Last week I posted about ESPN baseball color commentator Jessica Mendoza earning her Ethics Dunce stripes for essentially calling Mike Fiers, the Oakland A’s pitcher who revealed to reporters that his former team, the 2017 Astros, had cheated their way to a World Series title, a snitch. She said in part,
“When I first heard about it, it hits you like any teammate would. It’s something that you don’t do. I totally get telling your future teammates, helping them win, letting people know. But to go public with it and call them out and start all of this, it’s hard to swallow.”
Now Hall of Fame great Pedro Martinez , intrepid as ever, has weighed in with a verdict on Fiers that counters the accepted narrative that Fiers is a role model. Pedro also faults Fiers, but not for the reason Mendoza does. Pedro Martinez, fascinatingly enough, evaluates the problem by regarding a baseball team member as having similar relationship to his team mates as a lawyer does to a client.
That is not as much of a stretch as it might seem at first glance. Professions like that of lawyers is based on trust, and so is the relationship between team mates in sports (as well as partners in police cars, members of military units, a manager and a personal assistant, and other close working relationships). The analogy is useful and apt.
Pedro opined (in an interview with radio WEEI in Boston, which broadcasts Red Sox games):
“If he was to do it when he was playing for the Houston Astros I would say Mike Fiers has guts. But to go and do it after you leave the Houston Astros because they don’t have you anymore, that doesn’t show me anything…You’re just a bad teammate. …
Now everybody knows you are going to have a whistle-blower in any other situation too [if Fiers is on your team.]. Whatever happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse and Fiers broke the rules. I agree with cleaning up the game. I agree that the fact that the Commissioner is taking a hard hand on this….
“If you have integrity you find ways to tell everybody in the clubhouse, ‘Hey, we might get in trouble for this. I don’t want to be part of this.’ You call your GM. You tell him. Or you call anybody you can or MLB or someone and say, ‘I don’t want to be part of this.’ Or you tell the team, ‘Get me out of here, I don’t want to be part of this.’ Then you show me something. But if you leave Houston and most likely you didn’t agree with Houston when you left and then you go and drop the entire team under the bus I don’t trust you. I won’t trust you because did have that rule.”
What Pedro is advocating is very similar to the legal ethics rules governing what a lawyer should do if the organization that employs him or her is violating a law.
First, the lawyer is required to try to stop the conduct. If that doesn’t work, the lawyer is required to go “up the ladder”; to report the legal conduct to organization managers and leaders until the word gets to the very top, if nobody else will act. Finally, if that is all futile, then the lawyer must withdraw, or in Pedro’s baseball analogy, tell the team that he wants pout: ‘I don’t want to be part of this.’ Or you tell the team, “Get me out of here, I don’t want to be part of this.” As a last resort, at least in many states, the lawyer has the option (but usually not the obligation) of reporting “out” to authorities. When Pedro said, “If he was to do it when he was playing for the Houston Astros I would say Mike Fiers has guts,” he is agreeing with that principle. In other words, reporting out in a timely fashion to mitigate harm is laudable.
Of course, a player does not have the formal ethics rules to guide him in this situation, and baseball players are not lawyer. Still, I admire Pedro’s analysis, which is not the same as Mendoza’s, though the typically ethics-obtuse sports writing profession thinks it is. You will notice that Mike Fiers hasn’t appeared here as an Ethics Hero, and Pedro’s analysis, which tracks with mine, is one reason why. Fiers waited more than two years to blow his whistle, after he was safely ensconced on another team. Indeed, he waited until he had one of his best years, so he felt that he was protected by #11 on the Rationalizations List, the King’s Pass. He also waited until he had personally benefited from the Astros cheating, and had collected his share of the World Series victors’ pot.
Fiers reporting a major cheating scandal that affected a World Series two years late was better than never saying anything, but it’s not the ethical or courageous way to blow the whistle, for a lawyer or a baseball player.
Meanwhile, we now know that one of the greatest pitchers who ever took the mound understands legal ethics better than a lot of lawyers.
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