Ethics Hero: Major League Baseball

I can’t believe it. MLB did something right for a change. I thought I might never see the day.

Today is the announcement of the starters for the 2022 All-Star Game, based on fan voting. The hype is sort of sad, as the game itself, once considered a major sporting event that attracted huge TV ratings, is a bit of a dinosaur thanks to interleague play and the fact that the players make so much money that it isn’t worth it to them to play hard or care about which league’s all-stars win. But never mind: it’ still be far the most entertaining of the various all-star games with by far the richest history.

But I digress. For literally decades I and many others have complained about the repeated situation where one of the game’s greatest players, in his last season, is left off the team because his mid-season statistics are no longer stellar. Thus baseball fans were regularly robbed of the chance to see a guaranteed Hall of Famer one last time in the “Mid-Summer Classic,” despite his status as a career “All-Star.” The game is for the fans, after all, and survives on legends, memories and nostalgia.

Well, this year they fixed that. The new collective bargaining agreement permits the commissioner’s office to select one or more players from each league as special additions to the All-Star rosters in recognition of their career achievements. Today it was announced that Albert Pujols of the Cardinals and the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera, both old and only hanging on because they would lose many millions by retiring, have been selected for the 2022 All-Star Game. Both are automatic first ballot Hall of Famers. This is Pujols’ final year, and it should be Cabrera’s.

It was the right thing for baseball to do.

Incredibly, MLB did it.

14 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Major League Baseball

  1. I don’t want to see either of them in the All-Star Game. They both should have retired years ago. This is Cabrera’s sixth lousy season in a row and Pujols’ seventh. I’m not talking about seasons that weren’t up to the standards of their great years. These were seasons in which they were not playing up to major-league standards at all and should not have had a slot on any team. Cabrera’s best WAR in the past six seasons was 0.2, and Pujols’ best in the past seven was 0.3.

    I understand why these plays wanted to keep playing and raking in millions and millions of dollars a year. It’s been a total mystery to me why any team, even if it was stuck paying either of these guys, would have compounded the error, losing games by clogging up its roster with dead weight.

    • I’m sympathetic with your point of view. Still, they are two of the greatest players of their generation, and their honor now is not based on the last five or six years. When both were signed, their teams assumed that the last several years would be ugly. I blame the teams for not just releasing them. It’s the weird financial structure of the game. It’s easy to say they should have quit, but it is still asking a lot to leave 20-30 million on the table for every year of the contract you give up.

      Everyone wanted to see Ted Williams at the 1999 All-Star Game, and he had been retired for 39 years. Why wouldn’t they want to see Miggy and The Machine?

        • You know, now, that continuing to accept what you have bargained for in good faith and have met all the conditions involved is not “greedy.” The opposite of “wildly generous, considerate and self-sacrificing” isn’t “greedy.” It’s “normal.” Similarly, not displaying exemplary ethics isn’t unethical.

          And “you don’t need all that money you’re owed” is in the same category as “you don’t need a gun.”

          • Then have the executives that give these guys these preposterous contracts after the players have already aged out be made to do a walk of shame during the All-Star game.

      • I completely agree that the players are entitled to the money that they bargained for. The teams should have cut them from the roster and continued to pay them in retirement. This seems to be the sunk-cost fallacy Aon action: apparently, the teams are thinking, “We’re paying him $20 million a year. If he doesn’t play, that money will be wasted.” But they ought to be thinking, “That money is gone forever. Let’s not drag the team down by actually playing him.” Or are the teams hoping that if they make him play, he’ll get tired of the humiliation and retire voluntarily so they won’t have to pay him?

        • Exactly. Why let these guys reduce themselves and the game to a parody of what they once were? Who was that terrible guy who signed a big deal with the Orioles and never got another hit? Didn’t they finally cut him and eat the contract? The execs are afraid to admit in public they screwed up and the now awful players are glad to oblige.

          Get these guys out of sight. Don’t parade them around at an All-Star game. Thankfully, no one watches All-Star games anymore. I sure don’t. The All-Star break is simply a period of time when there’s no baseball on TV to watch.

        • I’m hoping being in the All-Star game will prompt Cabrera to give up his last year. But fans are always extremely respectful of such players. Nobody booed Pete Rose, who held on way too long, though for records, not money. And that’s part of the reason for these two as well. Miggy is chasing 3000 hits, a big deal. Fans generally aren’t stat-heads—they don’t know WAR from walnuts.

          • Well, according to the stats I see, he was chasing 3000 this year and caught it — he’s at 3065 hits. Interestingly, he does not appear to be having a bad season — average is .300, OPS .700 over 260 ABs.

            I would have loved to see Pujols get to 700 home runs, but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.
            Also interestingly, last year after he went to the Dodgers Pujols had a decent rest of the season, .254 average, .759 OPS over 189 ABs. This year, though, is a continuation of that terrible performance he had with the Angels.

            He was a disappointment his entire time with the Angels steadily lowering his career averages just about every year. But, of course, that’s what the Angels seem to specialize in — signing superstars and making them into ordinary stars (or worse). It may be just that I follow the AL West closer than the other divisions, but I cannot think of another team who has so consistently gotten poor outcomes from their free agent signing and trades. I guess it’s a gift.

    • Comment of the Day. Thanks, Greg. These guys are embarrassments to the game and should not be allowed on any major league diamond. Certainly not an All-Star game. Hve them throw out a ceremonial first pitch. Fine. Wave at Major League pitching. No. You can see that by enduring any of their at bats watching any Tigers of Cardinals game.

      “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.”

      Maybe they should recognize their agents at the All-Star games as modern-day bank robbers. “Why do you represent Major League baseball player?” “That’s where they keep the money.”

      • OB,
        I wonder if that’s the reason that the Mets agreed to terms with Bobby Bonilla? His agent negotiated 10 years of deferred payments, at a then-competitive interest rate, and agreed to pay Bonilla a little over a million for 20 years, by which time he’ll have reached the ordinary retirement age for most of us. For those first 10 years, the Mets got to use Bonilla’s contracted salary for other things. It took a wise agent and an enlightened executive team to see the value in essentially purchasing a discounted 20-year annuity.

        Let’s not forget Bobby Bonilla Day, July 1st.

        MB

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