Tag Archives: baseball

Ethics Hero: American League Batting Champion Jose Altuve

Altuve

There was another baseball Ethics Hero who emerged on the last day of the regular season yesterday. File it under “Sportsmanship.”

Houston Astros secondbaseman  Jose Altuve (at less than 5′ 5″, the shortest athlete in a major professional sport) began the day hitting .340, three points ahead of the Tigers’ Victor Martinez, who was at .337. Even with all the new stats and metrics showing that batting average alone is not the best measure of a baseball player’s offensive value, a league batting championship remains the most prestigious of individual titles, putting a player in the record books with the likes of Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Rogers Hornsby, George Brett, Ichiro Suzuki and Tony Gwynn. It’s still a big deal. If Altuve didn’t play in Houston’s meaningless last game, Martinez would have to go 3-for-3 to pass him, giving the DH a narrow .3407 average compared with Altuve’s .3399. By playing, Altuve would risk lowering his average, providing Martinez with a better chance of passing him.

Many players in the past have sat out their final game or games to “back in” to the batting championship, rather than give the fans a chance to watch a head to head battle injecting some much-needed drama to the expiring season. ESPN blogger David Schoenfield recounts some of those episodes here.

Altuve, however, gave Martinez his shot. He played the whole game, had two hits in his four at-bats, and won the American League batting title the right way—on the field, not on the bench.  (Martinez was hitless in three at bats.)

The conduct, simple as it was, embodied fairness, integrity, courage, respect for an opponent, and most of all, respect for the game.

Sportsmanship lives.

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Filed under Character, Ethics Heroes, History, Sports

Ethics Hero: Minnesota Twins Pitcher Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes

This is the final day of the regular baseball season, and an appropriate time to salute a major league player who placed principle over cash….even if I disagree with him

Phil Hughes was a bargain pick-up during the off-season for the Twins, a failed pitching phenom for the Yankees widely viewed to be on a fast slope to oblivion. He surprised everyone with a wonderful season for the otherwise woeful Minnesota team this season, potentially setting the all-time strikeout-to-walk ratio record, and began his final start of the campaign needing to throw eight and a third innings to reach 210 and trigger a $500,000 bonus in his contract.He would have made it, too, pitching eight dominant innings against the Diamondbacks and allowing just one run.  Then there was a downpour, with Hughes needing one more out to get the  extra $500,000.

After more than an hour’s rain delay, the game was resumed, but as is the practice in baseball, Hughes did not return to pitch: too long a delay, his arm too cold, too much risk of injury, especially after throwing so many pitches.  Hughes accepted the bad luck without complaint or rancor, saying that “some things aren’t meant to be.” Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Derek Jeter

Jeter Farewell

Once upon a time, there were three young shortstops.

They arrived in the majors nearly at the same time, completely different in style and skills, but each carrying the promise of greatness. Nomar Garciaparra, with the Red Sox, was the flashy and charismatic one. Alex Rodriquez was the youngest, and held the most potential. Derek Jeter, of the New York Yankees, was a finished player from the moment he stepped on a major league field: poised, purposeful, and a winner.

While once it seemed certain that all three would meet at the Hall of Fame, it was not to be. Garciaparra won two batting titles, but his aggressive moves and spidery form made him injury prone. His reign as an elite shortstop ended prematurely, and so did his career. Rodriquez, as he matured, went from The Kid to A-Rod to A-Fraud, his reputation and life scarred by controversies, illegal steroids, lies and the habits of a sociopath. He sat out this season, at a time in his career when he had been expected (and paid) to be chasing the all-time home run record, with a humiliating suspension. He is the most unpopular player in baseball, and one of the most reviled of all time.

So then there was one shortstop, Jeter, and his life on and off the baseball field has been extraordinary enough to make up for the disappointments left us by his former shortstop colleagues. Last night, at the age of 40, he played his final home game at the position for the Yankees. His career statistics show no batting or home run titles, it is true, but shine brilliantly nonetheless: a .309 lifetime average, 3461 hits (3000 makes a player a lock for the Hall of Fame even if he doesn’t play the most difficult position on the field, as Jeter has ), just short of 2000 runs scored (10th all-time), twelve All-Star games, five Golden Gloves (as the American League’s best fielding shortstop), five Silver Sluggers (as the best hitter at his position), and most of all, seven World Series, five of them on World Champions.

Apart from the stats, awards and titles, Jeter was just as exemplary. He played in an era when it is impossible to hide as a celebrity: if you are a jerk, everyone will know it. He wasn’t a jerk. He was, in fact, the personification of the perfect sports hero. Jeter has been a leader and teacher by example to his team mates and his admirers, though his one-time friend, Rodriguez, would not absorb the lessons. He has had no personal drama, no tawdry sexual episodes, no bastard children. He was never arrested or suspected of using drugs, performance-enhancing or recreational. There were no DUI charges or petulant interviews. Derek Jeter never had to ask “Do you know who I am?” because he never acted as if he was special, because he made himself special by never acting that way, and because everyone did know who he was. In every way imaginable, from his public comportment to his ability to rise to the occasion under the pressure of a national audience, a rich contract and the hopes of millions, Derek Jeter has embodied the ideal of the athletic hero. Continue reading

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Crotch-Grabbing Ethics: A Pitcher And An Umpire Make A Dunce/Hero Pair, And Baseball Teaches The NFL About Values

Jonathan Papelbon

I don’t know about you, but I need a break, however brief, from the NBA’s political correctness self-immolation and the NFL proving that it really has no idea what’s right or wrong when its players are violent off the field. Fortunately, Major League Baseball has its own, rather less societally significant ethics scandal for this baseball fan to focus on.

Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon has been very good this year, unlike the rest of his team., but he was lousy Sunday, blowing a big lead for the last place Phillies in front of a home town crowd over the weekend. The Philly fans, as they are famous for doing, booed him lustily as he left the field, so classy Papelbon grabbed his cup and gave it a heave, as he stared down the mob. Translation: “Boo THIS!”

At this point, home plate umpire Joe West, a crummy umpire from a technical viewpoint but notable as an outspoken arbiter of the conduct of players, threw Papelbon out of the game. This was unusual, because Papelbon was almost certainly through for the day anyway. The ejection under such circumstances  didn’t mean the umpire’s usual, “You are unprofessionally challenging my authority regarding a call that does not favor your team and delaying the game, so you can’t play today any more,” but the more succinct and far more rare, “You’re really an asshole.”

Papelbon then took offense, and furiously confronted the umpire. Now Major League Baseball has suspended Papelbon for seven days, and is enjoying it, telling sports fans and the media, “See? The NFL suspends its players for a game or two when they punch women in the face and beat their kids with a log. We kick out our players for seven games just for being rude.” Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Heroes, Etiquette and manners, Professions, Sports, Workplace

Law vs. Ethics: A Cautionary Tale From Texas

You fucked up

“You can’t worry forever about your mistakes. You fucked up. You trusted us. Make the best of it. ” —Otter (DuPont) to Flounder (Its former employees) in “Animal House”

Law and ethics are two different things, and courts are frequently forced to embrace unethical results in order to uphold a bad law or to deal with a messy fact pattern. It is seldom, however, that one sees as blatant an example of atrociously unethical behavior being ruled legal as in a recent case in Texas, decided this month. It is the kind of case that promotes distrust all around, as you will see. When that is the result, the ruling itself is unethical.

In the case of Sawyer, Kempf, et al. v DuPont and Company, an employer’s false promise not to exercise a legal right in order to induce its employees to forgo their negotiated rights was deemed unenforceable. The legal reasoning is solid. The ethics stinks, and is as good an example as you will ever find for the inspiration behind Charles Dickens’ (speaking through his creation Mr. Bumble, in “Oliver Twist”) statement, “The law is a ass.” Continue reading

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“Bang The Drum Slowly,” My Old Friend, and Me

The American Century Theater's "Bang the Drum Slowly"

The American Century Theater’s “Bang the Drum Slowly”

I haven’t mentioned it here, but we are ending the 20 year adventure of my intentionally out-of-fashion theater company, The American Century Theater, after next season. One of the things I will miss most about it is that working so closely with the great works of stage literature we produce causes their wisdom and life observations to stick with us. Since I tend to choose works that involve ethical dilemmas, this has had professional as well as personal benefits.

I was thinking about the Mark Harris play (and novel, and movie) “Bang The Drum Slowly” in May, when I wrote about the kindness shown to Pasco High School student Vanessa Garcia, who was dying of cancer, because we were performing it at the time.  The story involves a baseball team and how it responds to a third-string catcher who is dying of Hodgkin’s Disease. It is about kindness and the Golden Rule, and the ways the impending death of someone in our life often brings into sharper focus the importance of kindness and our shared obligations on this perplexing journey to oblivion we all must travel together. But I really wasn’t thinking about “Bang The Drum Slowly” yesterday. Yesterday, I was just having a wonderful time talking about baseball, politics and family with my old friend from law school, who happened to be in a hospice. Continue reading

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Lessons of the Tulowitzki Jersey Fiasco

Troy Tulowitzki is the superstar Colorado Rockies shortstop, and has been since for nine years. He has been named an All-Star four times,won two Gold Glove awards and two Silver Sluggers; he is widely regarded as one of the best players in baseball. Last weekend was Tulowitzki jersey night, with 15,000 lucky fans getting a Rockies purple jersey with the home town hero’s name on the back.

Here is how the the jerseys looked…

His name is spelled T-U-L-O-W-I-T-Z-K-I...just like it sounds, in fact.

Tulo jersey

Observations: Continue reading

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