Rather than abating, the fallout from the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal is getting more intense.
On Valentine’s Day, Los Angeles Dodger star Cody Bellinger, the reigning National League MVP, told reporters , “I thought [Baseball Commissioner Rob] Manfred’s punishment was weak, giving [the Astros players} immunity. I mean these guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don’t realize is [Astros second baseman José ] Altuve stole an MVP from [Yankee rightfielder Aaron] Judge in ’17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.”
The Astros defeated the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series, stealing their signs while doing so, according to MLB’s investigation.
Astros star shortstop Carlos Correa returned fire:
“When I analyze all the games, we earned that championship,” Correa said of the 2017 World Series. “We didn’t steal it…World Series games are too important to use easy signs. There are Morse codes out there. There are signs that nobody can get. There are so many variations you can use, and nobody can get that….There was no trash can on the road, no cheating on the road..When you look at the World Series, they left so many guys on base in Game 7, throughout the whole World Series. Cody didn’t have a good World Series. For him to be talking about us stealing that championship, don’t talk about it. You should not be talking about it. You should have done something about it. When you analyze the games, we won fair and square. We earned that championship.”
It’s impossible to say whether the Astros’ cheating changed the outcome of the World Series, but that Series was very close, and Bellinger’s overly certain assertion that it did is a lot more credible than Correa’s claim (echoing Astros Owner Jim Crane) that it didn’t.
Correa also defended his team mate, José Altuve, against Bellinger’s accusation that the Astros’ star did not earn the NL MVP award he received in 2017:
“The reason José Altuve apologized to the media was for being part of the team and for not stopping it. But he’s not apologizing for using the trash can. He’s not apologizing for cheating because he did not cheat. … José Altuve earned that MVP, and he’s been showing that for years.”
After that unsupported statement, the shortstop offered some ethics advice:
“[Bellinger] said that they all lost respect for us. But that’s not how life works. We all make mistakes. And because you make a mistake, people are not going to lose respect for you. It’s how you confront those mistakes that you make. You’ve got to admit to those mistakes. You’ve got to accept those mistakes. You’ve got to learn from them. You’ve got to change so you don’t make those mistakes again. And you’ve got to move on with a clean slate. You can’t be judged by the first mistake you make. That’s not how life works at all.”
- Respect and trust can be restored after misconduct—I am not persuaded that the Astros truly made “a mistake”—but that is not automatic nor inevitable, nor should it be.
- Statements like Correa’s, denying the likely consequences of misconduct, are not the way to regain respect and trust. The opposite is true.
- People are often judged by a single wrongful act. This is the principle of signature significance: there are some acts that trustworthy and respectable individuals will never do, even once.
- The shortstop’s concept of ethics seems to be restricted to rationalizations, like #19,The Perfection Diversion, or “Nobody’s Perfect!” and “Everybody makes mistakes!”and especially #20. The “Just one mistake!” Fantasy, which holds, I would instruct Mr. Correa,
[Ratioanlization #20 expresses] the excuse that a particular unethical act should be ignored, forgiven or excused as an aberration because “it was just one mistake.” This argument intentionally glosses over the fact that one mistake can be so blatantly unethical and harmful that an ethical person literally never does such a thing, and thus the “one mistake” is a reliable indicator that the actor does not deserve to be trusted. Abuse of power is in this category. Defenders of the unethical also often use this excuse dishonestly and deceptively to designate as one mistake an ongoing episode of continuous unethical conduct. For example, Bill Clinton didn’t make “one mistake” regarding Monica Lewinsky, but hundreds of them, involving lies, deceits, cover-ups and betrayals.
But Correa is paid an annual salary of eight figures a year to play baseball, while I am but a poor ethicist. Based on his statements, he is approximately as qualified to ply my trade as I am to ply his.