Tag Archives: baseball

The Phenom, The Agent And The Cubbies: 2015’s First Baseball Ethics Controversy

No, I don’t count Pete Rose.

Kris Bryant, whose day will come.

Kris Bryant, whose day will come.

The lesson of the Kris Bryant dispute is that sometimes the result that seems the least fair is also the right one. Bryant, in case you don’t follow baseball or do not live in Chicago, is the hot Chicago Cubs minor leaguer—what used to be called a “phenom” in the old days—who will not be playing third base for the Cubs when the season opens despite everyone’s agreement that he is not just ready for National League, but ready to star in it. Last week, the young man was assigned  to  the Cubs’ Triple-A Iowa farm team.  Cubs fans are upset. Sports pundits are outraged. Bryant’s agent is furious.

What’s going on here?

A lot.

The MLB  collective bargaining agreement, negotiated and signed by both baseball management and the players union, gives teams control over players for six years before a player can enter free agency and sell his talents to the highest bidder. Thus most young players earn a small percentage of their true market value initially, and, if they are good, hit the jackpot after that. (The average salary in Major League Baseball is $4 million a year). There is a catch, however—and an unavoidable loophole. A full season is defined as 172 days, though the season is 180 days. If a young player is left off the roster until there are fewer than 172 days remaining in the regular season, that season doesn’t count as one of the six years; a player can’t become a free agent mid-season six years later. Before the demise of the reserve system that bound a player to one team until the team released or traded him, there was no reason not to promote a promising minor league star to the big team the second it looked like he was ready. Now, there is a big reason: delaying those few games will give the team an extra year of control, since under the rule, 6 years and 171 games is still just six years. That means an extra year of the player at bargain compensation, and possibly an extra year of the player, since he can fly the coop once the clock has run.

This is not a new issue: players and agents have been complaining about teams doing this for years, but the rules allow it. Since the rules allow it, and since the monetary and competitive benefits of waiting those extra nine days can be huge, there is nothing unfair or unethical about a team taking advantage of the provision. Indeed, it would be irresponsible and a breach of management’s fiduciary duties not to save millions and ensure the extra year of a star’s services. What, then, has made Bryant’s case so contentious?

It’s the Cubs, that’s what. Continue reading

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Tales of “The King’s Pass”: Pete Rose and Jeremy Clarkson

King

The King’s Pass has been much in the ethics news of late—Brian Williams, Bill O’Reilly, David Petraeus, Hillary. Let’s review, shall we?

11. The King’s Pass, The Star Syndrome, or “What Will We Do Without Him?”

One will often hear unethical behavior excused because the person involved is so important, so accomplished, and has done such great things for so many people that we should look the other way, just this once. This is a terribly dangerous mindset, because celebrities and powerful public figures come to depend on it. Their achievements, in their own minds and those of their supporters and fans, have earned them a more lenient ethical standard. This pass for bad behavior is as insidious as it is pervasive, and should be recognized and rejected whenever it raises its slimy head.  In fact, the more respectable and accomplished an individual is, the more damage he or she can do through unethical conduct, because such individuals engender great trust. Thus the corrupting influence on the individual of The King’s Pass leads to the corruption of others…

1. The BBC just demonstrated how the King’s Pass should be rejected—with courage and gusto.

Jeremy Clarkson, the main host of the popular BBC auto show “Top Gear,” spent March misbehaving. He got in a shoving match with a producer, verbally abused staff and was recorded trashing the network. When Clarkson topped it off with a physical altercation with a show staffer, the BBC decided not to renew his contract. BBC head Tony Hall said in a statement:

It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract. It is not a decision I have taken lightly. I have done so only after a very careful consideration of the facts…I take no pleasure in doing so. I am only making [the facts] public so people can better understand the background. I know how popular the programme is and I know that this decision will divide opinion. The main facts are not disputed by those involved.

The BBC is a broad church…We need distinctive and different voices but they cannot come at any price. Common to all at the BBC have to be standards of decency and respect. I cannot condone what has happened on this occasion. A member of staff – who is a completely innocent party – took himself to Accident and Emergency after a physical altercation accompanied by sustained and prolonged verbal abuse of an extreme nature. For me a line has been crossed. There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations… Obviously none of us wanted to find ourselves in this position. This decision should in no way detract from the extraordinary contribution that Jeremy Clarkson has made to the BBC. I have always personally been a great fan of his work and “Top Gear”…The BBC must now look to renew Top Gear for 2016. This will be a big challenge and there is no point in pretending otherwise. I have asked Kim Shillinglaw [Controller of BBC Two] to look at how best we might take this forward over the coming months. I have also asked her to look at how we put out the last programmes in the current series.

The show, without Clarkson, is toast, and Hall knows it. Nonetheless, he had the guts to do the necessary and ethical act: not allowing its indispensable star to abuse his power and popularity . Once Clarkson did that, “Top Gear” was doomed anyway; firing him now just minimizes the carnage. Although Hall has no responsibility to other networks and organizations, his decisive handling of the episode has saved other programs even as it destroys his own. It is a precedent and a role model for employers refusing to allow themselves to be turned into enablers  by stars assuming the King’s Pass works. When they say, “You can’t fire me, I’m irreplaceable! There’s no show without me!”, the response now can be, per the BBC: “If there’s no show without a jerk like you, then there’s no show. Bye!”

2. Once again, Pete Rose is sucking the ethics right out of people’s brains.

Ah, Pete Rose. He was the topic of the first ethics post I ever wrote, way back in 2004. Then, in 2007, he became my first and only Ethics Dunce Emeritus.

The Pete Rose case is simple. Baseball has an absolute, no exceptions rule that demands a lifetime ban of any player, coach or manager who gambles on major league baseball games. Such banned players can’t be hired by major league teams for any purpose, and cannot be considered for Hall of Fame membership., ever, even after they are dead. Everyone in baseball knows why this rule exists—baseball was nearly destroyed in 1919 when gamblers bribed the Chicago White Sox to throw the World Series—and the rule is posted in every clubhouse. Rose bet on baseball while a major league manager, and also bet on his own team. Thus he is banned.

The significance of the fact that he is, as a player, the all-time hits leader and was the face of the game is that it led Rose to believe that the game would never ban him, and that if caught, he would be treated with special leniency. His excellence on the playing field doesn’t mitigate his conduct, or justify minimizing the ban it earned, at all.

The New York Times published a story about Rose’s efforts to get baseball to lift the ban, now that a new Commissioner, Rob Manfred, is in office. You can read the article here, which is remarkable for the many jaw-droppingly unethical arguments put forth by the baseball people the article quotes, contrasted with the occasional quote that shows that a speaker comprehends the concepts of consequences, accountability, and why letting stars break the rules is suicidal to any culture. It would be an excellent ethics exam.

Here are the quotes; my comments follow in bold. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Scoreboard classics, Journalism & Media, Professions, Sports, Workplace

Jackie Robinson West Little League Baseball Team Epilogue: Who Says “Cheaters Never Prosper”?

Littel League champs

As described here, Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West Little League Baseball team was stripped of its U.S. title after Little League International found out–later than it should have— that the team’s adult leadership changed the district boundaries without permission to create what was really an all-star team. The championship, to be blunt, was won through cheating.

Since the team’s members were all African-Americans, Jesse Jackson and many of the parents immediately claimed that racism was behind the forfeit. If, however, a white team had been found to have prevailed over a black team by cheating and was allowed to keep its ill-gotten championship, Jackson would also scream racism. (This was a #11. on the Draft Ethics Alarms Race-Baiting Scale: Presumed Racism: Accusations of racism based on no other factors but the races of the individuals involved.) Jackson and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel then pressured the Little League to reverse its decision, essentially allowing cheating to be 100% successful, as it often is in politics. To its credit, the organization refused to bend.

Never mind:  Emanuel is a veteran of the Obama administration, and also has a large black constituency to pander to. Thus he plans on giving the team championship rings at next month’s city council meeting. Emanuel found private donors to fund championship rings shortly after the Little League World Series. Each ring has the player’s name, jersey number and the number 42, in tribute to Jackie Robinson.  On the inside of each ring, the legend, “Who says cheaters never prosper?” is engraved in script.

Just kidding about that last part. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Leadership, Race, Sports

Ethics Quiz: Honoring The Dead and Deadly Team Mate

Taveras

When they take the field in Spring Training and for the rest of the 2015 baseball season, the St. Louis Cardinals will be wearing a memorial patch reading “OT” in honor of outfielder Oscar Taveras, the 22-year-old budding star outfielder who died in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic last October. Such mourning patches have become common since 1972, when the Pittsburgh Pirates moved beyond the traditional black armband to a personalized patch following the tragic death of the team’s Hall of Fame outfielder Roberto Clemente in a plane crash, as he was flying humanitarian aid to Nicaragua.

Taveras, however, unlike Clemente, died in an act of reckless stupidity that took not only his own life but that of his 18-year-old girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo, as well. Toxicology tests showed that his blood alcohol level was five times the legal limit before the crash. situation is more complex because toxicology tests showed that his blood alcohol level at the time of his death was five times the legal limit. Moreover, Taveras’, also was killed in the crash. If Taveras had lived and Arvelo alone had died, he would have been prosecuted for manslaughter.

And thus your first Ethics Alarms Baseball Ethics Quiz of 2015 is this:

Is it ethical for the Cardinals to publicly honor Taveras with a uniform patch?

Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: The Washington Post

Better yet, just THINK...

Better yet, just THINK…

Here is another reason Why Our Children Will Grow Up To Be Cheats And Liars: ethically obtuse thinking like that expressed by the Washington Post editors this morning.

The Jackie Robinson West Little League team was stripped of its national title for a very good reason: it had an unfair advantage over its competition, so its victory was corrupt. Its coach and administrators cheated, manipulating league boundaries to assemble a team fortified by “ringers.” The victory didn’t count because the victory was a sham. The team wasn’t playing by the rules. This is not a difficult concept, or shouldn’t be.

Yet the Post’s editors are aghast, writing, “The fact is they punished a group of children who did everything right, on and off the field — punished them for the sins of adults who did wrong and an organization that was willfully oblivious.”

Yup. That’s the way life works. That’s the way it has to work and has always worked, and the sooner children learn that lesson, the less likely they are to grow up as ethically muddled as the adults who write Post editorials. Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “Why Our Children Will Grow Up To Be Cheats and Liars: The Little League Champs Are Banned For Cheating, And Are Told That They Should Be Proud”

Well, one out of three isn't...no, actually, it IS bad...

Well, one out of three isn’t…no, actually, it IS bad…

johnburger2013 contributes the kind of Comment of the Day Ethics Alarms doesn’t see very often: a researched follow-up to the original post that raises separate ethics issues. My post was about the cheating involved in the Jackie Robinson West team’s championship; John’s explores how the Little League itself behaved unethically, and attempted to duck its duty. I often can’t research the stories covered here beyond the aspects of it that sparked the ethics commentary, and in some cases, like this one, the result is an incomplete picture. I am grateful to John and every other commenter who goes the extra mile that my futile attempts to cover the vast ethics landscape miss, skip over, or neglect.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post “Why Our Children Will Grow Up To Be Cheats and Liars: The Little League Champs Are Banned For Cheating, And Are Told That They Should Be Proud” :

I am not sure that Little League International has all that integrity. LLI was perfectly content to encourage the feel good story of underprivileged kids from Chicago’s South Side making it all the way to the series final, only to lose to South Korea. These players were honored by the White House and had photo ops with the President and First Lady. In a sport that has lost interest from the Black community, here was a heart warming story of the little guy making it big.

However, LLI had been on notice that the boundary and residency requirements had been manipulated, or outright disregarded, to create a team of ringers vying for the title. LLI wanted the narrative so it closed its investigation, only then to have its decision to blow up in its face because a reporter kept asking questions. This has turned into a huge ethics problem for LLI. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Ethics Dunces, Sports

Why Our Children Will Grow Up To Be Cheats and Liars: The Little League Champs Are Banned For Cheating, And Are Told That They Should Be Proud Anyway

Littel League champs

When the Tom Brady/ Bill Belichick/New England Patriots cheating issue was at high pitch [Aside: Notice how we have heard nothing about this at all since the Super Bowl, which the Patriots won. This is why NBC thinks it will get away with not firing Brian Williams…both the news media and the public have the attention span of closed head injury victims, especially when it comes to liars, cheaters and betrayal. They call this phenomenon “America’s belief in redemption.” It is actually is a product of America’s crippling domination by chumps, dolts, suckers….and people who are liars and cheats themselves.], a friend of mine brushed it all off saying, “It’s a game.” Well, children learn a lot about ethics from games, and if they learn that adults think cheating is acceptable (never mind that a billion dollar business is hardly just a “game”), they will cheat in their games, and later in life.

Today we learn that the inspiring 2014 Little League Champions, the Jackie Robinson West team that was the first all-African-American team to win the tournament, has been stripped of all of its wins, including those from its Great Lakes Regional and United States championships. As a result, the United States championship has been awarded to Mountain Ridge Little League from Las Vegas.

A Little League investigation revealed that the Jackie Robinson team, which was supposed to field a team exclusively from the Chicago South Side, secretly used an expanded boundary map. Team officials conspired with neighboring Little League districts  to build what was essentially an all-star team by acquiring players from well beyond the South Side. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Sports, U.S. Society