We’ve written many times about how Major League Baseball has a diversity problem in its front office and executive ranks. General managers are almost all youngish white dudes from Ivy League institutions and they have hired people in their own image for years. That, combined with astoundingly low starting salaries for entry level baseball operations employees which make it far easier for well-off young men with family money to take the jobs, has led to a profoundly homogenous group of baseball execs. Major League Baseball has acknowledged this and, yes, appreciates that it is a problem. There have been some efforts, such as an intern program, aimed at combatting this, but that’s only one small step. The league has also hired a diversity and leadership team and an executive search firm aimed at both assessing and addressing the problem. Earlier this week Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated wrote an article about all of this that does not give me a lot of confidence that these people are going to be effective in cracking this nut. Verducci talks to Jose Tamez, who is on baseball’s diversity council and works for the executive search firm. Tamez says that the problem is “skill set bias,” in which teams are selecting overwhelmingly for candidates with analytics backgrounds. That’s plausible and, given the needs of a baseball front office, it’s fair to prefer candidates with those backgrounds. They need people who do analytics, so that’s who they’re hiring. But then he says this: Analytics is the new language of baseball. To rise to key decision-making roles you must be not just fluent in analytics but also expert in them. Seventeen of the 23 general managers hired this decade (since 2010) attended an Ivy League school or another elite private institution. This trend is where Tamez and his team found the skill-set bias, or as he said, “Another way of saying [it] is an old and true axiom—people like to hire people who are like themselves … Take all the [GMs] who went to Cornell and Dartmouth, and if you’re harvesting people from those same schools you’re not going to get quite the diversity if you pick from schools like Howard.” What that passage is describing — preferring guys from one’s own Ivy League alma mater who are “like themselves” — is decidedly not skill set bias.
Major League Baseball: still flailing at front office diversity
Hardball Talk | Sep 15