Monday Morning Summary Of What Would Have Been In The Sunday Ethics Warm-Up That I Was Supposed To Post But….Aw, Forget It. Here’s Some Ethics Stuff…

Good morning.

Boy, am I glad THAT week is over.

1. Moral luck saves the 2019 baseball post-season…for now. MLB missed a major disaster when an umpire missed a clear strike three (he ruled a foul) on Yankee slugger Gary Sanchez in a tied and crucial game between the Houston Astros and New York.  It was the 11th inning, meaning a tie-breaking run would mean a likely Yankee victory.  THAT would have meant that the Astros would have lost the first two games of a seven game series at home, a hole that very few teams in baseball history have been able to overcome.

Sanchez  struck out on the next pitch, and a Carlos Correia home run in the bottom of the inning sent the Astros to Yankee Staudium in a series tied 1-1. The botch was moot, and will soon be forgotten. But if he Sanchez hit a home run or otherwise led the Yankees to a decisive score, the ALCS might have been completely turned by a blown call captured on video for all to see.

And there would be no excuse: the rules allow no appeal on that kind of play, but there has to be.

Yes, it was “moral luck” again. The fact that the worst didn’t happen doesn’t change the seriousness of the fact that only luck saved the day and prevented a blot on the integrity of the whole 2019 post-season. Maybe it would have been better if the bad call had altered the game, the series, and the World Series. Maybe then baseball would stop waiting for the high-profile disaster caught on video that will force it to have ball and strikes called by technology. It took an umpire’s obvious blown safe call in what should have been the last out of a perfect game to make baseball go to replays, and anyone who watches many games knows how many times a reversal changes game outcomes. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/26/19: A “Who’s The Most Unethical?” Poll

Good Morning!

Let’s play “Who’s the Most Unethical?” Today’s contestants…

1. About that missed call. In last weekend’s NFL play-off game won by the Rams over the Saints, the refs missed blatant pass interference that all agree should have been called, but wasn’t. Most also agree that the officiating botch probably cost New Orleans a title the team deserved to win, as well as a trip to the Super Bowl. Some fans are even suing the league, demanding that the game be replayed from the moment of the infraction. Of course, in the age of TV replays, there was no excuse for any of this. An official watching the game on video in a booth somewhere had to know there was interference, as did everyone watching the game in bars and living rooms around the nation. NFL rules, however, don’t permit reversals of calls on that particular kind of play, at least until Locking the Barn Door After The Horse Has Gone, NFL-style, kicks in after the season, and the rule is changed.

I’m always thrilled to see pro football embarrassed, especially when it has significance for baseball. All season long, in discussions among broadcasters, ex-players and sportswriters about whether Major League Baseball should computerize ball and strike calls as they easily can, I kept hearing the fatuous argument that human error was “part of the game.” The point is ridiculous, and thank you, NFL, for graphically illustrating why. In a sports competition, the team that has played the best and deserves to win after all the vicissitudes of the game—the bad bounces and lucky breaks—have taken their toll should triumph, and fans of the game should be able to trust that it will. For the wrong team to win because a non-player makes an error of omission or commission that is obvious to everyone cannot be tolerated by a sports organization with any respect for its sport or its followers. Allowing a championship to be wrongly decided because of an official’s error isn’t charming, it’s horrible. If it can be prevented, and it can, then it is unethical not to. Continue reading

From The Moral Luck Files: Searching For The Tipping Point On Robo-Umpires

Tonight the MLB play-offs end, leaving us with a World Series featuring either the Yankees against the Dodgers (tell me how that one turns out), or the Houston Astros against the Dodgers, which is better. My wife’s wish for a blown ball-strike call so obvious and outrageous as well as game-deciding that baseball resolves to let computers police the strike zone did not, alas, occur.

This did, however:

In the top of the eighth inning of a crucial  Dodgers-Cubs NLDS game, Dodger batter Curtis Granderson struck out. The pitch hit the dirt, and Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, as the rules require when a strike isn’t caught cleanly, tagged Gunderson for the final out of the inning. Granderson argued to home plate umpire Jim Wolf that his bat had made slight contact with the ball. It  didn’t. The replay showed that his bat missed the ball by at least four inches.  Nonetheless Wolf, after conferring with the other umpires agreed that the ball was a foul tip. Gunderson’s at bat was still alive.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon rushed out to argue the call and was ejected. Meanwhile, the Cubs big video screen in centerfield showed the replay, as the crowd booed. The umpires  deliberately did not look at the Jumbotron. After the game, Wolf watched the video and told reporters that he had indeed, as everyone already knew, blown the call.
Continue reading