John Farrell Reacts to Bud Selig’s Diversity Task Force, Wonders If Black Athletes Are Gravitating More Toward Basketball and Football

John FarrellA recent study revealed that the decline in the number of African-Americans playing baseball might not be as steep as originally believed. However, there are still fewer black players in the game today than there were from the 1970s through the 1990s.

But why?

This is the question MLB commissioner Bud Selig is seeking to answer . Selig announced on Wednesday that a task force has been formed to tackle the issue of on-field diversity.

Red Sox manager John Farrell is among those interested in seeing what MLB’s research reveals. The Boston skipper admitted before Thursday’s game that he wasn’t aware of the task force formed, but he shared his thoughts when asked about the commissioner’s study.

“I think the African-American athlete, I think, has migrated toward basketball and football a little bit more frequently or a little bit more readily,” Farrell said. “Whether it’s the efforts with the RBI program that’s now probably six, seven years in existence to address that — to attract more African-Americans to the game of baseball — I think those are all great measures being taken, but when you look at maybe the land or the acreage needed for fields in the inner city, and that real estate of prime real estate that they’re not going to devote to a field.

“That might be an uneducated response on my part, but I don’t know why we’re not attracting as many African-Americans as we should. I’m looking forward to the results of it as well, because there are far too many very good athletes that could be playing this game.”

On Opening Day, 8.5 percent of the players in baseball were U.S.-born African-Americans. Mark Armour, a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, recently discovered that this is a drop from the 18-19 percent that it had been for two decades.

Armour, like Farrell, is unsure of why this drop has taken place, although he thinks it could be due to the emergence of other ethnicities — such as Asians and Latin Americans — across baseball.

“Some of it is that the number of white players has also dropped,” Armour said, according to MLB.com. “There are so many people who are non-Americans who are playing. That’s a big part of it. But that doesn’t explain all of it. The drop is too large to account for that. It [started] somewhere in the mid ’90s and by 2003, 2004, it went from the high teens to eight or nine percent. And I can’t explain that. That’s not a math problem. That’s Michael Jordan, maybe. I don’t know.

“But I do not believe Major League Baseball has discriminated. It’s very obvious to me that Major League Baseball does not want this problem to be out there. So there’s no reason for them to discriminate. It’s a societal thing and I’m sure they want to get to the bottom of it if they can.”

We’ll wait and see what other kinds of theories arise. It’s clear this is a difficult issue to pinpoint, though, as there are so many variables involved.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here

Photo via Facebook/Boston Red Sox

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