343

        Ryan Freel and Chris Dickerson. They’re quite similar players, as speed-dependent, injury-prone outfielders who had to reach their peaks to get any ML playing time. But Freel is perceived as a gritty, hard-nosed player while Dickerson is viewed as getting by on his talent.Maybe I’m of-base in those characterizations, or maybe I’ve simply betrayed my own biases and prejudices. That’s how racial perceptions work!

        Right. Sorry I missed this before my post. Of course, Freel is in something of a category all of his own. He and Farney (the little man is his head) were a danger to his teammates in the OF and fans in the first row. It seems funny now (but not at the time) how when Jr. played RF, he always had one eye on Freel in CF, and was timed about moving toward right center.

  16. al

    @Travis G.: well said. i can come up with several other player comps in reds and red sox history that have struck me the same way. always bugged me.

    one thing to add on the youth front. i do think that the more mlb gets the reputation for not respecting african american players, the less inclined young african americans will be to want to play it, regardless of whether there is actually any racism in their schools/programs.

    i think hudson is off base when it comes to dye and sheff, but i don’t think he’s off base entirely or in general. the fact that people are thinking that way is a bad sign for mlb.

    • Travis G.

      one thing to add on the youth front. i do think that the more mlb gets the reputation for not respecting african american players, the less inclined young african americans will be to want to play it, regardless of whether there is actually any racism in their schools/programs. i think hudson is off base when it comes to dye and sheff, but i don’t think he’s off base entirely or in general. the fact that people are thinking that way is a bad sign for mlb.

      Young Americans of all races are strongly motivated by the “cool factor,” which baseball seems to have lost in comparison to football and basketball. That can be fixed by more effective marketing, which is something I don’t trust the Selig administration or MLB’s broadcast partners to do effectively. But that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

      While MLB likely has a problem with racism, as many American institutions do, so does NFL, which has a dismal and well-documented record for minority hiring, and especially college football. Yet that doesn’t stop black kids from playing amateur football or committing to SEC schools. How is baseball different, at least in the sense of public perception?

      Is it possible that baseball’s significant effort to celebrate Jackie Robinson and his achievements might have backfired? Don’t get me wrong; what Robinson accomplished is truly noteworthy, heroic and of great historic importance — and not just for baseball. But I wonder if the context of 1947 America might be so foreign to younger people that they’re less impressed by the meaning of Robinson’s accomplishments than they are by the notion that Major League Baseball once conspired to keep black men from playing. In other words, every time baseball pays tribute to Robinson for breaking the color barrier, it inadvertently promotes the (inaccurate) perception that baseball was singularly racist in comparison to other professional sports.

  17. pinson343

    There is a lingering racism in some areas, I think. We’ve talked about one such area on this blog: the perception of injuries.

    Eric Davis and Pete Reiser of the ’40’s Dodgers. They played the same way, crashing into OF fences and making all out diving catches. It was worse for Eric in that he had to dive on artificial turf. Reiser was a legend and a hero, a symbol of how the game should be played. Davis was an injury prone malingerer.

    Same thing with Junior. In his first few years with the Reds, he was still “all out” in CF. Another injury prone malingerer. Every Red blog I know of except this one had a lot of bloggers insisting he was faking his injuries. The talk radio “fans” were even worse.

    Junior’s accomplishments and injury history paralleled Mantle’s, who was that much more of a hero because of his injuries. Mantle was an alcoholic too, while a player, part of his romanticized mystique. Imagine if it came out that Junior was an alcoholic.

  18. preach

    Discussions like this are one of the things that separate this blog from so many others. It’s such a breath of fresh air to hear so many intelligent individuals who do not claim to understand something they cannot, and who are open minded to the possibilities to which they may not be personally exposed.

    An additional reason for the decline in baseball among inner city youth of all demographic groups is just the space and equipment needed to play the game. You can fit many, many basketball courts into the area needed for one diamond, and it just takes one ball to play. And no broken windows.

    With the increase in popularity of soccer, many of the remaining fields now have goals on them.

    I also think that the verse which talks about the youth being “wiser but weaker” also comes into play. Youth need a constant influx of stimuli today. Baseball is seen as just too little movement.

    To me, baseball always seemed more of a sport that was passed on from father to son playing catch in the backyard, with dad showing junior how to throw a curve or to wait until the last moment to discard the mask before catching a foul ball so you don’t trip over it. We know there is a lot to the game, but do so many of the youth today? Especially in the areas hit hardest by an epidemic of a fatherless generation?

    Perhaps I’m getting too philisophical, or the romantic streak concerning this game is coloring my perception. I don’t know.

    What I do know is that I appreciate this place. I appreciate the fact that I can type this and still be accepted, grammar issues, warts, and all.

    Thanks to you all for being Reds fans. You are a great asset to MLB.