Baseball Has A Cheating Problem …It Is Relevant To More Than Baseball (Part 2): Unethical Quote Of The Week: Boston Red Sox Manager Alex Cora

Cora

“I come from suspension and I know how embarrassing that is and how tough that is, not only on you as a person but your family, your friends and the people that love you. Ten games, a year, two years, three years, it doesn’t matter. Being suspended is hell and you don’t want to go through that. I was very open to them and hopefully they understand that.”

—Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora on Major League Baseball’s threat of 10 game suspensions for pitchers  caught cheating by using sticky substances on baseballs , a practice that has been against the rules  for a hundred years.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote that Alex Cora, then serving a one year suspension from Major League baseball, didn’t “get it,” it being why cheating is wrong, what ethics is, and why it is important to act ethically in all aspects of life. He still doesn’t get it. Cora (you can catch up here) was suspended because he engineered and oversaw a  season long sign-stealing scheme as bench coach in 2017 for the Houston Astros, who used it to inflate their offense and ultimately win the World Series. When it was finally discovered, Cora was the acclaimed manager of the Boston Red Sox, who succeeded the Astros as World Champions in 2018. The Red Sox had been cheating in their triumphant season too, though not as extensively, and  an investigation blamed it all on a low-level coach., not Cora, though Cora was his supervisor, and the whole thing seemed oddly reminiscent of Cora’s cheating in Houston. Continue reading

Ethics Catch-Up, 6/10/2021 (But I Keep Falling Further Behind!)

Hamster wheel

That’s not me, by the way. I would never wear a shirt like that…

1. Not substantiated, but worth mentioning: Fulton County, Georgia, poll manager Suzi Voyles says that when she sorted through a stack of mail-in ballots last November, she noticed strange uniformity in the markings on ballots favoring Joe. Biden. All the absentee votes contained perfectly filled-in ovals for Biden, except that each of the darkened bubbles featured an identical white space inside them in the shape of a tiny crescent, indicating they had been marked with toner ink instead of a pen or pencil. All of these ballots were printed on different stock paper than the others she handled as part of a statewide hand recount of the 2020 Presidential election, and none were folded or creased, as mail-in ballots usually are. To her, the Biden votes looked like they’d been duplicated by a copying machine. At least three other poll workers observed the same thing in stacks of absentee ballots for Biden they handled, have joined Voyles in swearing under penalty of perjury that they something was—is—seriously amiss. A state judge has ordered that all of the 147,000 mail-in ballots counted in Fulton be unsealed to allow a closer inspection of the Biden ballots for evidence of counterfeiting. Observations:

  • Why is this only happening now, rather than before the results were certified?
  • Even if the audit show that Trump “won” Georgia, indeed even if similar audits show that he should have won the election, nothing will change as far as the current government is concerned. You can’t unring that bell. Congratulate the Democrats: it worked!
  • Even the Georgia audit alone, if it turned up sufficient counterfeit ballots, would still force some accountability on the news media and progressive pundits, who have rather too vigorously insisted that the election was as pure as the driven snow.
  • So far, the mainstream media has ignored this story, and will continue to if it comes to nothing. Right now, it’s officially just more conservative conspiracy theory.
  • I am certain that there are many in authority who believe that even if there was widespread fraud in 2020, it shouldn’t be revealed because that knowledge would cause civil unrest. I almost feel that way myself, except that Democrats and news media have been shouting from the rafters that complaints about the loose controls on mail-in ballots are fanciful, and that Trump is “lying” when he says the election was stolen. Now the truth has to be determined, so that highly dubious narrative doesn’t prevent essential reforms.
  • If the Xeroxed ballot accusation turns out to be legitimate, things will get ugly. At that point, maybe they have to.

2. Accountability Ethics, Baseball Division. The last two nights, the Houston Astros were booed lustily in Boston by fans indignant about that team’s cheating in 2017, including during a close play-off series with the Red Sox on the way to the Astros’ World Championship. There’s a disconnect here: the primary villain in the cheating scandal is the current Red Sox manager, Alex Cora, who engineered the sign-stealing scheme the team used to help it’s hitters all season. Cora, of course, hasn’t bee jeered at all. Alex said that the booing of his former team made him uncomfortable. Good! He told the press after the game in part,

“Tough to hear it. Because at the end, I was part of that. I was part of the 2017 Astros, and I was part of the whole sign-stealing situation and them being booed and screamed at … I was part of that, too. I know there’s a lot of people in this town who are fans of the Boston Red Sox that don’t agree that I’m the manager [Note: Like me…] There’s others that yeah, they’re OK with it and others, they’re just happy that we have this [winning] record. But that was something I was wondering for a while — how people were going to treat them — because at the end, we were part of it. [Clarification: Not “part of it,” Alex. You were the instigator of it.] Me and [current Red Sox player] Marwin [Gonzalez] were part of that, and it was a tough one last night. When I got home, I thought about it. I was like, ‘Wow.’ It was tough. It was a tough night.”

Not tough enough. I also liked how he threw his own player under the metaphorical bus. Most Boston fans had forgotten that Gonzales, now with the Sox , was one of the Astros’ sign-stealing cheats. I’m sure he was happy to hear his manager remind everyone in his new city.

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PM Ethics Medley, 5/26/2021: It’s A Strange, Strange World

Pastiche

1. Priorities! Major League Baseball has placed Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway on its ineligible list through at least the 2022 season, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced. The league made the decision after investigating Callaway for sexual sexual harassment allegations reaching back several years, with several female sporstwriters among the alelged victims. The Angels fired Callaway this afternoon. Opines a major baseball news site: “Callaway is facing a year-plus ban, and it seems hard to believe any MLB team will hire him when he’s eligible to return.”

Hmmmm…

Alex Cora was suspended and fired as manager by the Boston Red Sox after a one-year suspension, then immediately hired back by the team. All he did was play a major role in devising a cheating scheme for one team, the Houston Astros, that extended through the play-offs and World Series, then oversaw a second team, Boston, that was found to have engaged in cheating, though less extensively, the next season. Cora’s cheating scheme with Astros was unprecedented, and cost two other professionals their jobs and the Astros millions in fines,while seriously scarring the integrity of the game. The conduct Callaway engaged in has been routine among professional athletes for decades, though in his case it was apparently 1) a bit more extreme than the norm and 2) “unwelcome.” After all, he was just a coach. So far, nobody has accused a player making more than $10 million a year of making sexual advances that were “unwelcome.’

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Ethics Corrupter: The Boston Red Sox

red_sox disgraced

Sometimes, a mere “ethics dunce” designation isn’t enough.

The decision, announced yesterday, by the Boston Red Sox to rehire disgraced manager Alex Cora to a two-year contract that will again put him at the helm of the team is disgusting and indefensible, unethical to the core. For me, it constitutes 2020’s second major ethics offense by an organization and a sport that has been important on many levels throughout my life, substantially challenging my loyalty and affection.

I was going to call the post “Ethics Strike Two On the Boston Red Sox,” but that formula would require me to give the team a third chance to disgrace itself before I called it “out” of my life, and I don’t know if I can do that. Nonetheless, I’m going to attempt to keep the emotional component of this most recent ethics breach on the metaphorical bench in this post as I try to be objective.

I won’t promise that I will succeed.

Cora was fired by the Red Sox in January after he was found to be the architect of the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scheme, one of the worst scandals in Major League Baseball history, trailing only the 1918 Black Sox scandal and the illegal player steroid era in its degree of damage to the sport. Commissioner Rob Manfred later suspended Cora through the end of the 2020 postseason. The revelation that Cora, a bench coach for then Astros manager A. J. Hinch,  had been at the center of an organized cheating scheme that helped bring the Houston Astros a World Championship also cast a shadow over the following year’s World Championship achieved by the Boston Red Sox, which had hired Cora as its manager. Did the cheating mastermind from Houston bring his unethical ways to his first managing job? Why wouldn’t he?

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

Cora

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:

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Oh Joy! A Baseball Ethics Story! Alex Cora Finally Speaks Out!

While the players union and Major league Baseball bicker over the terms under which the American Pastime will have a limited season in 2020, the specter of the ugly ethics scandal that closed out the off-season came out to say “Boo!” Alex Cora, fingered in the Commissioner’s report as the mastermind behind the Houston Astros 2017 sign-stealing scheme, which apparently extended into the play-offs and World Series (which the cheating Astros won), finally talked about the episode, which promises to haunt the Astros, baseball and him for a long time. Cora was suspended for a year and lost his job as manager of the Boston Red Sox. Carlos Beltran, the Astros player who was found to be Cora’s partner in crime, was fired from his new position as manager of the New York Mets, and both the manager and the general manager of the Astros were suspended and fired.

Cora, to my surprise, was cleared in an investigation of the allegations that his Red Sox team in 2018 was also stealing signs. The MLB report faulted a single coach and determined that the sign-stealing was sporadic and relatively minor. I fully expected Cora to be found as the culprit in a second major cheating scandal, and to perhaps be banned from baseball entirely. Well, good: I’m relieved. he’s not the Bad Seed I feared he was.

Back when I was certain Cora was facing the end of his baseball career—and he still might be—I proposed a 12 Step Program for him to regain the trust of fans and his sport. The steps, which are described in detail here, were… Continue reading

What’s The Ethical Response When Your Life And Reputation Collapses, And It’s Your Fault? My 12 Step Program For Alex Cora

I have been thinking a  lot about what I would do if I were Alex Cora.

In the past, people who have had the kind of precipitous public fall from grace that Cora has had often committed suicide. That’s neither an ethical nor reasonable response for the former Boston manager, but what is an ethical and reasonable response?

If you don’t know: Alex Cora was, until recently, one of the most popular, secure and successful young managers in Major League Baseball. His present was bright—he had a contract that paid him $800,000 a year, he was one of the faces of the Boston Red Sox, a storied franchise with a fanatic following, he was seen as a role model and an an inspiring  figure who represented the game, his city and his team, as well as his Puerto Rico home. His future was if anything, brighter: more money, perhaps even greater success with a talented and wealthy club, endorsement contracts, upper management, books, broadcasting…and of course, adulation, celebrity and fame.

Then, in the span of days, it was all gone. Cora was named as the mastermind of a sign-stealing cheating scandal that devastated the Houston Astros, and as the likely one responsible for another cheating scandal in Boston. He was fired as Boston’s manager, and the fans, and sports media are furious. Cora is certain to be suspended without pay for two years, and to be pronounced persona non grata in baseball for the foreseeable future. No baseball team will want to be associated with Alex Cora even after his official punishment is over.

So far, Cora has not addressed all of this in public; presumably he is awaiting the MLB report after its investigation of Boston’s sign-stealing in 2018. He has not yet apologized nor acknowledged wrong-doing. What is the most ethical way for him to proceed?

If I were hired to give Cora professional guidance about the way to proceed in the most ethical manner possible, what would it be? Cora still has to earn a living. He has to go on living too: he has a family. He has responsibilities.

Here are the 12 steps—it just turned out that way, I swear. Okay, when I got to ten and realized I was near the end, I did think, “Surely this can be jiggered to have 12 steps..”—that I would urge Alex Cora to follow: Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Refresher, 1/15/2020: Firing, Tweeting, Protesting, Talking Friends Into Suicide…

Hello?

Traffic here inexplicably dead yesterday and today. Is there a secret ethics convention nobody told me about? There is, isn’t there? I’m hurt…

1. It’s too bad so many readers don’t pay attention to the baseball posts, because a lot of fascinating ethics issues with general applications arise…like right now. Yesterday, as already mentioned in an update to yesterday’s post and a couple of comments, the Boston Red Sox “parted ways with Manager Alex Cora by mutual agreement.” (He was fired.) In a press conference I just watched, the Red Sox brass said that Cora, who was both successful and popular in Boston, was let go solely because of the MLB investigation report regarding his involvement in cheating while serving as a coach for the Houston Astros in 2017, and the allegations of cheating  while managing the Sox in 2018, still under investigation, played no part in the decision. What they meant is that the Astros cheating was going to result in a long suspension for Cora anyway, so the team didn’t need to wait for the bad news regarding his cheating in Boston.

The weirdest thing about the press conference is that none of the four Sox officials would do anything but praise Cora, his character, his judgment, his dedication to the team, his devotion to baseball. Gee, why did they fire this saint, then? Alex Cora’s character is obviously flawed, or he wouldn’t have masterminded major cheating schemes that cost the Astros 5 million dollars and four key draft choices while losing the jobs of two men who advanced his career. Cora’s judgement also stinks, because his actions have now cast a shadow over two teams, their championships, and the records of the players his schemes benefited.

If he was so dedicated to the team, why is  it now facing a public relations and competitive disaster because of his actions? If he was devoted to baseball, how did he end up at the center of a scandal that undermines the perceived integrity of the game? Continue reading

Apologies And Other Fallout From The Baseball Cheating Scandal (Updated, And Updated Again)

Ex-Astros manager Hinch and “dead man walking” Alex Cora, the cheating mastermind.

Since I posted the initial commentary on Major League Baseball’s tough punishment of the Houston Astros for their illegal sign-stealing (there are legal ways to steal signs too), there have been some interesting developments with ethical implications.

The full MLB report  can be read or downloaded here.

  • One promising development is the widespread discussions of organizational culture that have been taking place in the media. When Astros owner Jim Crane announced that he was firing GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, both suspended for a year by the Commissioner of Baseball, he made it clear that the team needed to reform its culture, which had metastasized from  “play to win”  into a “win by any means necessary.”  There were signs of this in Houston long before the sign-stealing was known, when in 2018 the team traded for relief pitcher Robero Osuna while he was suspended for domestic abuse and facing trial—even though the Astros had previously announced a “no-tolerance” policy regarding players and domestic abuse. The team really needed a closer, you see.

The Astros culture, we now can see, was thoroughly compromised by ethics rot, and eliminating one or two managers won’t fix the problem immediately.

  • A prime enabler of that rot was Jeff Luhnow, who traded for Osuna. After he was fired yesterday, he issued this apology:

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/14/2020: And The Ethics Beat Goes On…

Good morning.

That’s a perfunctory good morning, to be transparent. Mourning would be more accurate. Yesterday’s news that Red Sox manager Alex Cora, a man who had impressed me with his leadership ability, personality and, yes, ethical values, was exposed by an investigation as the primary instigator of cheating schemes that involved two baseball teams and World Series champions (the Astros and the Red Sox), disillusioned two fan bases, harmed his sport, and led, so far, to the fall of two of the games most successful and admired management figures. Cora is also the first minority manager the Red Sox have had, and was regarded as a transformational figure for the team and the city, both of which have long and troubled histories of prejudice and discrimination. Smart, articulate, creative, funny, brave, knowledgeable—all of his positive qualities, rendered useless by the lack of functioning ethics alarms.

1. Congratulations to Ann Althouse…on this, the 16th anniversary of her blog. With the demise of Popehat, she supplanted Ken White as my most admired blogger, and most quoted by far. The fact that her fiercely non-partisan analysis of ethics issues so frequently tracks with my own is a constant source of comfort for me , particularly during these difficult times. Ann has an advantage that I don’t—“I only write about what interests me” is her description of her field of commentary— because this blog is limited to ethics and leadership. Fortunately, Ann is interested in ethics, though she seldom says so explicitly.

2. Bernie vs Liz. Feeling that Bernie Sanders was pulling away as the standard-bearer of the Leftest of the Democratic base as her own support appears to be waning, Elizabeth Warren went low, and had her aides reveal the content of what was supposed to be two-hour a private summit between the fake Native American and the Communist sympathizer in December 2018. According to them, Bernie told Warren that he disagreed with her assertion that a woman could win the 2020 election. Bernie denies it. Observations:

  • This kind of thing stinks, though it is kind of fun to see Democrats dirtied by it instead of President Trump. Anonymous accounts of what was said in phone conversations and private meetings in which the participants reasonably believed they could speak freely are unreliable, untrustworthy and unethical.
  • The Warren camp’s spin on Bernie’s alleged statement is that it shows he’s a sexist. That makes no sense. If I say that I can’t win the election in 2020, does that mean I’m biased against myself? There is no logical reason to assume an opinion like “A woman can’t win is 2020” represents bias, though it could. I will state here and now that a gay man can’t be elected President in 2020, even if that man weren’t a pandering asshole like Pete Buttigieg, but I am not anti-LGBTQ is any way. The statement reflects my objective analysis of the state of the culture.
  • I suspect that Sanders meant, “YOU can’t win in 2020, nor can Kamala Harris nor any of the other equally weak announced female candidates.” The truth may hurts, but that doesn’t make it biased
  • (Psst! Bernie! A delusional septuagenarian socialist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union can’t win either!)

3. No, the fact that there are no more African-Americans running for President doesn’t mean an African-American can’t win. It means weak African-American candidates like Cory Booker, who just dropped out, and Kamala Harris, who is long gone, can’t win, not because of their race, but because they can’t convince voters that they could do the job. Continue reading