Tag Archives: baseball ethics

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Science & Technology, Sports

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

41 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Literature, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Race, Science & Technology

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

23 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, History, Science & Technology, Sports

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

17 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights, Social Media, Sports, Workplace

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.

12 Comments

Filed under Character, Professions, Science & Technology, Sports

Baseball All-Star Game Ethics Musings: Taking Confirmation Bias Out Of Appeal Plays, and More

Max-Scherzer

Some baseball ethics musings on the night of the All-Star Game:

1. Why is MLB going ahead with letting Pete Rose take a bow at the All-Star Game? This made sense–barely–when it was announced, since Pete is a hometown hero despite being a rest-of-the-world slime-ball. But after that announcement, it was revealed that Rose had bet on baseball as a player, thus rendering all of his statements to the contrary the lies they were. He should have been banned from the game just to make sure this latest revelation of his sliminess adds something to his punishment.

2. The best ethics controversy of the 2015 season’s first half? This: Washington National pitcher Max Scherzer was one strike away from a perfect game, leading  the Pirates in a 6-0 win, but hit Jose Tabata with a pitch to make it “only” an-hitter. A perfect game is 27 consecutive, outs, and the most difficult feat in baseball. Tabata had fouled off four pitches, before he  was hit on the elbow. Many believed that he that Tabata allowed the ball to hit him intentionally, just to wreck the masterpiece. This violates one of the “unwritten rules” of baseball, which are ethics rules. After all, any perfect game could be ruined the same way, and the pitcher is powerless to stop it. This is correctly deemed to be unfair to the pitcher, the fans, and the game.

Real rules also are involved. A batter hit by a pitch is supposed to be awarded first base only if he attempts to avoid a pitch or doesn’t have an opportunity to avoid it. If the ball is in the strike zone when it hits the batter, it should be called a strike, according to the Rule Book:  “If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched.” (Rule 6.08(b).)

Thus  home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski could have awarded Tabata a ball to make it a 3-2 count if he felt Tabata should have gotten out of the way.

Seven points:
Continue reading

18 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Sports

Baseball Ethics And The Pitcher’s Fake Challenge: It’s All About Yu

Pitcher Yu Darvish plays Lucy...ethical?

Pitcher Yu Darvish plays Lucy…ethical?

Texas Ranger ace Yu Darvish, in addition to being the only Japanese-Iranian major league baseball player and an Abbot and Costello routine come to life (“Who won the game?” “Yu did!” “Who did? “Not Who, Yu!”  “Me?” “Not you…Yu!” ), is apparently something of a trickster. In Saturday’s crucial game between the Rangers and the Oakland A’s, Darvish was facing A’s slugger Josh Donaldson, who had earlier in the season accused Darvish, a true flame-thrower, of being afraid to throw him his fastball. Darvish took up the challenge and as he prepared to throw his pitch to the Oakland thirdbaseman, shouted, “Fastball!” This, in the tine-honored traditions of the game, means that a pitcher is telling a batter that he can’t hit his best pitch, even when he knows what’s coming. It means, literally, “OK, hot shot, see if you can hit this, ’cause I’m throwing it right past you!”

Then Darvish threw Donaldson a curve.

The ruse didn’t work, for Donaldson got a hit. Still, Oakland’s dugout erupted, as the A’s expressed their belief that this was “bush league,” meaning an act consisting of unprofessional and unsporting conduct not specifically prohibited by the rules but nonetheless unfair and not worthy of big league players. Continue reading

19 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Professions, Sports, U.S. Society