Ethics Quiz: Those Home Run Promises

I know I’ve run the video above recently, but it’s especially relevant here.

Besides, it’s funny, I need a laugh, and I may watch it every day for the rest of my life.

According to reports, Red Sox star Mookie Betts promised Make A Wish Foundation child Nico Sapienza before last night’s game with the New York Yankees that he would “step his game up against the Yankees and hit a homer.”

Betts hit three.

That’s impressive, and a storybook ending. However, no player knows if or when he can hit a four-bagger. None can hit home runs on demand, not even the Great Bambino.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is it ethical for a  ballplayer to promise a sick child that he will hit a home run ?

23 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: Those Home Run Promises

  1. Only if he’s never failed to hit at least one homer every game.

    But now I’m curious, has any baseball player ever FAILED to hit a homer after promising one?

      • I figured it would only be a matter of time before we see someone dumb enough to announce such a promise to the world before they actually fulfill it. Like some hotshot player looking at Mookie Betts, David Oritz (I remember you did a post on him), and Babe Ruth, thinking it’s an easy path to fame and glory, posting a homerun promise to a dying kid on social media, then failing to hit one the next game…

  2. I love your columns in general and honor your wit and wisdom but….baseball to me is like watching paint dry, so whenever you write about baseball I save myself time because I can skip your column for the day. Lambaste me if you will, but I would bet I am not the only one. Sorry.

  3. A definite no.

    These things are always promised to kids. The kids are often in very difficult situations. To risk adding emotional insult to the existing injury is a very dangerous thing to do, particularly considering the odds of success.

    We are likely to only hear of the successes. Who knows how many kids suffered a broken heart to go along with their malady.

  4. No, it would be wiser to promise his next home run, but there are too many butterflies to guarantee that. He could have sprained an ankle pregame, murphy’s law rules over ego.

  5. One could try to answer this question by looking to Aristotle, Hobbes, Hume, Kant Mill, to modern philosophical and legal ethicists. Modern contract law is bottomed on the ethics of promises. When I was in law school, I had a somewhat eccentric professor named Richard V Barndt, who wrote a book I liked a lot: “Possible Worlds of Promise”. Prof Barndt does this year, and I doubt the book is still in print. It was a fascinating little time, that set a simple paradigm for determining whether a contract had been made, and whether it had been breached. The analysis centered on the promise and whether there was a reasonable expectation that it would be fulfilled; in other words, whether it reasonably engendered trust. I oversimplify but y’all get the point. Here, Mookie made a promise and, while an adult promiseemight not have a reasonable expectation that it would be fulfilled, the same would probably not be true for a child. Therefore, a contract is created between Mookie and the child. A breach of that would be a breach of trust, a breach of “contract,” and then to ethicists since the ancients, unethical. However, Mookie did his best to fulfill the contract and did perform what he promised, even of one might say it was only “moral luck” that he did so. Donc (as the French Philosophers might say), purely by moral luck and possibly calculated odds, his promise was ethical. BUT NO, I do not actually believe that raising the hopes and expectations of a sick child that one will do something that has such a large potential for failure is ethical. In this case, disappointment could have very negative consequences to the “promisee’s” expectations and trust. NOW, WHAT IF A PARENT SAYS “EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK?” Is living comfort ethical, even if you don’t know if you can deliver? Oh damn, another dilemma for ethicists…some of whom would address the ethical question differently.

  6. I fall firmly under “it depends.” Promising anything that has the same chances of hitting a home run in a particular game is misleading, dishonest, and wrong. However, if the sick kid asked Betts to hit a home run for him and Betts replied “I’ll try my best”, that’s a different sort of promise. News of it isn’t clear, but one story said the kid initiated the request.

    • At least to me, these things generally come across to me as more of a “I’ll dedicate my next homer(s) to you” kind of thing. But yeah, in sports, promising anything is usually a fool’s gambit.

  7. I’m uncertain whether the Great Bambino was also the strike out king for many seasons. Probably, the time that he pointed to the bleachers and hit his phenomenal home run, he sized up the pitcher and figured that he had more than a 50% chance of hitting hit. Thus was born a legend.

  8. I’m not one to laugh at people’s names and nicknames – it makes me think about how stupid parents can be, but it hit me how at least once during Marcus Lynn’s first year in the majors he must have been called Rookie Mookie.

    Had to look it up. I was right about the parents: Wikipedia “Betts’s parents chose his name in part to form the initials MLB, matching those of Major League Baseball. He has attributed his nickname Mookie to his parents watching former NBA guard Mookie Blaylock play basketball shortly after Betts was born.”

    And “no, never” to the question of the day, but there it’s on the parents again: not to encourage that kind of iffy wish in the first place — talk about challenging Moral Luck!

  9. “Calling your shot” once at the plate has a fine distinguished history, and integrates into the game as a psychological gambit in the cold war between batter and pitcher. This is ethical, if only because it is an accepted part of the game.

    I do not believe promising home runs before the game is ethical, and fulfilled promises are moral luck.

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