With a guaranteed contract that would pay him $13.25 million this year, all Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Ryan Dempster had to do was fail to make the team or be relegated to the disabled list to collect it all. Dempster felt, however, that his physical condition would not allow him to contribute to the team’s efforts to defend its 2013 World Championship, and that under the circumstances, decided that it would be better for all concerned if he didn’t play in 2014 and spent the year with his family. Thus, while not retiring, Ryan Dempster announced that he would forfeit the money owed to him.
Dempster made $13.25 million last year, and had made millions for many years before that; he certainly doesn’t “need” the money. Nevertheless, for a professional athlete to handle himself this way is about as rare as an ivory-billed woodpecker sighting. “I could have had a choice of trying to spend the entire season trying to work through those and trying to be able to pitch,” he said in his statement, delivered at the Red Sox Spring Training camp where the team is about to begin training. “But I just felt like it’s something that’s preventing me from doing the job I want to do, and I’m not going to go out there and put my team at a disadvantage or me at a disadvantage by not being able to compete the way I’m able to compete.”
Ryan Dempster, professional athlete, just placed team, family, integrity, and fairness above $13.25 million dollars.
It’s not often that I am called upon to rebut a web post that relies on one of my articles for its unethical conclusions, but that is the position that Ron Chimelis has placed me in with his recent essay, Why the Boston Red Sox should rename Yawkey Way.
To catch you up quickly: Tom Yawkey was a lumber tycoon and baseball enthusiast who owned the Boston Red Sox from 1933 to 1976, making him the longest-tenured team owner in the sport’s history. Yawkey was almost certainly a racist; if he was not a racist, his team’s policies certainly were for many years. The Red Sox were the last major league team to integrate, and blacks did not have a significant place on the team’s roster until the late 1960s, two decades after Jackie Robinson broke the color line. From the beginning, Yawkey ran the Red Sox as a public utility, paying little attention to the bottom line as he tried to build a winner out of the franchise that had been a perennial loser since selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919. After his death, Yawkey’s wife Jean continued the family tradition, running the Red Sox, except for a few years, until her own death in 1992.
When Tom Yawkey died, the City of Boston re-named Jersey Street, which runs past the entry to Fenway Park where the Red Sox play, Yawkey Way in his honor.
In the unerring clarity of hindsight bias, Chimelis argues that Tom Yawkey is undeserving of any recognition by the city that he devoted much of his life to representing, enhancing, serving, inspiring and entertaining because racism is the ultimate crime, and anyone possessing that vile state of mind should be consigned to shame forever. It is a common point of view, and an unfair one. Continue reading
You know how hard it is for the co-creator of “Pennant Pursuit, the Boston Red Sox Trivia Game” to write this.
It can’t be avoided though. The New York Yankees have, and not for the first time, upon reflection, demolished the oft-stated accusation that Major League Baseball is no longer a sport, but a business. This was always a false dichotomy, for from the days of rag-tag 19th Century baseball to the present, The Great American Pastime That Does Not Require You To Cheer Young Athletes Guaranteeing That They Will Spend Their Retirement In A Brain-Damage Haze has always been both, with each side constantly yielding to the other.
Coming off a disappointing season (the all-time most successful team in pro sports history missed the playoffs for only the second time in 19 years) and faced with an aging, injured, question mark-filled roster despite the highest payroll in the game ($228,995,945; the Houston Astros, in contrast, spend about 24 million, or less that the Yankees paid their steroid cheating third-baseman), and faced with baseball’s team salary luxury tax, which charges teams with a payroll exceeding 189 million for every dollar over it, the Yankees discarded their announced business plan of cutting back on salaries to avoid the tax threshold, and instead went on a spending binge. They snapped up most of the top free agent stars peddling their wares this winter, committing themselves to a staggering boost in contract obligations that will approach a half-billion dollars by the time the dust clears. Continue reading
The New York Times published a feature in December exposing how hotels and wedding service vendors typically charge more to couples planning wedding festivities than they do to corporations seeking the same facilities and the same services. Is the result of gauging, market forces, negotiation inexperience by the happy couple, or something else? Is it unethical?
The article seems to conclude that the vendors are simply taking advantage of purchasers who have no sensitivity to price, especially so-called “Bridezillas.” They want what they want for their perfect day, and will pay whatever it will cost to get it. Are the venders being unethical to take advantage of what is an emotional rather than a rational mindset? After considering whether more price transparency in the wedding industry would help (the author thinks not), the piece concludes,
“Strong consumer preferences — about the flower type, bridesmaid dress, cake decorations, music style, whatever — mean less price sensitivity (what economists refer to as greater demand inelasticity). If the cocktail napkins must be blue, the happy couple will be willing to pay more for blue. So if there are enough brides out there with strong and specific preferences, who want their weddings to be the special day they always dreamed of, that’s going to push equilibrium prices higher, no matter how transparently they are displayed. In other words, the Bridezillas keep prices high for the rest of us.” Continue reading
The Don had his flaws, but he knew the difference between personal and professional.
Alex Rodriguez has done a lot of bad things, but everything he does isn’t wrong. Kudos to lawyer/baseball pundit Craig Calcaterra for flagging a typical bit of pundit idiocy.
Yesterday, the news was that Rodriguez, rather than accept his season-long suspension as a result of the arbitration panel’s final decision regarding the disciplinary action against him taken by Major League Baseball, is suing MLB, and the players union for not properly defending him. This involves allegations that the union’s late Executive Director, Michael Weiner (who perished last year of an inoperable brain tumor) failed in his duty to A-Rod, a member in good standing, though a slimy one. This, to various sportswriters, broadcasters and bloggers, was the smoking gun proof that Alex’s heart is as black as a Mamba: how dare he impugn the character of a dead man, a beloved family man who died before his time? For example, here is Yahoo Sports’ indignant Jeff Passon:
“Alex Rodriguez is a sad, desperate man, and sad, desperate men do sad, desperate things like blame their sad, desperate circumstances on a beloved, deceased man. Of the many layers of pathetic A-Rod has peeled back in trying to excuse his own wretched choices, never had he spoken ill of the dead, not until Monday when his failing defense found a new nadir.”
Rodriguez may well be a sad, desperate man as well as a certified rotter, but his treatment of Weiner is not one of his many transgressions. Continue reading
Sirius-XM’s Mike Ferrin, making up Constitutional law as he goes along…
Driving along, minding my own business, on the way to picking up some cranberry juice and dishwasher detergent, I chanced to turn on channel 89 on Sirius-XM, where, by no special intent of mine, the baseball show “Power Alley,” with hosts Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette (the latter a former and probably future big league general manager) was covering the A-Rod suspension story, currently the hottest scandal in sports. Ferrin is a baseball commentator, and he was railing about the statement of a lawyer, quoted on the show, that it was Alex Rodriquez’s refusal to testify at his hearing before a union arbitrator that sealed his doom and resulted in his season long suspension by Major League Baseball being upheld.
“What about his Fifth Amendment rights?” Ferrin was saying. “I am very disturbed by this. Rodriguez doesn’t have to testify! He has every right to refuse! I find it very disturbing that we are being told that a man lost his livelihood because he asserted his rights as an American! It’s just wrong!”
At this point, my car is weaving all over the road as I try to find my cell phone to call the show (I had left it at home) and scream. The Fifth Amendment, which among other things protects citizens against compelled testimony against themselves under threat of government action, has nothing to do with Alex Rodriquez and his arbitration hearing—-Mike Ferrin, you incompetent, blathering fool. The Fifth Amendment does not apply to private proceedings, of which a labor grievance arbitration is one. Continue reading
In a decision that further defines major league baseball’s cultural standards regarding performance enhancing drugs and the players who use them, New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the entire 2014 season and post-season by an arbitrator yesterday. Rodriguez, a long-time superstar who was once considered a lock to break baseball’s career home run record, and who is the highest paid player in the game, was suspended for illicit drug use without testing positive under the game’s union-negotiated testing system. He was, instead, suspended for a violation of the player’s Basic Agreement under baseball management’s right to police the game and do what is in its best interests.
The evidence that Rodriguez was a flagrant and long-time steroid abuser came from documents obtained from Biogenesis, a lab that developed drugs for athletes and others, as well as convincing testimony. Rodriguez had challenged the suspension in a grievance procedure after MLB handed down a 211 game suspension during the 2013 season. The arbitrator’s ruling, which is confidential, apparently concluded that the player not only cheated, but obstructed efforts to enforce baseball’s intensified anti-drug measures in the wake of the wide-spread use of PEDs in the 90′s and thereafter.
As expected, the result produced the usual complaints and rationalizations from the disturbingly large contingent of baseball fans and writers who remain obdurate regarding the offensiveness of steroid cheating, claiming that it was “a part of the game,” that the objections to it are inconsistent, and that baseball’s vilification of users is hypocritical. They had been practicing these and related arguments for months as they waited for the baseball Hall of Fame voting results announced last week, in which about 65% of the voters showed that they regarded steroid use as a disqualification for the honor, even when a player-user had excelled on the field. Rodriquez’s defeat deeply undermines the cause of the steroid defenders, and the likelihood that their argument will ever prevail. Continue reading
…reason is emotion, and emotion is reason…
Every year about this time, a large group of baseball writers, not to mention fans, expose their ethics and analytical deficiencies by making terrible arguments for admitting steroid-using stars of note into baseball’s Hall of Fame. The voting for the Hall is going on now, you see, and this year a bumper crop of candidates were either proven steroid users or reasonably suspected of being so.
Also every year at this time, I pick one of those ethically-challenged writers as an Ethics Dunce. This year, the winner is ESPN’s David Schoenfield, by virtue of a sentence near the end of a recent post in support of Frank Thomas and Edgar Martinez, neither of whom are on the Performance Enhancing Drug suspicion list, as Hall of Fame candidates. Schoenfield wrote,
“The PED disagreements are all about emotion (“Cheaters!”) versus reason (“It was part of the game in that era, we don’t know who did what, etc.”).
Talk about a big, fat, hanging curveball over the heart of the plate! Continue reading
I decided to start with the Best in Ethics this year, in contrast to other years, on the theory that it would get things off to a positive start in 2014. What it did, instead, was make me realize how negative Ethics Alarms was in 2013. Either there wasn’t much positive going on in ethics, or I wasn’t seeing it. My thanks to those of you who send me nominations for Ethics Heroes (and other stories); even when I don’t write about them, they are valuable. Please keep them coming. In the meantime, I pledge to try to keep the jaundice out of my eye in 2014. Things just can’t be as dire as they seemed last year.
Here are the 2013 Ethics Alarms Awards for the Best in Ethics:
Most Important Ethical Act of the Year:
The U.S. Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, paving the way for the universal legalization of gay marriage. Yes, it was a legal decision, but it was also based, as all such culturally important decisions are, on a societal recognition that what was once thought to be wrong and immoral was, in fact, not. This is ethics, an ongoing process of enlightenment and wisdom about what is right and wrong, and the U.S. Supreme Court did its part. Continue reading
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