It’s that time of the year, when grown men cry because a millionaire hits a ball over a fence, and people gnash their teeth over cold streaks and home-field advantage. Yes, Major League Baseball is heading into the postseason.
I’ve written before about my love of baseball and the fact that the big leagues are bursting with Latinos. Players such as Bautista, Reyes, and Rivera are top performers. Latinos make up almost a third of MLB rosters, a percentage that has skyrocketed over the last couple of decades.
But with all the love that Latinos have given America’s pastime, baseball hasn’t always loved us back. For example, there are only seven Latinos in the Baseball Hall of Fame (eight if you count Ted Williams), which is shocking when one considers there are nearly 300 members.
Several commentators point out that star Latino players have yet to become household names, with some implying that “a Latino player has to be better than other players to receive the same rewards.”
Fans notice this. Of the top-selling MLB jerseys, only Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez crack the top twenty. Indeed, it’s clear that “when it comes to endorsements and merchandising popularity, Latino players seem to be left behind.”
For example, despite the fact that A-Rod is a future Hall of Famer who plays for the media-saturated New York Yankees, “his $4 million in endorsements a year pales compared to what’s pulled in by a pro golfer with one major victory (Jim Furyk, $9 million) and a small-market NBA forward (Kevin Durant, $14 million).”
Of course, Rodriguez isn’t exactly struggling to get by. The point, however, is that he’s not as marketable as other athletes. Sure, A-Rod is easy to hate, but is he as reprehensible as, say, Michael Vick? Apparently yes, because the convicted felon and dog killer recently landed “an endorsement deal with Nike — one of the champion sports brands.”
But the willingness to dismiss Latino players has a more insidious side. In the Dominican Republic, which has more great players per capita than anywhere, there are “baseball plantations” where teenagers “are sold by local scouts to big-league teams or private investors who will ultimately profit off a chosen few and return the rest to lives of poverty.”
Perhaps Latino players have brought this on themselves, as they are reluctant to take a stand on anything other than their individual contracts. There was a lot of talk, for example, about Latino players organizing boycotts of this year’s All-Star Game in Arizona, but “none of those materialized.”
So MLB will likely continue to push Latinos around. Who knows — maybe Latinos will ditch baseball once we discover we excel at other sports…like cricket.
But to be honest, that’s craziness. We just love baseball too much.