19 February 2008

Dbacks Acquire White

This winter's high profile personnel moves overshadowed what may be the Diamondbacks' boldest transaction of all - the dogged acquisition of White. In addition to reliable Dan Haren, Arizona inked steady, dependable Caucasians Chris Burke and Chad Qualls, filling roster spots vacated by portly, undisciplined Livan Hernandez, wild-eyed Latino man child Jose Valverde, and disgruntled American black man, Tony Clark.

In December, troublesome Alberto Callaspo was traded for portly, disciplined Billy Buckner, and headcase Carlos Quentin was dumped for enigmatic Vernon C. Carter, who was appropriately shipped to, where else, Oakland - in consideration for creme de la creme, Dan Haren.

All this, a year after Arizona jettisoned agitator Miguel Batista (16-11 193IP $6M) and uncoachable Claudio Vargas (11-6 134 IP $2.5M), in favor of crafty Doug Davis (13-12 192IP $5.5M) and determined, extremely hard working Randy Johnson (4-3 57IP $9.1M).

The latest whitewash makes the Diamondbacks' 25 man roster one of MLB's freest from pigment, with, fair or not, seventeen white players. There are zero Hispanics in the starting lineup, nor a single Asian on the 40-man. The entire rotation - Webb, Haren, Johnson, Davis and Owings - is as white as JT Snow, as is the starting infield, save the astonishingly black Orlando Hudson. Hudson, generally regarded as the best position player on the team, is not expected to re-sign.

To the chagrin of many in the nation's whitest (71%) major city, a deal packaging talented but lackadaisical properties Justin Upton and Chris Young, in exchange for hard nosed competitors Enos Slaughter and Cap Anson, could not be closed.


Glynnjamin said...

Considering we have three blacks in the starting 9, that's more than we've ever had.

Tony Womack...
Tony Clark...
Devon White...
Reggie Sanders...
Quinten McCracken...
Scott Hairston...
Royce Clayton...

So add that to the three we have this year and you've got 10 blacks in 10 years. This is the most color our field has ever had.

LL Beanball said...

Thanks for your comment.

I'm willing to compare current Dback color with past Dback teams, but keep in mind one of the suggestions in the post is that the Phoenix club, operating in the whitest major American city, might have historically gravitated to white ballplayers anyway. We hear converse whispers about the Dodgers all the time; fielding a rainbow roster to reflect the diversity of LA fans. Why couldnt that logic work in reverse?

To the extent that IS true, comparing past and present Dbacks may not shed the sharpest light on whether the current FO considers race. But let's take a look anyway, just for fun.

First, you forgot a few African American starters:

Bernard Gilkey
Lenny Harris
Junior Spivey

Second, and more importantly, here's a much longer list of starting Dbacks of color, a few of whom are often mistaken for African Americans:

Danny Bautista
Jose Guillen
Raul Mondesi
BK Kim
Luis Gonzalez
Roberto Alomar
Miguel Batista
Omar Daal
Livan and his brother
Armando Reynoso
Claudio Vargas
Javier Vasquez
Elmer Dessens
Albie Lopez
Vincente Padilla
Alex Cintron
Tony Batista
Rod Barajas
Erubiel Durazo
Johny Estrada
Jorge Fabregas
Karim Garcia
Jose Cruz
Rod Barajas

There are others, and I'm not including bullpen guys like Francisco Rodriguez, but you get the idea.

The way I look at overall racial and ethnic composition, Caribbean and Asian players have just as much cache as American born blacks. Or do you feel the Dbacks deserve extra credit for that?

Glynnjamin said...

I feel that African Americans playing baseball should constitute extra credit from those who are concerned about the racial composition of a baseball team. 9% of baseball players are african american. 26% are latino.

My point is this, if 26% of players are Latino, then approx 26% of our players over the past 10 years should have been latino. If 9% of players are black, then approx 9% of our historical players should be black.

I don't have time to calculate who is from where (making them african or latin) and what percentage of each 25 man roster those groups made up, but I know this:

12% of our starting 25 are african american and 37% of the projected starting 8 position players are black. That's a big deal. That's a big deal for AZ and that's a big deal in baseball.

I count 11 latinos on our 40 man roster and that is 27%. That seems like a fair number to me.

Sure, we have a ton of Mexicans in AZ and we should cater to them by giving them a strong Mexican player but to suggest that any old Spanish speaking player will help Mexicans identify with the Dbacks is a bit presumptuous. I don't think those in Chinatown in LA were rooting for Chan Ho Park.

LL Beanball said...

According to the Race & Gender Report Card, commissioned in 2005 and linked above, the % of white mlb players is plateauing near 60%, from 68% fifteen years ago.

The Diamondbacks 25 man roster is currently 68% white.

My post was about the Diamondbacks white players vs non-whites - and the recent jettisoning of a slew of non-whites in favor of whites.

Attempts to soften this reality by assigning more racial significance to certain non whites (ie African Americans) as opposed to others (ie Hispanics or Asians) will be met here with bemusement.

Glynnjamin said...

Well, as far as I can tell, our roster is just about 50/50. Maybe you should check your stats.

21/40 are white (52%)*
19/40 are latino/african (48%)*

Just because the guys aren't on the 25-man (how do you know the current 25 man anyways? the season hasn't started) doesn't mean they shouldn't be counted.

you said the Dbacks are getting whiter...when in actuality they are ahead of the "60%" curve that you state is average.

*based on the posted 40-man roster on Dbacks.com

Glynnjamin said...

Also, whether you want to accept it or not, certain races are catered to and are seen as more important in the racial divide of baseball. It is OBVIOUS that African American players are desired by MLB based on their "Urban Academy" and Jackie Robinson Day and the increasingly obvious marketing to bring baseball back to urban centers where blacks live. They are a coveted racial group by MLB which means they need prominent black players.

Baseball is ingrained in most Latino players' backgrounds. It is what they do. Blacks play basketball and football because they require less equipment and people when played in an urban setting.

The fact that we perused african players and promoted them to star status within our organization is a testament to the fact that the Dbacks organization is not looking to whitewash the team.

LL Beanball said...

Good question about the 25 man composition. I use the depth charts provided by MLB -http://arizona.diamondbacks.mlb.com/team/depth_chart/index.jsp?c_id=ari - I think they suffice for this kind of discussion, whether "official" or not.

No argument about the 40 man, where Josh Byrnes stockpiles young, cheap talent regardless of race, and it's currently full of Caribbean arms.

But something seems to happen between the 40 and the 25 - that's why I gravitated toward it in the original post. Worst hitting team in the league suddenly needs 30 yr old Robby Hammock and 28 yr old Chris Burke, instead of Tony Clark or Quentin or Callaspo? Hmmm. This miserly FO spent loads more on Randy and Davis than on younger, and even arguably more productive, Miggy and Claudio Vargas. Hmmm. Dustin Nippert on the 25. Hmmm. $30M to Eric Byrnes, but unlikely to sign the team's best position player (Hudson) for similar dollars? Hmmm.

I appreciate that JB stole Chris Young from the White Sox and grabbed Hudson. Selecting Upton #1 was a no brainer - it almost would've been hard not to. But this isnt 1959 either,and a few highly visible acquisitions dont magically exonerate this FO (or any other) from deeper scrutiny on race, any more than the old Red Sox FO should've been exonerated after signing Pumpsie Green.

No "whitewasher" today is dumb enough to field a completely white 25 man roster. While I havent called anyone a racist here, today's racism couldnt survive without being more subtle.

As far as blacks being more catered to, I see this as PC window dressing, designed to appease liberal whites like me and a handful of high profile African Americans like Hank Aaron and Dave Winfield. Baseball cares. Whatever.

Economically, MLB dreads a genuine influx of black players because MLB doesnt want more black fans in the stands - MLB's rolling in cash without them. Why mess with an incredibily lucrative, almost exclusively white cash cow, when you can diffuse most criticism with earnest sounding "report cards" on race that tangibly mean very little?