League Baseball is big business, and like any modern corporation MLB genuflects to DEI (diversity-equity-inclusion). It’s important to get those words in alphabetical order because you don’t want the acronym to be DIE.
Of course, MLB lives up to DEI on the field, since the players are recruited from all over the world. This expansion of the talent pool has inevitably resulted in a dwindling number of African-Americans (all Americans, actually) and MLB has bent over backwards to address this issue. Aside from this grievance, however, there is little in the way of DEI complaints so far as player rosters go – with one major exception. Yes, sports fans, on the field, MLB is still a boys club.
Given the global talent pool of male ballplayers and the scarcity of MLB roster spots (780 at any one time), a female ballplayer is highly unlikely – unless some reasonably talented male ballplayer pulls a Lia Thomas and supplements his jockstrap with a matching sports bra.
Alyssa Nakken, an Assistant Coach with the San Francisco Giants (believe it or not, the team’s web site lists 16 coaches), made headlines earlier this season when she took over first base coaching duties after the regular first base coach was ejected from the game. In doing so, she became the first woman in an MLB uniform to appear on the field. Impressive, right? Well, not really.
Had the third base coach been ejected, Nakken likely would not have been the replacement, as the third base coach’s responsibilities are greater than those of his first base counterpart. So sending Nakken to the first base box was a low-risk PR move from manager Gabe Kapler, a notoriously woke manager (he used to take a knee for BLM during the National Anthem). In fairness, the manager of a professional sports team in ultra-woke San Francisco may be forced to go along to get along. But a manager’s paycheck depends on winning ballgames, so even Kapler would never do anything that would jeopardize the outcome of a game.
Nakken notwithstanding, if MLB is going to shoehorn females into the mix, it will have to do so off the field. To date the most prominent effort in that regard was the hiring of Kim Ng (an Asian female – a DEI double-header) as General Manager of the Miami Marlins. Sports headlines nationwide hailed her as the first female GM in MLB history (there have been female team owners in the past). The phrase “glass ceiling” was oft mentioned, understandably so. The hiring of Ng was not window dressing, as the GM makes all team personnel decisions, including trades and free agent signings, and is thus responsible for the makeup of the roster and hence the success of the team. But even this hire is not quite as bold as it appears at first blush.
The Marlins have perhaps the lowest profile of any MLB team. They drew just 642,617 fans last year (7,933 per opening) with a record of 67-95. Since coming into the National League in 1993 (they were originally known as the Florida Marlins), they have never been an elite team, aside from two outlier years (1997 and 2003) when they won the World Series. Their composite franchise record is 2,099 -2,438. So the stakes are low. If the team improves, Kim Ng will be hailed as a genius, not just a pioneer. Of course, if the team doesn’t improve or gets worse…well, she can also make history as the first female GM to be fired…which doesn’t mean she won’t be characterized as a victim of sexism.
Granted, Ng’s resume appears to have all the boxes checked, but if any of the 29 male GM’s had an identical resume it would be business as usual. Ng will surely have a longer leash with the Marlins than she would with the Red Sox, Yankees, or Dodgers (all three teams formerly employed her in lesser positions), where also-ran seasons are not permissible. In fact, she interviewed with the Dodgers for the GM position in 2005. Whether she was a serious candidate or was cast as the ingenue in DEI theater is open to debate.
Glass ceilings aside, MLB teams, like any other business, employ females in a variety of jobs. For the most part, these are the usual office jobs (secretaries, bookkeepers, receptionists, etc.) that are part and parcel of any business, but MLB gets no brownie points for these hirings. There are precious few Kim Ngs out there, so what to do? Well, it is possible to insert women into a seemingly high-profile job with little risk. This has been done in the past with such jobs as batboy/girl or public address announcers. The latest position is that of official scorer.
MLB is pretending that official scorekeeping is a big deal. It is an increasingly rare skill but it used to be all but ubiquitous among baseball fans. In fact, it was truly “democratic.” In days of yore, male and females in the stands regularly kept score. In fact, you didn’t need to be an adult. If you were a child, you didn’t need to be a boy. No one ever ripped a pencil out of a little girl’s hand and told her it was unfeminine to keep score.
I don’t remember who taught me to keep score or when the tutelage took place – in fact, now that I think about it, I might have been self-taught. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t do it. I still do it today but when I look around, I’m often the only fan keeping score. This is true at major league, minor league, or college games. Every now and then some puzzled youngster will ask me what I’m doing. Some people ask me what team I’m scouting for! Scoring a baseball game has assumed the status of arcane knowledge reserved for the priestly caste.
Official scorers used to be retired sportswriters earning a few extra bucks. They knew the rules of baseball and had been dealing with scorecards and box scores, the kissing cousin of scorecards, all their lives, so why look elsewhere to fill the position? Of course, since sportswriters often kept score for teams they had covered, accusations of being a “homer” were sometimes leveled.
Today official scorers may work exclusively for one team but they are employed by Major League Baseball and are paid per game. The pay rate is now $170 per game, which doesn’t sound bad, but given the increasingly glacial pace of major league games (3 hours, 10 minutes, and 7 seconds in 2021), it isn’t all that great on an hourly basis, considering the pre- and post-game duties. In truth, a family of four will likely spend more than $170 attending a major league game.
If a scorer works all 81 home games of a major league team the annual pay will amount to $13,770, hardly a livable wage, especially in a large metro area. On the other hand, suppose you are an official scorer and you find yourself at a cocktail party. While schmoozing and boozing , inevitably you are asked, “So what do you do?” If you reply “Major league scorekeeper,” the eyebrows of your inquisitor will likely rise and invite further conversation. The job position basks in the reflected glory of big league sports but it is not a high status position. If it were, the pay would be better.
There is a good reason why the pay is low. Trust me, scorekeeping isn’t that difficult. Anyone can get the hang of it after a few games and most scorecards come with instructions.
As with accounting, most of it is bookkeeping: putting the right numbers in the right columns and rows. As with umpiring, the overwhelming majority of plays are self-evident. A groundout to the second baseman is a groundout to the second baseman, whether you score it 4-3 or GO 2B (though the former is more “professional”). Non-official scorekeepers have any number of options. Phil Rizzuto, a former Yankee player and broadcaster, came up with “WW,” which stands for “wasn’t watching.”
The close play is where scorekeepers – and umpires – earn their pay. Umpiring, however, has been transformed by the slow-motion instant replay. A bad call can be reversed. The scorekeeper merely records the final call. An understanding of the rules is essential, but the umpire enforces the rules, not the scorekeeper.
The moment of truth for the scorekeeper comes when a batted ball could be a hit or an error. Some miscues are all too obvious. A fielder is required to offer “ordinary effort” on any play. Of course, ordinary effort, like “reasonable,” is subjective. Whether a batter reached base on a hit or an error makes no difference in the outcome of the game. A hit may be an error or vice versa, but a baserunner is a baserunner, a run is a run. As far as the team goes, it makes little difference. But it can make all the difference to a player.
Consider a pitcher in the late stages of a potential no-hitter, or a batter in a tight race for the batting title in the waning days of the season. Baseball history aside, many players have contracts with incentive clauses, so a questionable call may cost them money.
Replays also assist scorekeepers by giving them a chance to ponder a play (in my experience, however, your initial call is most likely the correct one). Even so, there are gray areas requiring the official scorekeeper to make a judgment call, but we’re not dealing with decisions of Supreme Court magnitude. The stakes are small but Major League Baseball is trying to make people believe otherwise by showcasing its newly minted female official scorers.
On Opening Day this year, female official scorers were chronicling the games for the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Colorado Rockies, the Miami Marlins, and the San Francisco Giants. The Cincinnati Reds and the San Diego Padres have also hired female official scorers who were on duty when those teams opened their home schedules. It would be wrong to call them pioneers, however.
Jillian Geib, working with Colorado, performed the duty last year for the team. The Toronto Blue Jays also had Marie-Claude Pelland from 2015 to 2017. A few decades ago, the Giants and the Oakland A’s utilized Susan Fornoff, a sportswriter who had been among the first females to gain access to the locker room – and she didn’t have to identify as a man! The concept of male space still had some backers in those days, and she had numerous run-ins with A’s slugger Dave Kingman, whose career might have ended prematurely as a result of the feud.
When scorekeepers were exclusively male, the job was not that big a deal. Yet women who do the job today are hailed as pioneers. The standard definition of a female pioneer is a woman who performs a function that men take for granted. They do not “boldly go where no man has gone before.” Pioneering and “ladies first” are contradictory.
Of course, MLB isn’t going to hire female scorekeepers without virtue signaling – or should I say grandstanding, since we’re talking baseball. The official scorekeeper is invisible to anyone not in the press box. Given the feminist mantra “If you can see it, you can be it,” it is essential to draw attention to these women to persuade little girls to shun coloring books in favor of scorecards.
Now if you are a baseball team in search of a scorer, it should not be a difficult position to fill. You could probably go to any of the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) chapters (68 in the USA alone) and find plenty of candidates. It would be a simple matter to audition candidates by having them score the same games and then picking the best. Also, it would be easy to do it anonymously, assigning each applicant a number. There was a time when that sort of procedure was considered enlightened. Today, however, the passion for outcome-based hiring only discourages the best and the brightest.
To assure a DEI applicant pool, MLB came up with Official Scorers University last year. The official motive for the program was not so much to hire scorekeepers but to improve diversity (for the record, they also signed up two black men and one Hispanic man). It is safe to assume that they hired no trans people. Why? Because if they had, believe me, ESPN would still be yakking about it. Jackie Robinson, move over!
Since there are only 30 official scorekeepers in MLB and the pay is low, the consequences to the manosphere are minimal. But it is symbolic of the “do the right thing” corporate policies that men have to contend with in other pursuits.
Of course, there are policies and there are rules. Even non-baseball fans have heard of the infamous 1919 Black Sox scandal, which involved Chicago White Sox players throwing the World Series. They broke the rules, and then as now, when the game on the field was rigged, heads rolled. But behind the scenes, it’s perfectly acceptable to rig the outcome of hiring practices so long as you can invoke DEI.
I guarantee you there is no entry for DEI in the 2022 Official Rules of Major League Baseball.