Late Night Ethics Refresher, 10/20/18: Bad Art And Baseball Roshomon

Having a nice weekend?

Literally nothing can spoil my mood now that the Red Sox are going to the World Series…and playing the Dodgers.

1. White House art ethics? I’ve been wanting to post about this all week.  Here is the painting President Trump has hung in the White House:

I love it. It makes me smile every time I see it. But because there is nothing President Trump could do that the news media and the “resistance” wouldn’t mark as shameful; and scandalous, he is actually being attacked for his choice of art.

Well, to hell with them, which I’m sure is Trump’s attitude. Sure it’s a tacky painting; I’m pretty sure the artist knows that, and doesn’t care. Called “The Republican Club,” it is the work of Missouri artist Andy Thomas. Trump is President and for at least four years he’s living in the White House: he can put up whatever art he likes. If it makes him smile like it does me, then that’s a good enough reason to hang it. It’s bad art, but so was Obama’s official portrait showing him being slowly devoured by plants with the sperm on his face, and that one didn’t make anyone smile, except the artist.


By the way, CNN displays its ignorance by writing that “Chester Arthur, Rutherford B. Hayes and James Garfield are presumably in the crowd, but impossible to identify.” I could identify Arthur easily. Can you? Garfield, Hayes, and Benjamin Harrison, whom CNN’s reporter apparently never heard of, were all similarly bearded, and there are two bearded faces near Arthur that could be two of them. I can’t find McKinley anywhere, so maybe the artist was minimizing the presence of the murdered Presidents—given the tenor of Democratic rhetoric,  that might be prudent—which means the bearded figures are Hayes and Harrison. Also missing is the only impeached Republican President, Andrew Johnson. Yeah, poor Andy would be a skunk at the picnic too.

2.  More  Mookiegate ethics: Baseball mavens are still arguing about the play in Game 4 of the ALCS in which an apparent home run was ruled an out because a fan interfered with Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts as he was in the process of making one of the greatest catches in post-season history. The rule couldn’t be clearer: if the ball is “in the field of play,” that is, if it hasn’t gone over the wall or fence, then a fan interfering with the catch has committed interference, and the batter is out. If the ball has crossed the boundary into the stands, then the fans are allowed to interfere.

Here’s the catch again…

The New York Times properly describes this as a Roshomon situation: some observers are certain Betts’ glove was in the stands, others are equally certain the fan was reaching into the playing area. (I think the incident occurred right on the line.) In the kind of random happening that makes life the barrel of fun that it is, a camera placed to look right along the wall happened to be blocked by a security guard at the crucial moment. Listen to fans and reporters analyze the play, and you will get a good sense of their degree of bias and critical thinking skills.

Some points:

  • Mookie has made the argument that he is certain he would have caught the ball but for the fan, but under the rule, that’s irrelevant. It would have been interference whether his catching the ball was certain, likely, remote or impossible, IF the fan was reaching into the field of play to do it.
  • Umpire Joe West deserves credit for having the guts to make the call on the field in such an important game. Calling interference has been avoided by umpires in key games in the past, notably when a New York Yankee fan took a catch away from the Baltimore Orioles in a play-off game (Naturally, the Yankees rewarded him. Don’t get me started…), and when umpire Larry Barnett refused to call  blatant, game-changing interference on Reds player Ed Armbrister in the 1975 World Series, thus ensuring his ticket to Hell.
  • The standard for overturning umpire calls on replay is whether video decisively shows the umpire was wrong. In this case, the decision was that it did not, meaning that if West had not called interference, judging that Betts’ glove was in the stands, that call would have been upheld as well. Lots of baseball writers have been complaining about this standard for years, and they are just plain wrong. This play is a perfect example why: video is not three-dimensional, and is not a perfect substitute for the eyes of a witness on the scene.
  • As I have written before, the rule makes no sense. If over the wall is truly out of the field of play, then a ball should become irreversibly a homer once it crosses that boundary, and no such ball should be catchable.  If, however, a player is still allowed to catch such a ball for an out, then it hasn’t left “the field of play” until it lands somewhere other than a player’s glove. That means that spectators are, in fact, interfering with a  player’s legal effort to catch a batted ball within the field of play, which should be regarded as much beyond a wall as a player can reach without vaulting it.

In that respect, it does matter that Mookie would have caught the ball.

  • Special ethics kudos are due to Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who rejected the argument that the call had cost his team the game. (The Astros lost by two runs, and the interference call negated Altuve’s two-run homer.) Essentially saying that post hoc ergo propter hoc was the fallacy it is (but there’s no Latin in baseball!) Hinch said that it was wrong to look at the game that way, and that at the moment the play happened, there were 8 innings of baseball left to play that could have taken all sorts of turns. There’s no way of knowing how events would have unfolded had the home run counted, he told reporters, and he is correct. On behalf of his team, Hinch accepted accountability for losing the game even though a fallacious excuse was being handed to him.

Ethics Hero.

7 thoughts on “Late Night Ethics Refresher, 10/20/18: Bad Art And Baseball Roshomon

  1. Could McKinley be the unbearded face on Jerry Ford’s right shoulder between him and, I presume, Arthur (that one kinda looked like Taft to me).

  2. 1. There is a separate Democratic painting. Johnson ran with Lincoln under the National Union ticket, so he might be allocated to a theoretical third painting, with Whigs and Federalists.

    • I see her in there now, after reading the article, and in both the Republican and Democratic versions.

      I wonder if the Twitterverse actually took the time to realize there is the Democratic version with Obama they would refer to it as “tacky”.

  3. Have you read this article?

    A University of Mississippi assistant professor is facing backlash on social media — and from his employer — after calling on people to harass senators out eating in public.

    “Don’t just interrupt a Senator’s meal, y’all,” Ole Miss Assistant Professor of Sociology James Thomas wrote on Twitter Oct. 6. “Put your whole damn fingers in their salads. Take their apps and distribute them to the other diners. Bring boxes and take their food home with you on the way out.”

    Thomas’ Twitter account has been switched to private, but several news outlets — including Ole Miss school newspaper The Daily Mississippian — had made note of it. The post appeared to gain traction after a Facebook page called the Our State Flag Foundation highlighted it over the weekend and called for Thomas’ firing.

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