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Immigrant Baseball—The Bubble Bursts
During the last two years, I've reviewed a substantial body of evidence that proves that overstocking major league baseball teams with players of multiple cultures and ethnicities does not produce winning teams. In fact, the immigrant strategy generates more headaches than wins.
Given the hard facts, it's possible that the brouhaha about the wonderfulness of diversity in baseball may abate, if only temporarily.
If you were to ask—off the record—the recently-fired managers of the New York Mets and the Seattle Mariners, Willie Randolph and John McLaren, to say something good about their diverse squads, especially the contingent commonly referred to as "Caribbean players," they would be hard pressed to respond positively.
In baseball terminology, "Caribbean players" include Dominicans, Cubans, and Puerto Ricans, even though they are American citizens; Mexicans, even though Mexico is not in the Caribbean; and Venezuelans, even though Venezuela is on the South American continent. "Caribbean players" refers more to a style of baseball—sometimes good but often bad—than a physical location.
Before I begin: note carefully that I do not suggest that there are not and have not always been outstanding "Caribbean players". There's a ton of them. Some are in the Hall of Fame and other active players are on their way to Cooperstown.
Two of baseball's most diverse teams—each with a heavy representation of "Caribbean players"—are also two of baseball's worst teams. The Mariners have the major leagues lowest winning percentage while the Mets struggle to reach .500.
Pre-season prognosticators picked the Mets and the Mariners as strong World Series contenders.
Instead, both are chronic under-performers. They get more attention for their bickering, sniping and general inability to play head's up baseball than for their skills which remain, even as the All-Star Game approaches, only occasionally on display.
Normally, the fact that analysts miscalculated a team's ability would not be much of a story.
But at VDARE.COM, we pay attention—because the MainStream Media equated baseball diversity with success without, as Steve Sailer once said in reference to the significance of the Hispanic vote, going "through the formality" of actually playing the games.
For example, the June 2007, Sports Illustrated lead story, written by Gary Smith and titled "Mix Master: The Unlikely Story of How Omar Minaya Created the Melting-Pot Mets" was fantasy from start to finish.
The cover featured smiling photos of Cuban-born Orlando Hernandez, Mexican-born Oliver Perez, U.S.-born John Maine, Venezuelan-born Endy Chavez, Dominican-born GM Omar Minaya and New York's first African-American manager and now ignominiously fired Willie Randolph.
Smith's article today is a comical read.
Even funnier is the July 31, 2005 New York Times Magazine feature piece by Jonathan Mahler, Building the Béisbol Brand, which extolled the virtues of "Latin-inflected style of play—fast, aggressive, emotional…irresistible."
With the dismal results of diversity-driven baseball now obvious to even the most casual fan, we may be approaching that glorious moment when sports writers and talk show hosts can be openly critical without fear of losing their jobs.
This has not always been the case.
Infamously, in 2005 radio host Larry Krueger of the San Francisco Giants' flagship station KNBR, referred to some Giants as "brain-dead Caribbean players hacking at slop every night" and to the team's manager, Dominican-born Felipe Alou as having a brain that had turned into "Cream of Wheat."
Krueger's completely accurate evaluation of the players—the marginal Pedro Feliz and two others no longer playing in the major leagues, Deivi Cruz and Edgardo Alfonzo—and of the manager reflected the feelings of his audience and of most Giants fans. But it nevertheless resulted in his immediate suspension without pay.
(Krueger's "hacking at slop" comment refers to the phenomenon Steve Sailer described in his 2003 article Baseball's Hidden Ethnic Bias: in Favor of Freeswinging Latins —the fact that Latin players have statistical tendency to try to hit pitches they really should let go by, because they don't want to get on base by walking.)
One week later, KNBR canned Krueger. Also fired were two others, KNBR's program director and the morning show's producer.
Alou, a beloved figure in the politically correct Bay Area as a player—one of the three Alou brothers (Matty and Felipe being the other two) of major league fame—and father of current star Moises—sealed Krueger's fate when he called him "the messenger of Satan" and said: "I'm going to make sure that it is known worldwide. I have the means now to identify people like that. They're going to know in my country tonight. [Even] the president of my country."
And shortly after Krueger's on-the-air condemnation of lousy Caribbean brand baseball, the Giants released Cruz. Alfonzo kicked around for one more season with Los Angeles Angels and the Toronto Blue Jays before getting his walking papers. Only Feliz lingers with the Philadelphia Phillies.
In what must have been Krueger's sweetest moment, the Giants let Alou go after the 2006 season. Technically, Alou's contract expired. But Giants' management, although calling its decision not to renew it "painful," had seen enough of Alou's listless leadership and was unofficially happy to be rid of him.
The Mets-Mariners multicultural madness and its failure, in addition to shutting up diversity-adoring baseball mouthpieces like ESPN's Peter Gammons, may produce other good news for baseball traditionalists.
- The architect of the disaster known as the New York Mets is unlikely to survive into 2009.
For Omar Minaya, who put the Mets together, there's no place to hide now that Randolph is gone. And ominously for the uneasy Minaya, the Mets hired former Cincinnati Reds' general manager Wayne Krivsky to become the team's assistant general manager. Adding Krivsky to the front office can only mean one thing for Minaya—the boot!
Minaya's departure would be welcome by most Mets fans, who are still seething over the way he treated Randolph on the way out.
- The wave of Caribbean players coming to the major leagues may slow, thus opening more opportunities for Americans.
Time was, poor players from the islands could be acquired for shoeshine money, thus providing owners will an incentive to sign as many of them as possible while shunning the financially savvier and less desperate American college kids.
Today however agents, commonly referred to as buscantes, comb the Caribbean in search of the next big star—and their next big commission.
Last year, the 30 big league teams signed 511 Dominicans for an average bonus of $65,821 – double the average paid only three years ago and nearly 30 times more than what the Oakland Athletics paid to sign Tejada fifteen years ago. [Dominican Shift, by Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, April 15, 2008]
- With the attention shifting away from the Caribbean, the emphasis for finding baseball talent may return to its proper place—the United States.
Anyone who watched the thrilling 2008 college World Series between the University of Georgia and Fresno State saw baseball played as well as it can be. The major leagues may have more skilled individual players. But when it comes to team baseball, Georgia and Fresno State have no equals.
And how's this for a refreshing concept?
Georgia, the CWS runner-up, has players only from Georgia, Alabama, Virginia and Nevada.
And the champion Fresno State roster is made up of an all-California contingent.
That's baseball as it should be—the all-American sport played by all-American kids.
Joe Guzzardi [e-mail him] is the Editor of VDARE.COM Letters to the Editor. In addition, he is an English teacher at the Lodi Adult School and has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.