Ethics Hero: The New York Yankees

(Boy, do I hate having to post this.)

Aging Yankee starting pitcher CC Sabathia was ejected from his final start of the 2018 season for intentionally throwing at and hitting an opposing batter. This meant Sabathia would fall a couple of innings short of  pitching his 155th inning for the year, which would have triggered a half-million dollar bonus bonus. Not the CC needs the money: the not-quite-Hall of Fame caliber hurler has already earned about a quarter of a billion dollars plying his trade, and he’s still in his thirties.

Nonetheless, the Yankees decided that CC has been a loyal and exemplary employee, so they decided not to be technical about the bonus provision, and gave him the $500,000 anyway.

This is pure gratitude and generosity, and much as I detest the New York Yankees, attention must be paid. The Yankees have no reason to try to suck up to CC, who is already signed for next season and who is probably going to retire after it. They are simply signaling that they appreciate what Sabathia has done for them, the city and Yankee fans, and acknowledging that he lost those last few innings “protecting his team mates,” according to the ancient, often stupid, unwritten rules of baseball.

Still, a half-million bucks is one hell of a Christmas bonus.


12 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: The New York Yankees

  1. Watched the MLB network documentary on the ’70s Oakland As laast night. I’m sure Charlie Finley will be positively apoplectic upon hearing this. Wait, he’s dead. I doubt he spent $500K on all his players combined for three world championship seasons.

  2. How is this not directly feeding into the unethical behavior of attempting to hurt opposing players with illegal pitches? Sabathia knew the potential consequences, but the team pulled the teeth out of the punishment. You’ve said before that Loyalty is a virtue in and of itself but often leads to unethical behavior- I’m going to say the Yankees’ gratitude here does the same thing.

    • Glad you mentioned this. But the pitcher is getting a bonus on the theory that he would have earned it outright absent exigent circumstances. I assume the team would have done the same if he had to leave because of an injury, or if the game was rained out.

      EVERY team endorses, under certain circumstances, throwing at players in retaliation. It’s not “illegal” any more than arguing with the umpire is illegal. That’s MLB culture and ethics.

      • EVERY team endorses, under certain circumstances, throwing at players in retaliation. It’s not “illegal” any more than arguing with the umpire is illegal. That’s MLB culture and ethics.

        True, but even so, a person could argue that it looks like rewarding unethical behavior. Of course, the counter-argument is that 500G is a lot of money to pay for a couple of pitches in retaliation, too.

        On balance, I think the appearance argument is wrong, but a culture that is okay with hitting opposing batsmen as a response is worthy of condemnation. It is possible, however unlikely, that a serious injury could result. I admit, CC’s pitch was at calf level, but suppose it hit the batters knee just right and caused an injury requiring surgical repair?

        Sometimes, we should stop revering culture so much, especially stuff like this. A statement by the Yankees in opposition and withholding of some of the bonus would’ve been a nice down-payment on a more ethical culture if other teams could be expected to accept the leadership.


        • Such risks are a part of Baseball. While this action is unethical, it is an accepted part of the game for all involved.

          Baseball is a universe unto itself, with a storied history and a unique culture. Overall, the culture is a positive force. That is a rationalization, but one I can live with.

            • Actually, no.

              You can make the case that football players knew what they were getting into… except they didn’t. We have only recently learned enough about concussions and long term effects for them to understand this risk. NOW we know… and football is losing future generations as parents protect their kids. Pee Wee football is slowly dying. This will impact the talent pool as those kids age through the system.

              Baseball has ALWAYS had the risks we are talking about, from the first time a pitcher dusted off a snarky batter.

      • But there’s no way to know if exigent circumstances would arise, because Sabathia broke the rules and got thrown out.

        Retaliatory targeting is against the rules of the game, and “everybody does it” is a prime rationalization. I feel the same about fighting in hockey, deliberate fouling in the closing minutes of basketball, and the cheap shots that go on under the pile in football.

    • He should spend some of that 500K getting his uniform pants tailored. From the center field camera, he looks like an elephant.viewed from the rear. He’d also better lose a heck of a lot of weight when he retires or he’s not going to be around long to enjoy all his earnings.

      I wonder whether Scott Boras is his agent. I bet the Yankees were trying to make nice with someone other than just C.C.

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