The Manager, The Hot Reporter, Conflicts and Professionalism

moranfarrell

It’s nice of my favorite baseball team to supply me with ethics stories, don’t you think? This one has management ethics, relationship ethics, journalism ethics, sexual harassment and professionalism.

The Boston Globe reported last week that Boston Red Sox manager John  Farrell and Comcast SportsNet New England reporter Jessica Moran, who covered the team,  were romantically involved. Moran promptly resigned. This quickly degenerated into the usual ethically muddled discussion by members of the public who watch George Stephanopoulos interview Hillary Clinton and see nothing amiss, and have been so badly taught the ethics basics that they couldn’t identify a conflict of interest if they tripped on one, and members of the news media, who, if anything, are worse.  Among the questions being floated, and their somehow elusive answers…

These are consenting adults. Why aren’t they free to have a relationship?

Because they are professionals, with special duties to their constituencies and stakeholders, and the relationship between a reporter and her subject undermines independence, loyalty, trust and competence.

Why is it always the woman the one who has to lose her job?

It isn’t. The journalist has to lose her job, because the journalist breached the basic ethics of the profession. The baseball manager’s conduct is wrong,  but comparatively tangential to his duties at worst. It is still seriously unethical, however, and undermines team culture and the status of other women who have duties involving the team.  Farrell, by dating Moran, was sending a message to his players and other team personnel that these women are legitimate targets for sexual courtship rather than workplace colleagues.  The relationship may have constituted third party sexual harassment, making other women feel as if team leadership had sent the message that they weren’t to be taken seriously as professionals.

Why is everyone making a big deal about this? She’s a beautiful young woman, covering a team of men. Isn’t this to be expected? Continue reading

Fan Ethics Guidance From A Red Sox Fan To Washington Nationals Fans (And Others): Booing Your Manager Is Unethical

Matt WilliamsOn September 9, following his press conference in the aftermath of a horrible and devastating loss to the New York Mets, the Washington Nationals manager (the reigning Manager of the Year from 2014!), was vigorously booed by a group of fans (the rich ones) in the next-door Presidents Club dining room, who banged on the press conference room’s glass walls. The team was pronounced a shoo-in to the World Series, you see, before the season started, and that loss made it clear, if it wasn’t already, that the Nats probably weren’t even going to make the play-offs.

No doubt about it: Matt Williams, the team’s calm, amiable, incompetent manager, is part of the problem, but he was just as bad last year, just much luckier. (See: moral luck; consequentialism) He was hired with no managerial experience at all, just the experience of being a (pretty good) major league player for quite a while, and the truth is that managing a baseball team requires judgment, tactical expertise, courage, flexibility, facility with statistics and leadership, as well as experience. Williams isn’t bereft in all of these areas, but enough of them to make consistent success as a manager unlikely. Because the boo-attack occurred in front of the press corps and came from the season ticket types rather than the bleachers and beer crowd (“You’re a BUM!!!”), it immediately became a big story in Washington. Today, one of those angry fans wrote an explanation and alleged justification of his actions in the Washington Post.

He wrote in part:

“So, after staying till the bitter end of the latest heartbreaking loss, and after watching Williams wrap up another tedious Q&A filled with a series of cliched answers, a group of mid-30s fans who have been cheering this team from Day 1 had seen enough. A defiant Williams exited the podium, and we booed … we booed hard. It felt good. It felt like Williams needed to hear it — and it felt like the Nats brass needed to, as well…We’ll always support this team, but on a night like that night, sometimes enough is enough. When it takes 54 excruciating pitches to get three outs in a season-killing seventh-inning meltdown, and when the manager has pushed all the wrong buttons since last October, there’s not much else a fan can do…but boo.”

This fatuous non-wisdom comes from Rudy Gersten, an executive director at a public policy organization, and presumably he speaks for his similarly jeering friends, “an ethics and compliance lawyer, an IT project manager, [and ]a construction senior project manager.” Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Ex-Washington Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman

Jim Riggleman is a major league baseball manager of modest accomplishments, one of the forty or so men in the rotating pool that teams will use to fill manager vacancies with low-risk options rather than try someone promising but with little experience. He had a one-year contract with the hapless Washington Nationals that included a team option for a second, which the manager felt the team should pick up now, rather than at the end of the season.

Riggleman believed that he had some leverage. The Nationals have been surging since star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has returned from an injury, and are, for the first time in the team’s  short time in Washington (they were once the Montreal Expos), flirting with a winning record more than half-way through the schedule. But as is often the case with players when a club option is involved, the Nationals saw no reason to make a decision on Riggleman’s contract until the season was over. A lot can happen in three months. General manager Mike Rizzo told Riggleman he would just have to wait. That’s what a team option is, after all. The team’s option. Continue reading