Baseball, Breitbart and the post-factual society in action

There has been a lot said lately about fake news, echo chambers and bubbles. A big part of that involves how, rather than obtaining information, people consume news a source of confirmation of their ideological biases, which in turn leads to polarization and things like people believing that a New York real estate developer who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth is the savior of The Common Man.

​It’s hard to identify let alone stop this pernicious pattern, but today I got a great view of how it starts. In my little world of baseball news of all places

Major League Baseball has a problem: its executive ranks are filled almost exclusively with young, white, affluent Ivy League grads with a pretty similar mindset. To its credit, Major League Baseball itself realizes that this is a problem. The identification of the problem may have come after outside observers noted just how lily white and homogenous baseball is, but unlike so many other venerable institutions, baseball has not spent too much time pushing back against this in a reactionary fashion, at least lately. Its leaders are smart and generally enlightened and they believe, as its critics believe, that an insular and homogenous executive and managerial class is not a good thing for the industry. Not just for its own sake, but because homogeneity limits ideas and insights and thus impedes progress of the industry.

Of course, recognizing that and doing something about it are two different things. Baseball has struggled mightily with solving its diversity problem for a number of reasons. For one thing, the sport, more than most other industries, encourages and rewards conformity and follow-the-leader tactics, and as long as clubs led by young, white, affluent Ivy League grads do well, other clubs are going to both emulate that pattern and, in turn, tap into that network of young, white, affluent Ivy League grads when it’s their time to make a hire.

For another, baseball both (a) demands that its entry-level baseball operations employees be highly-educated in disciplines which, outside of baseball, can be quite lucrative; while (b) paying these entry-level employees shockingly low wages because, hey, working in baseball is cool. The result of this is that only those highly-educated candidates who are rich enough to take a low-paying job for several years are going to accept an MLB offer and hang around long enough to advance. Major League Baseball may not favor young, rich white candidates for jobs as a matter of ideology, but those are the types of people who can afford to take a job with the Seattle Mariners for $35K a year right out of Harvard. A comparable candidate who worked their way to the same set of qualifications by paying their own way or taking loans can’t afford to do that. They’re going to go work for an engineering firm or something, leaving Major League Baseball’s front offices for the well-off, privileged and, primarily, white.

But again, baseball knows this and has tried to do something about it. MLB started a Front Office and Field Staff Diversity Pipeline Program, led by a man named Tyrone Brooks, himself a former front office intern, tasked with filling those entry-level positions with a more diverse set of candidates. That may or may not pan out, but the idea is that if you get more minorities in the pipeline, those GM jobs that are going to the white bread Yallies now may go to other people later.

More immediately, last year the league hired a search firm, Korn Ferry, and tasked it with finding candidates for these top jobs that are not the usual lily-white Theo Epstein clones. That latter initiative has failed pretty miserably. Almost all of the top jobs filled since Korn Ferry was retained have gone to young white Ivy Leaguers who belong to a pretty insular network. As a result, yesterday Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that it has cut ties with Korn Ferry.

This is where the Breitbart folks and the post-factual society stuff comes into play.

Manfred’s announcement axing Korn Ferry was picked up by a bunch of outlets. My website included. There wasn’t much to say about it, really. It was straightforward. At a minimum it was basic news. If one wanted to expand on it, one could note that it was the latest datapoint in MLB’s pattern of flailing when it comes to diversity in its executive ranks. Manfred himself and MLB employees that I spoke with off the record are pretty clear-eyed about all of this. They’re doing poorly, they know it, but they want do better. It is, to use an overused phrase, what it is.

But it’s much, much more if you write for Breitbart, the hard right news website which is, more or less, the Ministry of Information for the future Donald Trump Administration. To Breitbart, which I did not know until today covered sports, Manfred’s matter-of-fact announcement was the shocking admission of the end of meritocracy in the National Pastime and, presumably, the latest bit of evidence that white genocide or some such baloney is afoot.

My counterpart at Breitbart’s story characterizes all of this as the league’s desire to “take over race based hiring” and its intent “to force more minorities into baseball management positions, even if they have to create new positions or change qualifications for existing openings.” It winds up with the conclusion that “it is clear that MLB intends to make a drive for diversity over meritocracy. it will be no less than a quota system for baseball.”

I have been one of the more vocal critics of Major League Baseball and its diversity efforts, but this is unadulterated bullshit. And I said as much, on Twitter, after I read this story. In response I was met by a series of tweets from Breitbart’s sports editor, claiming that, no, baseball is looking to institute a quota system. When I explained that Manfred has no power to do any such thing given that he cannot force a club to hire any specific person or penalize them for their hiring practices, he responded that the alleged quota system is driven by the team owners. That it is they who want a predetermined number of minorities in front office jobs and that they were “rigging the system” to do just that. Yes, the same team owners who, as of now, are hiring nothing but white Ivy League men. If they’re the drivers of a minority-favoring quota system, they’re doing a piss poor job of it.

​Not that it matters one bit, because the talking point — which confirms every bias Breitbart readers have about what “diversity” is and means — had already taken hold. Here’s a sampling from the comments section of that story:

The base insanity of the Left. They pretend to combat “Racism” by treating people solely on the basis of their race. Treating people as individual doesn’t even exist in their paradigm.This is why, at root, all Leftists are Communists, collectivists. It is all about power over the hive. Control.

And:

Fine. MLB you want to go PC? Go all the way. Represent all minorities and classes in all positions. Players as well as management. That means: 50% women, 5% gays and bisexual, 0.3 to 0.5 % transgender, and 19% handicapped with racial proportion of 63% white, 12% black, 16 percent latino, 5% Asian, and 4 percent a mix of others. Come on… You want to be PC. Destroy the meritocracy in the name of inclusiveness and diversity without regard to capability.

And:

dafuq is this world coming to! Forced hiring minorities because they want to make mlb look more diverse.. this is EXACTLY why trump won… you guys were making a come back with attendance and now this? bye bye baseball .. ask the nfl how theyre doing.. you’ll be joining them soon or worse

And:

Not enough minorities in the office? The players make up for it. They’re 99.9% black and Hispanic. Where are all the white players coming out of college looking to get into Baseball.


Again, this is the response to an organization whose executives are overwhelmingly white, wealthy men and likely will be for the foreseeable future. An executive class that is so overwhelmingly white, wealthy and male that even the white wealthy men who run it are saying, “damn, maybe we’ve got a few too white, wealthy men around here.” So they propose some extraordinarily weak and non-binding measures to deal with it which don’t even work.
Yet, here they are, being pilloried as a mortal threat. As the embodiment of P.C. culture run amok. On the basis of a complete fabrication, alleging that MLB is initiating a quota system which it is in no way whatsoever doing, never would do and could not do even if it wanted to given the structure of the league and its clubs.

It matters not. All that matters is that someone, somewhere, has noted that maybe 150 years of dominance by a certain segment of the population is not ideal and that maybe something could be done about it, what we do not know. That is all it takes to get these jackoffs to (1) froth at the mouth with impotent agitation; (2) create, from whole cloth, fake news; and (3) buy into that fake news wholeheartedly and with religious fervor. That anyone who knows the first thing about Major League Baseball knows that this is utter bullshit is beside the point. In their own world, it is now settled: Major League Baseball is the embodiment of libtard P.C. culture and it has placed itself on the road to ruin.

​Ten days ago I would’ve written this bit of blinkered reality-creation off as some silly little incident on an Internet backwater that is not worth anyone’s time. But now it’s clear that this is what is pushing our country forward, such as it is. The man who created this site which bears his name is a martyr to the anti-p.c. cause and the man who runs it is soon to be a top advisor to the President of the United States of America. Meanwhile, much of the rest of the media lectures us about how wrong we were to ignore these long-marginalized voices. Leaving out the fact that many of them are utter ignoramuses.

​I’d like to believe facts and reality still matter. At least a little bit. Having seen how nothing but a perverted little victim fantasy by a bunch of white dudes who barely understand baseball enough to know the difference between their bat and two balls can turn into news, I’m increasingly of the belief that they do not.

Craig Calcaterra

Craig is the national baseball writer for NBCSports.com. He writes about things other than sports at Craigcalcaterra.com. He lives in New Albany, Ohio with his wife, two kids, and many cats.

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