Red Sox

MLB Notebook: Baseball’s on-field diversity problem more apparent this week than ever; Groome bides his time

This past week has seen upheaval in the country and plenty of introspection in the game of baseball.

As baseball preaches about the importance of diversity, it must also question why just 7.7 percent of its rosters are African-American players, down substantially from the 1980s, when participation by African-American players was more than three times that number.

The Red Sox are rightly vilified for their past sins on the matter of race -- from their sad ignominy of being the last team to integrate, after the Bruins employed a black player to their history of dismissing tryouts from talented black players who surely would have made a difference in their on-field trajectory, to their stubborn insistence on hiring managers in the early 1960s who did little to hide their racial bias.

But it should also be pointed out that, thanks to work of GM Dick O'Connell, a criminally underrated figure in team history, who saw to it that the 1967 roster was full of black players. In fact, there were nights in the Impossible Dream season in which the Red Sox started three black players (Joe Foy, George Scott and Reggie Smith), all of them homegrown prospects. And when veteran catcher Elston Howard was obtained for the final two months, there were nights when the same franchise which had not a single black player only nine years earlier suddenly had nearly half its lineup occupied by players of color.

Fifty-three years later, the Red Sox have exactly one (1) African-American player, Jackie Bradley Jr., on their 28-man roster. Sadly, this is hardly out of the norm. As Alex Speier of the Boston Glove recently noted, 14 of the 30 MLB teams have no more than one African-American player on their rosters.

In terms of optics, that meant that the past week represented a particularly bad week for the Red Sox. When the team grappled with the issue of whether to play Thursday night in Buffalo, the debate uncomfortably shifted to Bradley specifically -- as if he were the entire reason this issue had been brought to the forefront.

How sad that Bradley was made to appear like some token, some representative for his entire race. But the sad fact was, given his status as the team's lone African-American player, that was the default.

How did we get here? Some reasons are obvious.