The Mets have the honor of playing the Chicago White Sox in the 2008 Civil Rights Game on March 29th.
My question is simple. Why the Mets?
"The intent of the game is to embrace baseball's history of African-American players, as well as to generate interest for future black players," says its Wikipedia page. On MLB.com, the game is said to represent "a symbolic eternal torch commemorating the struggle for racial harmony near where the most painful obstacle had been thrown in its path."
So, in a nutshell, it's supposed to showcase and embrace the African-American community in baseball and attempt to raise awareness supporting baseball in those communities.
So who was the genius who chose the Mets?
On the 40-man roster, the Mets only have two African-American players. On the coaching staff, they also have two men from African-American descent. Damion Easley and Marlon Anderson on the field, Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel on the coaching staff.
In the 2006 Racial and Gender Report Card for Major League Baseball (PDF), it is noted that "A total of 40.5 percent of the players were Latino." For the Mets, it's a little more than that. On the 40-man roster, 19 players are from Latino descent.
The report also states that the drop in African-Americans in the sport since 1996 from 17 percent to 8 percent, as the percentage of Hispanic players increased during that period, from 20 percent to 29 percent.
African-American players make up 5 percent of the Mets roster. Latino players make up 47.5 percent.
If the Civil Rights Game is supposed to raise awareness for the African-American community, choosing the Mets probably wasn't the best move, as almost half of the team is Latino.
The only possible reason the Mets are in this game, that I can figure shows up later in the MLB article. It goes on to quote Omay Minaya as saying "Since the days of Jackie Robinson, baseball has been at the forefront of social change in this country, and this game is just another example that our sport understands the significance of paying the proper respect to such an important part of American history." Again, the Mets are tied to Jackie Robinson, not that it's a bad thing, but it just makes little sense to me.
So for a team that is comprised of nearly 50 percent of players from Latino descent while they are only 5 percent African-American, they were chosen to participate in a game promoting African-Americans in baseball.
That just doesn't make sense to me.
After seeing some of the reaction to this, I would like to talk about some things.
I'm not saying the Mets shouldn't be in this game and I'm also not saying that the civil rights movement didn't affect the Latino community. The way I read the articles about the game, it was primarily, if not exclusively, celebrating African-American and their perseverance and their effect on the game. It was also supposed to serve as a way to gain interest in baseball in the African-American community. For these reasons, I spoke primarily of that community and their role on this Mets team.
Randolph being the first African-American manager in New York is big, I understand that. He's a pretty good manager and I can live with all his different tendencies. No dissing on Randolph was meant by this post. Same goes for Manuel.
Also, I'm sure if I traced my roots back to Sicily and Italy, I'd be black too. The same could be said for more people than most people think.
Any way I look at it, I'm still glad the Mets are in this game, and it should be a nice experience for all involved.