Yes, We Have Another New Rationalization! Welcome #20 A: “Everyone Deserves A Second Chance!”


No, in fact everyone doesn’t.

I encountered this inexplicably omitted rationalization—“inexplicably” because we all hear it so often, yet its obvious rationalization character had not occurred to me—today while reading a post by a friend, a Boston Red Sox sportswriter. My friend was answering a query about who the Sox, just off a terrible season, might tap to become the new manager, since the team had unceremoniously dumped poor Ron Roenicke, who literally never had a chance to do anything but fail. The inquirer wondered if Alex Cora, the Sox manager in 2018 and 2019, might return though he had been fired before the 2020 season since he was serving a year-long suspension for his part in the Houston Astros cheating scandal while he was a Houston coach in 2017. My friend, who has made this same argument to me in private conversations, wrote,

I’m not an oddsmaker, but if I was making the decision, I would bring Cora back in a heartbeat. Players responded well to Cora in his two-year stint managing the Red Sox, and it would obviously be well-received in the clubhouse if he comes back. Cora is also popular among Red Sox fans as many of them have been pining for his return. Bringing Cora back could help to rejuvenate a fan base that was discouraged by the 2020 season. As for the detractors who say he was part of a sign-stealing scandal with the Astros? Everyone deserves a second chance.

Ugh. This was not my friend’s finest hour—wait, that’s a rationalization too (19A The Insidious Confession, or “It wasn’t the best choice.”). Okay, the statement was awful:

  • The fact that Cora was well liked by players and fans before he was discovered to be a corrupting influence is irrelevant to the question of his current fitness to manage. It’s like saying that Kevin Spacey is a good actor.
  • So what if many fans, who generally pay as much attention to ethics as I pay attention to fashion shows, want him back? The question for the team is whether it is responsible to bring back a manager who was the proven architect of a major cheating scandal and allowed a lesser one—with the Red Sox—to take place on his watch, not how many fans think re-hiring an ethics corrupter would be just swell.
  • If detractors “sayCora was part of a sign-stealing scandal, they are equivocating.  Cora was the mastermind, the key architect of THE worst team cheating scandal since the Black Sox threw the World Series in 1919. That sentence deserves an extra “ugh.” UGH.

Finally, people don’t deserve second chances when there is no reason to trust them, and there is no reason to trust Cora, and lots of reasons not to. He has never sufficiently explained his conduct, nor indicated that he is properly remorseful. Moreover, he had his second chance: after leading the Houston Astros into unethical and unsportsmanlike behavior in 2017, Cora had a second chance managing the Boston Red Sox in 2018 and 2019, and Boston had a cheating scandal, though not as serious or wide ranging, while he was at the helm.

Here is a small, wildly incomplete list of people who don’t, or didn’t, deserve second chances: Lance Armstrong, Marion Barry, Ted Kennedy, Matt Lauer, Dan Rather, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Pete Rose, Bernie Madoff, Sirhan Sirhan, Barry Bonds, Stephen Glass, Harvey Weinstein, Eliot Spitzer, Edward Snowden,  Chelsea Manning and Michael Cohen.

And Alex Cora.

In fact, I’m going to name this latest addition to the Ethics Alarms rationalizations list “The Alex Cora Delusion.”

8 thoughts on “Yes, We Have Another New Rationalization! Welcome #20 A: “Everyone Deserves A Second Chance!”

  1. Perhaps you’re right about Cora and the others listed, but under what conditions should someone be given a second chance? Or would a shorter list be conditions for not getting a second chance?

    • Great question. I think I’ll address that in today’s warm-up. The short answer is that a second chance is appropriate when there is reason to believe that the individual has learned somethin other than “be more careful next time so you don’t get caught” and that the original misconduct was the result of a genuine mistake, sudden impulse, or action out of character with the individual’s past behavior.

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