Are Major League Baseball Umpires Racist?
They don’t put it in those words, of course, but the results of the study seem to indicate that umpires are more likely to give preferential treatment to pitchers who are the same race as they are. Or, in the study’s words: “Major League Baseball umpires express their racial/ethnic preferences when they evaluate pitchers.”
So, what exactly does that mean? Well, the study, which appears in the latest issue of American Economic Review, took a look at data from 2007 and 2008 to evaluate the balls and strikes called by umpires against pitchers of the same race as them and of different races. And what it found was that strikes were called less often when an umpire and a pitcher were not the same race. Additionally, the study found that when a pitcher was not the same race as an umpire and subconsciously understood the bias at play, he was more likely to throw strikes that are less subjective.
So, uh, like we said, what exactly does it mean? Well, in Layman’s terms, it means that some level of racism (or “racial/ethnic preferences,” if you prefer) does exist in Major League Baseball. But as many other bloggers out there have pointed out, the data suggests that there’s not really enough statistical evidence to show that this is a widespread problem. Plus, there are a number of factors that weren’t evaluated—and probably couldn’t be evaluated properly—when the data was analyzed.
For instance, what was the situation that was taking in place in the game during all of the strikes that were analyzed? Were the batters role players or superstars? Was the pitcher a rookie or a wily veteran? It might seem like it, but this isn’t a black and white issue. Too many factors are at play to make it that simple.
Oh, and then you have to take into account the fact that only data from 2007 and 2008 was used to draw a conclusion about a sport that has been around for more than 100 years now. In order to get a proper reading on it, you’d need to go out and do the same study using data from a variety of different years to get a more accurate reading. It’d also help if you combined the data from different decades to analyze how this trend has or has not impacted the game over the years.
Essentially, what you’re left with here is a study that calls MLB umpires racist—but that doesn’t necessarily provide enough evidence to prove that is always the case. Is there some element of racism that exists in baseball? Of course. But there’s some element of racism that exists in just about everything that you’ll come across in life.
So take this study—and every study like it—with a grain of salt. It’s certainly something to keep an eye on and something MLB needs to be aware of. But it’s not something that should change the way baseball fans view their favorite players and the umpires who officiate them.
Now, can we get back to talking about all of the midseason trades that are about to take place, please?