Yu Darvish And The Ethics Of Unnecessary Apologies

TMZ reported that Yu Darvish, the highly-regarded Dodger starting pitcher who may have delivered the worst World Series performance for a hurler ever, apologized to Dodger fans following his early exit from Game 7. Darvish didn’t make it out of the second inning in either of his two starts.

To begin with, I don’t think he apologized. Darvish said, “Dodger fans … they expect we won the World Series. I couldn’t do it. I still feel sorry,but I did my 100%, so…” Of course he’s sorry that he stunk during the Series, lost two games, and was a major reason his team was defeated by the Houston Astros. He regrets tat he didn’t play better. That, however, is not the same as apologizing, which is how TMZ and—yecch–Breitbart headlined the story.  It is a social balm to say that you  are sorry that your best efforts weren’t good enough, but one should not apologize for bad results unless your conduct was wrongful in some way. An athlete not being at his best on a given day is not wrongdoing. It’s moral luck. If he performed badly because he was drunk, or tried to lose, or didn’t prepare properly, then he owes his stakeholders an apology for breaching their trust and his duty of competence. If, as Yu says he did, the athlete gave “100%,’ then there is nothing to apologize for.

Acting as if there is something to apologize for helps confuse the easily confused public on an important aspect of accountability. We are accountable for bad events when our actions lead to those events, but we can only be blamed for those bad events if some negligence misconduct or other variation from competent and responsible standards causes the  undesirable results, when such results could have been anticipated.

Howard Hughes filmed, “The Conqueror,” his hilariously awful movie about Genghis Khan,  near St. George, Utah, 137 miles downwind of the United States government’s Nevada National Security Site. In 1953, there had been eleven  above-ground nuclear weapons tests there.  The cast and crew were these for weeks, and Hughes even shipped 60 tons of dirt back to Hollywood in order to match the Utah terrain for re-shoots. The federal government had stated that the tests caused no hazard to public health. Not quite: eventually nearly everyone who worked on the picture, including director Dick Powell,  John Wayne and Susan Hayward, died of cancer.

Hughes could have said he was sorry he ever made the movie, sorry he believed the government, sorry he decided to film where he did, but he shouldn’t have apologized. The government should have apologized.

The difference between wrongdoing and something that is regarded as wrongful only in hindsight, and because of how unpredictable factors shook out, is a critical one. Apologizing as if both are the same thing just makes it harder to tell right from wrong.

You have nothing to apologize for, Yu.

You just stunk, that’s all.


Pointer: Other Bill

23 thoughts on “Yu Darvish And The Ethics Of Unnecessary Apologies

  1. And there was this episode someone recounted to me recently:

    “I was at Red Sox spring training camp, and at the minor league field watched Sox coach Eddie Papowski hit ground balls to a minor leaguer. At one point, the kid muffed a ball, and quickly said “I’m sorry, Mr Papowski!” The old coach stopped and said, “Kid, this is baseball. There’s no sorry. You either do it or you don’t. That’s all.”

    • And there was my supervising senior associate when I was a big firm rookie who just about grabbed me by my tie and said, “Never, EVER, apologize to a client.”

      • Similarly, I had to explain to an Associate: “Never advertise your ignorance.” The client had mentioned an “X” hearing (obviously named after the name of a case). I had never heard of the case, and neither had my associate. However, I inferred (correctly) that it had to deal with some sort of contempt provisions. She did not. She tried to explain that she did not know what was happening. I explained what I thought it was (and was right), and moved on.

        In short, neither of us knew, but I had a good idea how things worked and worked it out myself. Other times, I am happy to tell clients I have never dealt with a particular situation, but it usually helps to explain how things work in that unexplored territory.

        But, much of this comes from experience.


        • Jut, I think my supervisor was speaking more of after the fact apologies. As in, “Never lead with your chin. Don’t apologize for possibly fucking up until all the facts are in and someone more senior has had an opportunity to assess the situation and determine where the potential liability may lie.”


          • And don’t apologize to someone who has harmed YOU. Yes, those kinds of apologies are pathetic. But making a sweeping characterization that in fact is intended to apply only a narrow range of situations is spreading bad advice.

  2. Can’t say I’m a baseball fan, but I am a Texas boy, so ‘Yay ‘Stros’. However, I watched Yu’s efforts, and he seemed to be doing his best. Thus, he has nothing for which to apologize, in my mind. I’d seen him pitch before and, frankly, he scared me a bit. Glad he had a couple of off days.

    • My wife and I watched WAY too much of the entire playoffs this year, beginning with the Diamondbacks’ wild card win and then their collapse to the Dodgers. We were both struck by how tired all the pitching staffs became. Playoff baseball is so pressure packed and high stress that I think the staffs on all the teams just became exhausted. A playoff pitcher is expected to pitch a shut out in every inning and has to assume his offence will produce no runs. It’s just an inhuman pressure cooker and why I think there were so many slug fests. These staffs had pitched entire seasons and stretch runs and they were tired before the playoffs began. The Diamondbacks’ staff was dumpster fire heading into the playoffs and it showed. I think Darvish also may have choked. It happens. Tremendous pressure will do that to a body. Even a superstar MLBer. How many playoff games had Kershaw started before he got a playoff win? Five or six, I think.

  3. Leaving Darvish’s specific language out of it, I don’t think it’s (or perhaps was) unusual for a Japanese athlete to apologize for such a failure. One part of it is that the fandom is much more organized in Japan, thus more a part of the team. In just one quick search, I found the Tokyo Giants sending apology cards to their fans for finishing last forty years ago.

    There’s a lot of puffery between teams and their fans. Any team that claims it’s the best, and then doesn’t win, can be construed as breaking a covenant with its fans. To apologize for that can’t hurt, even if everyone recognizes that the apology is the same sort of puffery.

    During the Series, there was quite a bit of discussion to the effect that balls used were slightly different than in the regular season, and perhaps harder to grip. If that’s true, it may have affected Darvish more than others.

    • I agree about the Japanese cultural impact upon Darvish’s “apology.” Totally different culture, LS. So interesting baseball was brought to Japan, primarily during the post war occupation, but maybe even earlier. A massive transplant of American culture into Japanese culture that took in some respects but was rejected in others.

      • Organization of baseball in Japan seems to track 40-50 years behind the US. The first professional league was formed in the 1930s. A great hitter of the 1920’s, Lefty O’Doul, made many trips to Japan and has been inducted as a pioneer of the game by the Japanese baseball hall of fame.

  4. Crap! This Darvish contrition is just going to fuel the fires of suspicion in my relatives’ minds. A few of them are convinced that this year’s World Series was fixed for the Astros. To be perfectly honest, I can’t blame them entirely for thinking that way, given how good the Astros have been at losing for the previous 55 major league baseball seasons.

    • I think you’re succumbing to some recency bias. Yes, the Astros had 3 historically bad seasons, but they have been on a strong upward trend the last four years and this team was really, really good. I can’t say that they played at their best in the World Series, but it was good enough to win. And as an aside, how many teams can there be who have beaten the Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers all in one postseason?

      The Astros have had some really good teams in the past — they had been on the brink of the World Series more than once, but just couldn’t get over the top until 2005.

      If you want to talk about losing in this fashion, though, the Dodgers have obviously also been very good at losing for the past 3 decades.

      • The Astros are the first to take out the three monsters in the same postseason. The last time the Dodgers were in the World Series, “wild cards” had not been implemented, so the Yankees and Red Sox could not be in the same postseason.

        • Hey, fifty-five years ain’t so long. Ask the Cubs or Red Sox fans. I think of the Astros as a recent expansion team. What expansion team is entitled to win a Series? Too bad they’re still not called the Colt 45s. I guess we have LBJ and the space program to blame for that.

          • What expansion team is entitled to win a Series?

            Well, since you ask:

            New York Mets (est. 1962 same as the Astros)
            Kansas City Royals (1969)
            Toronto Blue Jays (1977)
            Anaheim Angels (1961)
            Florida Marlins (1991)
            Arizona Diamondbacks (1998)

            Aside from those there are 5 expansion teams that have gone but never won, and 2 more that have never made the World Series.

            • Didn’t the DBacks come in with Tampa Bay in the mid-ninties? They won the 2001 Series.

              But my point was simply that franchises win or don’t win championships based on their performance and luck. Time to championship is irrelevant.

          • Fifty-five years ain’t so long, if the team has already won a World Series at least once. The Astros didn’t even win a game in the World Series until this year, in only their second appearance there. Just about every expansion team besides the Astros has won a Series (sorry, Expos, now Nationals – so I guess 2018 will be “their turn”). No team is entitled to win, of course – but you’d never know that, seeing some Yankees fans (and even a few Dodgers fans, such as those relatives of mine who cry “FIX!”) Other Bill, I suspect that even if the space program had never been steered to Texas, the Colt 45s would have had their name changed sometime around 1968, following the assassinations of that year. Nothing changes gun controls faster than a Democrat being shot.

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