Hank Aaron Wants Racial Quotas in Baseball

Congratulations to the Chicago White Sox for their first World Series victory in 88 years. Their sweep of the Houston Astros was decisive—featuring outstanding pitching and clutch hitting.

But clouding yesterday’s win were the remarks of baseball’s all-time homerun champ, Hank Aaron. For those of you who missed it, Aaron, as reported by the Washington Post, said this about the Astros’ lack of black ballplayers on their active roster:

"It is very disturbing to see something like this," Aaron said. "And you would think that this ballclub could find at least one or two African Americans, especially in this city. It’s very disturbing. I think they need to look at that very carefully. They need to talk to people in the scouting department and everybody else because this needs to be addressed."

Addressing the fact that only 9% of big-leaguers are black—that’s about two players on each team’s 25-man roster—Aaron continued:

"That’s part of it because the numbers aren’t there," Aaron said. "We don’t have enough players. But I think each club needs to look at that carefully. The Astros need to address that. It’s a thing where the way the game is played today you would think there is no excuse for an African American not to be on this club."

Aaron has every right to ridicule the Astros for not having any black ballplayers, but does it make any sense? Is he suggesting the Astros’ management is racist? Certainly that can’t be the case for a team that features on its active roster CF Willy Taveras (Dominican Republic), SS Jose Vizcaino (Dominican Republic), C Raul Chavez (Venezuela), P Wandy Rodriguez (Dominican Republic) and Ezequiel Astacio (Dominican Republic).

Fully 20% of the Astros’ active roster is Hispanic. That’s still lower than the MLB average of nearly 25% that make up a typical big-league roster.

But even setting these percentages aside, I’d like to know this from Henry Aaron: Why do you want quotas for baseball? Do you really think quotas were the reason you made it to the big leagues?

Apparently it is. Ten years ago, in an interview with the Virginia Pilot, Aaron said this: “Today, if you are a black player who has the talent, you will play. When I came up to the major leagues, there was a quota. You only saw so many black players on the field at the same time.”

Obviously, given Aaron’s own personal experience, he sees things differently than I do—and maybe most of today’s black baseball players.

The decline the black baseball player is a trend well-documented in the sports world. Whether teams should use a quota system is for them to decide, but in my mind, it comes down to this: Get the best players who are going to help your team win. Obviously, the Astros did something right to make it to the World Series.