In a post sparked by the the current National League Championship Series (boy, I hope I don’t have to add that the sport is baseball) I had written in part,
“The ethical thing would have been [for Washington Nationals relief pitcher Daniel Hudson, the team’s closer] to pass on the opportunity to take the game off. The Nationals major weakness is a terrible bullpen, and Hudson is one of the few reliable relief pitchers on the team. As it happened, the Nats won a close game, but that’s just moral luck. They might have lost because of his absence. That loss might have cost the team its chance to go to the World Series. Millions of dollars would be lost to the franchise that pays Hudson seven figures to improve its fortunes. The careers, lives and family fortunes of his team mates would be affected; the jobs and income of hundreds of merchants and others who rely on the success or failure of the team would have been put at risk. How could anyone argue that the emotional support Hudson would lend his wife during childbirth outweighs all of that, or constitutes a superior ethical obligation?”
Who? Why reader Tim Hayes, that’s who, who not only argued thusly, but did so at a Comment of the Day level, and then responded to my subsequent challenges with equally excellent responses. This gave him the Ethics Alarms equivalent of a three home-run game, and I’m going honor him with the whole sequence.
Here is Ethics Alarms slugger Tim Hayes‘s three-dinger Comment of the Day, on Item #2 in “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2019…” :
Counter-argument on the Hudson situation – For the Nationals to have placed themselves in a position where a single player taking advantage of a promised benefit at his job (the paternity leave) created a realistic chance of them losing the game (due to their lack of hiring sufficient healthy talent into their bullpen) is inherently unethical as an organization, because it creates a situation where all the groups you mentioned can be placed in dire straits by what happens to a single performer. Attaching the consequences for the team’s unethical staffing decision to Hudson’s personal behavior is unfair; The team did not choose to get him to negotiate away the benefit he invoked (which, for the appropriate compensation, they presumably could have), and was therefore at least aware of the possibility that something outside their control could sideline Hudson. That it was his wife giving birth, and not Hudson being hit by a self-driving car, which resulted in their not having access to him, was merely a result of luck (pregnancy and births being both notoriously difficult to plan, and the Nationals presence in the playoffs being, from the admittedly little I understand of baseball, something which was unexpected to say the least).
Hudson has two sets of competing ethical concerns in this scenario – that to his wife and soon to be family, and that to the organization which had hired him. Fortunately for him, his organization had already created a waiver of their concerns (the paternal leave promised to him), in the case of this exact dilemma arising. His decision to prioritize the ethical concerns of his immediate family when allowed to by the organizations own policies is ethically neutral at worst – depending on how you rank ethical obligations to strangers versus family, it could easily be argued that he is fulfilling a greater ethical obligation in favor of merely neglecting a host of lesser obligations.
Keep in mind that maternal mortality has been on the rise in the US for the last 30 years – steadily increasing from 9.1 deaths per 100,000 births in 1986, to 14 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015, while the rate of major complications from the process of giving birth nearly tripled between 1993 and 2014. We have no idea how dangerous this pregnancy was thought to be by their doctors, but it was his third with his wife – it is entirely conceivable that it could have considerably more high risk than the average. Prioritizing his ethical obligation to be present in the event his family might need him is an entirely understandable decision on Hudson’s part, especially when it is a decision his employer has chosen to allow him.
Also, it is clear Hudson had warned his employer multiple times about the overlap (some suggestions indicate as far back as August), and been in communication with them about his intention to exercise the benefits they had promised him, as the playoff season became more likely, and eventually certain. Hudson and his family did try to make the situation as convenient for the Nationals as possible – Having sought to induce labor prematurely, so it would not conflict with the games, and allow him to play. Truly, that is a family going above and beyond the ethical considerations they owe a member’s employer and the strangers that rely upon the employer.
Again, the failure of the Nationals to shore up their bullpen difficulties, for what, at that point, should have an expected staffing issue, is what is truly unethical in the situation.
I responded that the annual failure of the Nats to successfully construct a reliable and sturdy bullpen despite good faith and reasonable efforts didn’t relieve relieve player of their ethical priorities, concluding, “Bad luck isn’t unethical, and thinking it is constitutes consequentialism.” Tim responded…well, ethically: