I think I made a poor call deciding not to write about the interesting ethics question that arose during Game #1 of the just completed World Series.
We learned during the broadcast of Game 2 on Fox that Daniel Volquez, the father of Kansas city Royals Game #1 starting pitcher Edinson Volquez, had died of heart trouble during the day in the Dominican Republic. But Volquez’s family had asked the team not to inform Volquez until after the game, and the team, on behalf of the family, asked the same of the broadcasters, directing them to withhold the news from the TV audience. I decided to pass on the story because I couldn’t confirm that Volquez didn’t know about his father’s passing, though it now appears he did not. That was foolish: the ethics issues are the same regardless of whether he knew.
Fortunately Ethics Alarms reader Noah D. insisted that the issue was attention worthy, and wrote his own commentary. I’ll have some comment at the end. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, World Series Ethics: Another Pine Tar Sighting, As Baseball Ethics Rot Gets A Thumbs Up From Legal Ethics Rot:
I was trying to get at what I think could be a fascinating ethics question: supposing that Volquez didn’t know, is it right for the Kansas City Royals not to tell him, in order to get a good start from him? Or we could broaden the question to our everyday lives: is it ever ethical for an employer to not inform an employee of a family member’s death, for the purpose of him/her having you perform the duties of your employment? With Volquez, I agree with Rick M., “family comes first.” I’m willing to bet it’d be darn near impossible to find an employer (the kind us folk work for, anyway) who wouldn’t have immediately informed us and told us to take all the time we need. Going back to Volquez, shouldn’t that have been his decision whether to pitch or, presumably, leave to meet his family?
There are admittedly holes in my argument here. Any of our bosses wouldn’t need to inform us, as we’d probably have our cell phones on our hips waiting for the call. And, as I said in my first post, I don’t know the details. Volquez may have known, and it was, of course, perfectly right for him to pitch. My point being that it was his decision to make. In my thinking anyway. Certainly these are way different circumstances than we’d find ourselves in. Game 1 of the World Series and you’re one of the Royals’ aces! Extenuating circumstances?
On a separate note, I’m grateful for a site like this. If I had posted this on another site I would have been accused of being a Mets fan and would have gotten, at least, 48. Ethics Jiu Jitsu, or “Haters Gonna Hate!” I’m not a Mets fan, I didn’t really know too much about their team before I started watching the postseason other than David Wright is from around my neck of the woods. I had no pony in this race. Though watching the Royals in the postseason these last two years has made me dislike them. They’re a young team and act like it. They need to show a little more decorum. For instance, not all jumping out of the dugout on every play. Sorry, folks. I’m being a fuddy-duddy, as my mother would say.
I’m back. My assessment is
….that while “family comes first,” a professional in this situation needs to be able to put his emotions aside and put professional duties first. If I were the Royals manager, Ned Yost, I wouldn’t say to my first game starter, “It’s up to you; whatever you decide, I’ll support.” (Nor “take all the time you want.”) That’s not Yost’s job. His job is to do what’s best for the team, and that means doing everything possible to make his pitcher stay, get his emotions under control and do his job. The father, after all, was dead. Volquez couldn’t change anything by going home, but he was crucial to the Royals fate in the Series.
….the manager not trusting Volquez to be professional was an insult, unless he knew that the pitcher was emotional and unprofessional. Then it was Yost’s duty, for the team’s good, not to tell him about his father.
….the family has no standing to tell the team or Fox what to disclose, and neither the Royals nor Fox should have considered the desires of the family in deciding what to do. The three parties’ objectives and duties are different: the family is concerned about Volquez, the Royals are concerned about the Royals, and Fox is obligated to care about neither the family nor the Royals, but its audience.
Fox should have reported the death as soon as it learned about it, the requests of the Royals and the family notwithstanding. This is the slipperiest of slopes. Journalists must not make judgments about what news we can handle. They aren’t that wise, or trustworthy.