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Monday, August 27, 2012
You can’t tell the players without a race card.
The analysis reveals that foreign-born players—the vast majority of whom are Latino—are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to receiving praise for intangibles. Latino players are almost 13 percent less likely to be praised for intangibles than their white counterparts. Announcers are nearly 14 percent more likely to praise a US/Canadian-born player for intangibles than they are their international counterparts. Unfortunately, data is inconclusive as to whether or not American-born Latino players such as the Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez are also at a disadvantage, or whether the bias only applies to foreign-born Latinos. Black players—a population in decline in MLB—are not at any particular disadvantage. There are not enough Asian players in MLB to draw any meaningful conclusions.
A difference of 13 to 14 percent may not seem very large, but over the course of a 162-game season, a player is exposed to over 300 broadcasts—nearly every MLB team has its own affiliate with its own announcing crew that covers its games. Add in the fact that in any given broadcast, announcers are likely to use from between 20 and 40 intangibles, and the number of intangibles that could involve the player leaps nearly into the thousands. This bias over the course of the season can help paint a picture of a player using terms that have no grounding in measurable reality.
Knowing that announcers treat players differently based on their nationality or Latino status is less interesting than knowing how they treat players differently. Here, the distinctions become more obvious.
While there is no difference between race or nationality when it comes to performance-based descriptions, effort-based and character-based descriptions make a big difference. Players born in the US or Canada are 10 percent more likely to be praised for their effort. White players are 10 percent more likely to be praised for their character.
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