MLB’s American League wild card playoff race is stacked with teams flexing star Black players who are sure to impact this year’s postseason.
African-Americans comprise just under 8 percent of MLB rosters. So when the bros start influencing the game, it excites a fanbase that has been lukewarm on baseball, its racial composition, and the way it markets the sport to Black people and the younger generation.
Leaders Of The Pack
The Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox comfortably lead their divisions with less than 20 games to go.
Houston and Chicago are similar in that the Black influence is a driving force behind their teams’ success.
Houston Astros (Michael Brantley and Manager Dusty Baker)
Veteran outfielder Michael Brantley is a perennial contender for the batting title (fifth overall in MLB at .315) and his consistent hitting in the middle of the Astros offensively stout lineup has been key.
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) April 2, 2021
Manager Dusty Baker is the winningest Black manager in the history of the game and should win AL Manager of the Year for taking a disgraced Astros franchise back to the top of the American League West division. He’s cleaning off the dirt from the 2017 World Series cheating scandal.
Chicago White Sox (Tim Anderson, Brian Goodwin)
Over on the southside of Chicago, Tim Anderson is the MLB’s swag leader. The former batting champion is among the top 12 hitters in the American League, and he’s provided clutch moments, tremendous defense, and the overall electricity that the team feeds off.
Utility player Brian Goodwin has also been a spark for the White Sox at crucial moments.
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) August 1, 2021
New York Yankees (Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton)
The Black players in the Bronx have led a Yankees surge to the top of the wild card standings. They currently hold a one-game lead over Boston.
The Yankees have had their ups and downs this season, but the power displays of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have kept the Yankees’ World Series hopes alive.
The baseball world wondered what would happen if Stanton and Judge could ever stay healthy at the same time. When Stanton came to the Yankees fresh off a 59-homer season, most expected a new version of the famed Murderers’ Row.
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) April 14, 2021
Judge was just coming off a rookie-record 52 homers, and the possibilities with these brothers in the middle of the lineup were endless. Untimely injuries have limited this potent union until this season.
Both players are healthy and racking up long balls like Beyoncé stacks Grammys. Judge is batting .293 and leading all right fielders with 33 homers in addition to his solid defense.
Stanton’s bat came alive like it got shock treatment after the All-Star break, and he’s on track for his sixth 30-homer season.
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) June 11, 2021
Judge hit a three-run, game-tying blast on Monday to lift the Yankees to their largest comeback win of 2021. The Bombers had been 0-34 when trailing by four or more runs. Stanton has also hit several late-inning home runs to keep the Yankees in games and help them win.
Oakland A’s (Josh Harrison, Tony Kemp)
The recent marriage of Josh Harrison and the Oakland A’s is an example of a player whose swagger is perfect for the city he represents. Harrison, who was acquired at the trade deadline, has been “Mr. Do It All” for the A’s, who sit 2.5 games out of a wild card spot.
Harrison has taken the majority of his reps at second base, but he also plays third, shortstop, and left field for Oakland. He’s gotten a hit in seven of his past nine games, and his contributions have been important because they’ve come from the leadoff spot.
“I take pride in being leadoff,” Harrison told MLBbro.com when asked about his new role with his team.
Tony Kemp is another brother making a name for himself in Oakland. Kemp is known for clutch hits and web gems at multiple positions.
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) June 19, 2021
Standing just 5 feet 6 he has a slugging percentage over .400 and is one of the weapons that Oakland uses to beat everybody in the analytics game.
Seattle Mariners (JP Crawford, Kenyan Middleton)
Some suggested that Seattle’s playoff hopes were lost when 2020 AL Rookie Of the Year Kyle Lewis was lost for the season. The M’s have kept fighting and find themselves just 2. games back of the second wild card due in large part to the play of Gold Glove shortstop JP Crawford.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) September 6, 2021
Crawford and Seattle have overcome offensive inconsistencies to end up in the thick of the playoff chase. Crawford is top 10 in batting average and walks and top five in doubles and hits among all MLB shortstops. The fifth-year baller is just scratching the surface of his abilities.
Reliever Kenyan Middleton is one of the few Black relief pitchers making any noise in the league, and his ability to eat innings and hold leads will be important.
Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Semien, George Springer)
Marcus Semien’s Blue Jays have gone from postseason afterthought to legit contender. The Blue Jays extended their winning streak to four games with a win over the first-place Rays on Monday, and have won 12 of their last 13 games overall.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leads MLB in homers with 45 and is the face of this team, but it also has two Black veteran players who are the heart and soul.
Semien came over from the Oakland A’s on a one-year “show me” deal. He’s done more than just show people that he can play. The All-Star has dominated the second base position all season, hitting a club-record 39 homers.
Marcus Semien keeps hitting homers.
That's No. 36. 💪 pic.twitter.com/hLpamHeIMZ
— MLB (@MLB) September 6, 2021
When George Springer’s healthy, he and Semien provide a duo of soul-patrolling power, speed, and game-changing athleticism that can shift the balance of a playoff series.
Let’s not forget Springer is a former World Series MVP, a webmaster in center field, and a leader. His locker room presence has worked wonders to balance the inexperience of Toronto’s young superstars.
His playoff résumé will prove invaluable for a Toronto team that can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The impact of these players and the visibility they gain with increased playoff ratings could bridge the disconnect between MLB and Black culture. Their presence is a reminder that, historically, Black players dominate the MLB record books, dating back to Jackie Robinson’s arrival in 1947.