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

Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 10/9/18: Ecstatic Because The Red Sox Clobbered The Yankees 16-1 Edition

GOOOD Morning!

1. Unwritten and incoherent rules…During last night’s ALDS Game #3 between the Yankees and Red Sox, won by Boston by the historic score of 16-1, color man Ron Darling, former pitcher and Yale grad, repeatedly alluded to “unwritten rules” that the Red Sox either were or were not observing. Bad, said Ron: a Sox player stealing second when the score was 10-1. Bad: A Sox player swinging away when the count was three balls, no strikes. (Darling: “I’d find that offensive.”) Good: a Sox base-runner at third not scoring when his team was ahead 15-1 and the ball bounced away from the Yankee first baseman. (“A veteran move,” said Darling.) Acceptable: when the same runner eventually did run home when the pitcher threw the ball past the catcher to the backstop. Darling’s concern was the observance of the  professional courtesy not to try to embarrass an adversary once the game was clearly out of reach.

My view: it’s nonsense. The obligations of both teams is to play their hardest at all times, regardless of the score. That means doing nothing different whether one’s team is winning 5-4 or 10-1. On baseball, no game is certain until the final out. Not only have I seen a team lose a game after leading 10-0, I’ve seen the Red Sox do it. What would completely humiliate any team is losing after having such a huge lead, but no “unwritten rule” says that it’s offensive for a team in the Yankee’s position last night to keep trying to pull off a miracle until the fat lady sings.

This is what’s wrong with unwritten rules; people make them up as they go along.

In Darling’s defense, he went to Yale…

2. Confession: I don’t get it. I understand why  Democratic officials and operatives are claiming that the conduct of the Republicans was reprehensible during the Kavanaugh hearings: they were embarrassed, defeated, and exposed, and now are spinning and lying to save face. I do NOT comprehend how any citizen of either party can honestly make similar claims, often in the most intemperate and unhinged manner. (Dave Hogue, a design lead at Google, tweeted, “You are finished, @GOP. You polished the final nail for your own coffins. F–K. YOU. ALL. TO. HELL. I hope the last images burned into your slimy, evil, treasonous retinas are millions of women laughing and clapping and celebrating as your souls descend into the flames.” I have previously sane Facebook friends who are only slightly less furious.)

Democrats and their allied protesters tried to disrupt the hearings from the opening gavel. The questioning of the judge by Senator Booker and others was intemperate, unfair, and disrespectful. Senator Feinstein’s handling of the Blasey-Ford letter was indefensible by any logic, and her later demonstration of  contrived outrage was transparent in its dishonesty. The desperate anointment of Dr. Ford indicated that the Democratic Party has officially rejected basic standards of fairness and decency, as well as the core democratic concepts of due process, equal justice, presumed innocence, while embracing the loony idea that “all victims should be believed” as long as they are women and they are accusing men, who, if they deny the accusations, should be disbelieved based on their gender. (This is bigotry, in case you have been confused by #MeToo demagogues.)

In related news, independent voters overwhelmingly disapprove of the Democrats’ handling of the Kavanaugh nomination by a 28-point margin according to  a new CNN/SSRS poll (I know, I know: polls), or put another way, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/30/18: Gay Bashing, A Stupid Social Experiment, And The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck Keeps Rolling Along…

Good Morning!

It’s the last day of the regular season for baseball, or should be: there could be two tie-breakers tomorrow, and they are officially considered part of the season. There were more baseball ethics posts this year than ever before. You can review them here.

1. And now for something completely stupid. I was temped to make this a free-standing post, but it triggered my stupid alarm, and doesn’t deserve it.

In Los Angeles, Boguslaw Matlak  and Laura Quijano decided to stage a “social experiment” to determine whether bystanders would act to protect an  endangered child. As their hidden cameras ran, they stuffed their 3-year-old son Leo into the trunk of their car. In truth, the back of the trunk had been rigged so Leo could climb into the back seat. He was in no danger.

“I was thinking maybe I should do a video to show people that they should do something about it when they see something wrong, to get involved,” Matlak said.  They got involved, all right. Witnesses called the cops, who arrested the couple and took Leo into protective custody.  The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services  placed the child with a relative. For the last three weeks, the couple has been trying to get him back.

“They are hurting my son emotionally at this point,” Quijano told reporters. “He’s not home with his parents who love him very much and what else do they want from us? I just don’t understand at this point.”

The agency recently informed the parents that it would would be returning Leo to their custody. Matlak  now faces one count of misdemeanor child endangerment.

Observations:

  • Ethics lesson #1: Don’t use human beings as props.
  • Ethics lesson #2: Three-year-olds can’t consent to such treatment.
  • Ethics lesson #3: Police have enough to do dealing with real crimes. Staging fake ones to see what will happen should be illegal, if it isn’t already.
  • What’s there to complain about? The social experiment was a success!
  • Is proof that parents of a small child are idiots sufficient to remove him? No, I suppose not.
  • The problem with this episode is that the child, who was innocent of wrong doing, is the primary one being punished.

Continue reading

Baseball’s Intrusive Domestic Abuse Policy

Last year I wrote about Major League Baseball’s domestic abuse policy, which is, pardon the pun, bats. Here is another example.

Red Sox knckcle-baller Steven Wright has been suspended for 15 games under the MLB-MLBPA Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy. Fifteen games is a lot: that’s three starts for a starting pitcher like Wright, and almost 10% of a player’s salary. Wright’s salary is about a million dollars for the upcoming season, and unlike an established star, he isn’t a multi-millionaire. Losing about a hundred grand will hurt, and not just him, but his whole family.

The suspension relates to a mid-December incident in Tennessee in which Wright was arrested and charged with domestic assault and prevention of a 911 call.  Wright was not charged with physical abuse to his wife or any other household members; this was apparently “verbal abuse”—the pitcher’s conduct was so emotional and threatening that his wife was frightened. A plea deal has the charges on the road to being discharged if Wright does not commit any infractions in the next year. He has told reporters that he and his wife are being counseled.

Never mind: Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended him anyway, under this policy: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/26/2017: Witch Hunts, A Missing Witch Message, A Too-Gleeful Dodger, Racially Offensive Breakfast Cereal…[UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1 Sigh. Driving home from Maryland via the Capital Beltway for the first time in many years, I saw the white and gold spires of the D. C. Mormon Temple (above), a local landmark, rising in the distance, and remembered that an an upcoming overpass had long been famous for the inspired bit of graffiti scrawled on it decades ago, perfectly placed to compliment the fantastic structure. It read SURRENDER DOROTHY!,” in script, for decades.  I don’t know when it was painted over, but it’s gone now.

Why would they do that? It was a part of area lore, it was clever, and it was always good for a smile. Some humorless bureaucrat decided to make the world a little less fun for no good reason. Of such small, heartless gestures is life drained of joy, drop by drop.

2.  Last night, in the 11th inning of a memorable, back and forth World Series Game Two between the Astros and the Dodgers,  Charlie Culberson of Los Angeles hit a two out home run to narrow the score from 7-5 Astros to 7-6. Nonetheless, Culberson’s team was one out away from losing a game they appeared to have in the bag when they were leading 3-1 in the 9th. (Indeed, the Dodgers did lose after the next batter struck out.) Despite his team’s plight, Culberson celebrated his home run like he had just won the game, or at least tied it. He screamed, he raised his hands, he high-fived everyone in sight. Joe Buck on the Fox broadcast speculated that Culberson might have had the score wrong, and believed that his home run tied the game.

No, said Culberson. He knew the score. “I never would have imagined hitting a home run in the World Series, and I did that. I pointed to my parents in the stands and pointing to my wife,” Culberson explained. “I was just having fun out there, nothing more than that.”

Except you’re not supposed to be having fun when your team is facing a devastating loss, Joe. That was bad form, bad taste, selfish, and obnoxious. The Fox cameras even caught a Dodger coach in the dugout turning around, disgusted , and saying to the still ebullient Culberson, “Come on!”

3. 

That’s Ellen Degeneris ogling Katy Perry’s breasts.  Ellen is gay, as we all know. Explain to me why this conduct is funny, acceptable and harmless, but a male heterosexual behaving similarly, for exactly the same reason, would be sexual harassment. You have 30 seconds…

Time! What’s your answer!

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

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/16/17: Amazon Purges Reviews For Hillary, Equifax Must Die, Making Literature More Diverse, And The Red Sox Get Away With It…

GOOD MORNING!

1 “It would be wonderful, wouldn’t it?”

This is the response that the widow of writer Roald Dahl to a reporter’s suggestion that Charlie, the hero of Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (aka “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory:) should be made black in a future “reworking” of the book. Recently Mrs. Dahl has claimed that Charlie was originally supposed to be black, but that her husband changed the character before the book was published. She blames his agent, who was, she says (none of this is more than hearsay) afraid that the book wouldn’t sell as well in American with a black hero. She blames “American sensibility.”

No, it wouldn’t be wonderful to start changing the races (and inevitably, genders and sexual orientations) in “reworkings” of literary classics. It would be unethical and irresponsible, as well as a defilement of the author’s visions and creations. Whatever the reason was, and we cannot know it regardless of what Mrs. Dahl now claims, Charlie was white in Dahl’s book. If he had wanted his book to be about a black child, or a little girl, or a Muslim transsexual, the author would have made it so. If someone obsessed with tribal identity politics wants to write a new adaptation under their own name so we can jeer and mock him or her, swell. But it isn’t any more “wonderful” to “rework” Dahl’s own story this way than it is to make Bob Cratchit black, or Captain Ahab black, or Bigger Thomas in “Native Son” Asian-American.

Of course, a stage or film adaptation of the book can cast it any way it chooses.

2 The major business ethics story this past week has been that data security breach by credit giant Equifax. An estimated 143 million Americans now face identity theft for the rest of their lives because the company wasn’t competent to be in the business it was in. It’s that simple. The ways in which Equifax blundered into allowing all this data to be hacked are legion, with more revelations almost daily. My personal favorite is that it neglected to install a patch that would have made its files more secure, delaying for months for no good reason.

Business analysts point out that despite this massive demonstration of ineptitude, the company is not likely to suffer more than the cost and inconvenience of a class action lawsuit or five. The companies that pay Equifax weren’t harmed by the breach, just the lives of the credit-seekers who they use Equifax to check. Nobody seems to think that even this massive misconduct will put Equifax out of business.

The company has dumped some executives, and will probably dump some more, reorganize, and padlock that barn door securely now that the horse has fled. TooLate. The company is untrustworthy, and more than that, companies like Equifax that gather personal information about innocent citizens need to be scared sick about what will happen to them if they can’t keep the information from falling into malign hands. Equifax needs to be put out of business. Its leaders and management need to be imprisoned, fined so severely that they are reduced to eating cat food, or blacklisted so their future employment is limited to bait shops and traveling carnivals. Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Baseball Ethics Special Report: The Boston Red Sox, Sign Stealing, Technology, And Cheating [UPDATED]

[I got the news about Major League Baseball’s announcement that the Boston Red Sox had admitted that some of the team’s employers and players had engaged in illegal sign-stealing about an hour before the Sox-Blue Jays game was scheduled. My intent was to write the post about it last night after the game. The game, however, went 19 innings and lasted 6 hours. (The Sox won, and absent this scandal, it would have been a big news story itself, one of the most important victories of the year and one that set several team records.) So the post didn’t get written, and believe it or not, I have occasional priorities and commitments that take precedent over my profit and income free ethics blog. Thus I consider the multiple e-mails and Facebook messages I have received accusing me of ducking the issue less than amusing, an unwarranted attack on my integrity. To all of those individuals, most of whom barely read the news reports, I say, “Bite me.”]

Yesterday afternoon the New York Times broke the following story, which reads in part:

Investigators for Major League Baseball have determined that the Red Sox, who are in first place in the American League East and very likely headed to the playoffs, executed a scheme to illicitly steal hand signals from opponents’ catchers in games against the second-place Yankees and other teams, according to several people briefed on the matter.

The baseball inquiry began about two weeks ago, after the Yankees’ general manager, Brian Cashman, filed a detailed complaint with the commissioner’s office that included video the Yankees shot of the Red Sox dugout during a three-game series between the two teams in Boston last month.

The Yankees, who had long been suspicious of the Red Sox’ stealing catchers’ signs in Fenway Park, contended the video showed a member of the Red Sox training staff looking at his Apple Watch in the dugout. The trainer then relayed a message to other players in the dugout, who, in turn, would signal teammates on the field about the type of pitch that was about to be thrown, according to the people familiar with the case.

Baseball investigators corroborated the Yankees’ claims based on video the commissioner’s office uses for instant replay and broadcasts, the people said. The commissioner’s office then confronted the Red Sox, who admitted that their trainers had received signals from video replay personnel and then relayed that information to Red Sox players — an operation that had been in place for at least several weeks.

As reported by ESPN, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement,

“We actually do not have a rule against sign-stealing. It has been a part of the game for a very, very long time. To the extent that there was a violation of the rule here, it was a violation by one or the other [team] that involved the use of electronic equipment. It’s the electronic equipment that creates the violation. I think the rule against electronic equipment has a number of policy reasons behind it, but one of them is we don’t want to escalate attempts to figure out what a pitcher is going to throw by introducing electronics into that mix.To the extent there was a violation on either side, we are 100 percent comfortable that it’s not an ongoing issue, that if it happened, it is no longer. I think that’s important from an integrity perspective going forward.”

This is a complicated story, and part of not one complicated ethics category, but several: technology ethics, baseball ethics, cheating, and general ethics. In the interests of clarity, I’m going to cover the story in a series of short observations, each with a heading. At the end of this post, I have posted a long published essay I authored about baseball ethics within the culture of the game. Those who are not familiar with these issues, which are fascinating, might want to read that first. it is helpful background information.

Points and Observations:

  • Traditional sign-stealing in baseball is not regarded as cheating. This seems counter intuitive because of the word “stealing.” Sign-stealing refers to teams decoding the signals given by the catcher to the pitcher (regarding what kind of pitches to throw and where ), and the coach or the dugout to a batter or baserunner (in bunt and hit-and run plays). Theoretically, knowing the other team’s signals provides an advantage, as to a batter who knows that the next pitch will be a curve rather than a fastball. Usually, signs from the catcher to the pitcher are in jeopardy when there is a runner on second base. He can see the catcher’s signs as well as the pitcher can. Catchers use finger-signs in various combinations to ask for various pitches, and position their gloves to indicate where they want the balls thrown. If the runner at second can signal to the batter what the catcher has told the pitcher to throw, the batter may have an advantage.

This is why catchers often go to the pitching mound when a runner is on second base. They change the signs. The second baseman will often join them, because it is his job to know what pitch is being thrown so he can signal (usually behind his back, using his hand) to his team’s outfielders. An outside fastball makes it unlikely that the batter will pull the ball, for example.

Sign-stealing on the field, using just eyesight and hands, is what players call “the game within the game.” Joe Girardi, the Yankee manager, said in an interview yesterday that he just assumes every team is trying to steal signs, whether they are or not. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/3/17: A Troubling MLB Suspension, Anti-Trump Mania Update, And Announcing “US Race Relations Have Finally Reached The Point Where They Make No Sense Whatsoever” Sunday

Good Morning!

1.I dread this, but it is looking like it is going to be “US Race Relations Have Finally Reached The Point Where They Make No Sense Whatsoever” Sunday. I have accumulated three stories that fit under that heading, because each one of them is simultaneously annoying, sensitive,  under-reported, and difficult to process. Procrastination isn’t ethical, however, so today is the day. Ugh.

2. Today’s New York Times Sunday Review is again light on President Trump Hate, after last week’s orgy. I was discussing yesterday’s post about the draft letter excitement with my sister, a not-quite-resistance member who is a better lawyer than I am and intermittently reasonable despite hating and fearing the President worse than she does that Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. She agreed that the news media’s elevation of the draft letter to front page status was biased journalism and self-evidently silly. “The news media believes that Trump is so incompetent that it is their job to try to help the country get rid of him as quickly as possible,” she said. She also confirmed that this is the attitude of the “resistance,” Democrats and progressives as well, and she hangs out with all of them.

Her candor was welcome. It’s also an admission, in my view, and I told her this, of an anti-democratic and unethical attempt to undermine our institutions. We remove Presidents by elections, not manufactured impeachments or 25th Amendment removals on contrived grounds. What my sister calls fear of dangerous  incompetence is really objections to style, rhetoric and policy, none of which are justifiable reasons to remove a President before an election.

I also pointed out to my sibling that it is not the news media’s job to conspire with partisan opponents to remove a President. In fact, it is unforgivable.

3. What’s the difference between the National Football League and Major League Baseball? Well, one difference is that when a star NFL player is caught on a video cold-cocking his wife-to-be  in a hotel elevator, the NFL’s first response is to do nothing, and when a second string catcher’s ex-fiance says she was abused on social media and then deletes the post, that’s enough for MLB to suspend the player under its domestic abuse policy. Ethically, I’m not sure which is worse. Continue reading

How The Human Factor Foils Technology And Ethics: A Case Study (UPDATED)

Baseball finally installed a replay review system to address umpire calls that were shown by TV slow-mo to be clearly wrong. For all the complaining about the system, it was the only ethical choice. Mistaken calls were changing the results of games, and because of technology, this was now obvious to all. Only technology could solve the problem.

Unfortunately, however, human beings still control the technology. Bias, emotion and other impediments to ethics will still prevail more often than we like to think. Yesterday’s Red Sox Yankee game provided a classic example.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi challenged a safe call on the Sox’s Andrew Benintendi when he slid into second base for an apparent double. The video showed that the second base umpire had missed the play. Upon review—the umpires put on headsets to get the verdict from a New York studio where another set of umpires check the video from multiple angles—the call was reversed, and Benintendi was out.

In the same inning, Red Sox manager John Farrell challenged an inning-ending double play. The review showed Red Sox baserunner Mookie Betts safely reached second before the throw, allowing the Red Sox to score the game’s first run. For the second time in a single inning, Greg Gibson,  the second base umpire, had his call reversed. I have never seen this happen before. For an umpire, this is not just embarrassing, it is professionally humiliating.

Later, in the seventh inning, the same star-crossed (cross-eyed?) umpire  called Yankee Greg Bird  out as he was doubled off second base after a lineout. The video this time was more conclusive than the first challenge: the umpire blew it, again. Bird had beat the throw.

While the challenge was being reviewed, the Red Sox broadcasters, who had concluded that Bir should have been called safe at second, were talking about the rarity of the same umpire being reversed three times in a single game. Sox color man Dennis Eckersley wondered aloud if professional courtesy and loyalty might affect the review.  What he was really asking was whether the umpires in New York would allow a colleague to be exposed to the disgrace of being reversed three times in one game. This wouldn’t only  make him look bad, after all. It would make umpires look bad. Three strikes and you’re out, after all.

Sure enough, the decision from New York was that the call at second was correct. Bird was out, even though the video showed he was safe.

The umpires have plausible deniability here: this was hardly the first time that a replay review seemed at odds with a video. Nonetheless, it was a sobering display. By all appearances, the umpires distorted the game to protect one of their own who was having a terrible night. They were employing the Golden Rule in the kind of setting where the Golden Rule works against an ethical result, not for it.

Fortunately for the umpires, allowing the third blown call at second was allowed to stand had no effect on the game’s outcome, but that is just moral luck. The umpires made a very clear statement. They regard loyalty to colleagues as more important than their profession, the game, their fans, or public trust. They, or at least the umpires involved, cannot be trusted to put aside their biases and conflicts when their duties demand it. Technology may be unbiased, but the humans using it are not. Professionals are not always professional when a colleague’s fate is involved.

Humanity is the ultimate conflict.