Baseball, Beanings and “Systemic Racism”

In the latest issue of the SABR’s Baseball Research Journal, Jerry Nechal decides to finally investigate the conventional wisdom that pitchers deliberately threw at black batters after Jackie Robinson broke the color line in 1947 for an extended period. In the film “42,”  Pirates pitcher Fritz Ostermueller is shown verbally abusing and then deliberately throwing at Robinson.One of Ostermueller’s teammates confirmed the pitcher’s intentions years later in an interview, and there are other anecdotal accounts regarding other pitchers as well.

Like most research aimed at proving a particular thesis with social and political implications, Nachal’s effort was threatened by many forms of statistical pollution, prime among them being researcher bias. The task Nechal set out for himself was daunting; among other obstacles, standard baseball statistics don’t identify the races of players. Ultimately he relied on a previous study’s breakdown, and used a definition of “black” that excluded Hispanic and Native American players, which also meant that if those players were also thrown at more frequently than “whites,” it would distort the study results. Then there was the problem of accounting for deliberately close pitches that didn’t actually hit a batter. These  were unrecorded and unmeasurable until very recently. The study had to be based entirely on batters who were hit by pitches and got a free trip to first base if not the hospital. Continue reading

Baseball Super-Agent Scott Boras Has Another Super-Conflict And There Is No Excuse For It

Eleven years ago, Ethics Alarms began a post about baseball agents in general and Scott Boras in particular engaging in a flaming conflict of interest that harmed their player clients this way…

Baseball’s super-agent Scott Boras has his annual off-season conflict of interest problem, and as usual, neither Major League Baseball, nor the Players’ Union, nor the legal profession, not his trusting but foolish clients seem to care. Nevertheless, he is operating under circumstances that make it impossible for him to be fair to his clients.

I could have written that paragraph today. Nothing has changed. Literally nothing: as baseball general managers get ready for the 2022 winter meetings where, among other things, they huddle with player agents and sign players to mind-blowing contracts, the unethical tolerance of players agents indulging in and profiting from a classic conflict of interest continues without protest or reform.

I may be the only one who cares about the issue. I first wrote about it here, on a baseball website. I carried on my campaign to Ethics Alarms, discussing the issue in 2010, 2011 (that’s where the linked quote above comes from), 2014, 2019, and in 2019 again,  There is no publication or website that has covered the issue and thoroughly as this one, and the unethical nature of the practice is irrefutable. I might as well be shouting in outer space, where no one can hear you scream. Continue reading

Good Father, Malpracticing Lawyer

Awwww. Lawyer Jerry L. Steering of California missed the deadline to file a response to a motion to dismiss the case that he had filed on behalf of a client. He had a good reason, he thought, having seen “Field of Dreams” a bunch of times. (OK, I’m guessing here.) U.S. District Judge Josephine L. Staton of the Central District of California, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, had already granted a deadline extension to Steering once, but he requested more time, he explained, because he was “presently in Chicago” to watch his son “play American professional baseball.”

What a good dad! What a bad lawyer! The judge didn’t grant the extension, and in an unpublished per curiam opinion that a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued yesterday, her decision was upheld. The lawyer’s “excuse for not meeting a deadline that had already been extended 90 days at his request was frivolous: Counsel chose to attend a ballgame instead of timely filing his client’s response to the motion to dismiss,” the 9th Circuit said.

Frivolous? FRIVOLOUS??? Watching one’s son “have a catch” for money and supporting him from the stands is “frivolous”? Well yeah, it is. This is a flaming breach of to many legal ethics rules to list, but competence and diligence will do. I have to assume that Jerry is willing to accept the consequences for his choice, which will include a slam-dunk legal malpractice and maybe disciplinary action from his bar association as well.

When family obligations conflict with professional ones, it’s tough. Still, the professional standards leave a lot less wiggle room than family duties; I think Junior would have understood.

Even if Kevin Costner wouldn’t.


If It’s Any Consolation, Pete, If Ethics Alarms Had An Ethics Dunce Hall Of Fame, You’d Be The First One In…

Pete Rose, baseball’s all-time career hit leader, is also one of the most outrageous creeps ever to play the game, which is just as remarkable an accomplishment when one considers competition like Cap Anson, Hal Chase, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. The amazing thing is that Pistol Pete keeps adding to his jerk resume even now, and he’s 81 years old.

Rose was my very first American Ethics Dunce when the now inactive Ethics Scoreboard debuted in January of 2004. I wrote then,

Pete Rose now admits he bet on baseball (after ten years of lying about it) but says that his bets (always in favor of his team, never against it, he says) as manager of the Cincinnati Reds never effected his management decisions, and thus he did not harm the integrity of the game. He feels he should be let back into the game as a manager.

A couple of things, Pete:

1) Even if this were true, fans of the game cannot put their faith in the outcome of games when they know that those who help determine the outcome might be motivated by their wagers. This is the reason that we call “the appearance of impropriety” an ethical problem.

2) Presumably you did not bet on the Reds when a key player was sitting out, or when your starting pitcher wasn’t feeling good. Right? Or are we supposed to believe that you bet large amounts of money while already in debt to bookies in circumstances when you thought you would lose? So every time you didn’t bet on the Reds, you were sending information to the bookies, and it affected their odds on the game. Got it?

3) You say you never bet against the Reds. You used to say you never bet on baseball. You’re a liar. Why should anyone believe you now?

Later, the Scoreboard made Pete the first (and so far only) Ethics Dunce Emeritus after he admitted that in fact he did bet on every Reds game as a manager. (I really need to add Bill Clinton to the Ethics Dunce Emeritus ranks, among others. Remind me.) Continue reading

A Non-Election Day Ethics Special! An Ethics Test For Baseball Hall Of Fame Voters

The major League Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown released its eight-player Contemporary Baseball Era ballot yesterday, as part of its revamped enshrinement process. A 16-person committee including of Hall of Fame players, baseball executives and veteran sportswriters will vote on the candidates at baseball’s winter meetings in December. A player must receive 12 votes to be elected.

All of the eight players failed to get enough votes through the regular voting process. The players on the list, limited to distinguished players who made their greatest contributions from 1980 to the present era, include…

  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • Curt Schilling
  • Albert Belle
  • Don Mattingly
  • Fred McGriff
  • Dale Murphy, and
  • Rafael Palmeiro.

A clearer ethics test for the voters would be hard to imagine. The threshold question is whether last year’s admission to the Hall of Red Six icon David Ortiz, who once tested positive for an unidentified performance enhancing drug according to test results that were illegally leaked, will be regarded as sufficient precedent to admit Bonds, Clemens, and or Palmeiro. That Bonds was a long-time steroid cheat who did great damage to the game is undeniable. The evidence against Clemens is weaker, but still damning. Palmeiro had the distinction of going before Congress and proclaiming that steroids were the bane of the game and he would never sully himself by using them, and quickly thereafter testing positive himself. None of those three should be admitted to the Hall, and the presence of current Hall of Fame members, I hope, may ensure that they are not. Continue reading

Baseball Ethics: Dusty’s Lament [Corrected]

Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker, who absent an epic upset by the inferior Phillies is about to cap off his long and illustrious baseball career with a World Series championship, blundered into a rare (for him) and foolish outburst sparked by the news that there are no “American-born black players” competing in the World Series. You see, there are black players, a lot of them, on the Astros and Phillies, and many of them are American citizens, but they were born south of that almost non-existent U.S. border, so I guess they don’t count. So Dusty dusted off his racial resentment, and announced in response to being informed about this carefully layered statistic, “Nah, don’t tell me that. That’s terrible for the state of the game. Wow! Terrible. “Quote me. I am ashamed of the game.”

And I’m ashamed of you, Dusty. That’s an ignorant and unfair comment. It’s not as if baseball wouldn’t sign a trained squid to a mega-million dollar contract if he hit like Aaron Judge, the assumed American League Most Valuable Player this season. (Incidentally, Judge is biracial, and would be counted as black if he decided to “identify” as such.) Is Dusty ashamed of Judge? There are many reasons the percentage of black players has fallen in recent decades. The 2022 percentage of African-Americans was about 7%, or half the proportion in the population generally. The main reason for this is not any racial discrimination by baseball, but because of the choices made by black athletes and social forces affecting them.

Continue reading

Baseball, The Play-Offs, And Integrity

If the New York Yankees lose to the Cleveland ‘What’s Their Names?’ —Oh, right, “Guardians”…I forgot—tonight, it will eliminate New York and mean that only one of the teams proven by the 162 game regular 2022 season to be the best in Major League Baseball will have survived the early rounds of the play-offs to have a chance at the World Series. Over the weekend the L.A. Dodgers, owners of a record-tying 111-51 record in winning the National League West, were eliminated by the San Diego Padres, who finished a distant second in that division, not even winning 90 games. It took just three defeats (out of four games played) to sink L.A. Before that, the Philadelphia Phillies, a team that had been so mediocre for the bulk of the season that its manager was fired, eliminated last year’s World Series Champions and the winner of the Phillies’ division (over a 100 game winning runner-up: Philadelphia was a distant third).

If the Yankees go down (I’m rooting for that to happen, but I shouldn’t be), only the Houston Astros of the five teams that were objectively baseball’s best will have a chance to make the World Series, and that’s an ethical disaster. The World Series was devised to decide the best baseball team in the game, and for about seven decades, that’s what it did. Unlike all the other professional sports teams that polluted their post-season with multiple play-off levels, baseball alone had integrity. The teams with the best records in the American and National Leagues met for the first and only time in a season at the very end, in a best of seven, winner take all series. The system was meaningful, it was exciting, and it had integrity. Continue reading

Baseball Ethics: Let Aaron Judge Hit! [Updated!]

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge hit his 60th home this season last week. Now Judge leads the majors in home runs, runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, total bases, WAR and several other statistical categories. Judge is hitting .316/.419/.703  with 60 home runs, 128 RBI, 123 runs, 16 stolen bases and 9.7 WAR (that’s “wins above a replacement player”). The 60 homers tie him with Babe Ruth for the long-standing so-called “154 game season record,” and put him one behind Roger Maris for the American League season record for homers, 61 (set by Maris in ’61, and celebrated in Billy Crystal’s excellent film, “61”).

61 represents another landmark, though, a more important one. It is the most home runs hit by a Major League Player who was not jacked-up on steroids. The list ahead of Maris reads, Continue reading

Baseball Ethics: MLB Changes The Rules Because Its Players Can’t Compete Under The Old Ones

I feel like I can’t let baseball off the hook while I’m being hard on the NFL today.

Of course, football’s ethical problem (well, one of the many) is that it allows too many players on the field who are killers, rapists and thugs, while baseball’s ethical problem is that it habitually changes the rules of the game rather than make the players accept the consequences of their own flaws.

You know, like Democrats…

Beginning in 2023, Major League Baseball will enforce a set of restrictions it claims “will return the game to a more traditional aesthetic” by outlawing extreme defensive shifts. The goal is to encourage batters to put more balls in play rather than swing for the fences, a trend that has led to record numbers of strikeouts. The theory is that once they feel they have a better chance of getting a hit without knocking the ball out of the park, batter will try to make contact and thus hit more ground balls and line-drives,  giving players in the field more opportunities to showcase their athleticism. The changes are: Continue reading

Labor Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 9/2/2022: Which Are The Pod People And Which Are The Fascists?

1. More on Biden’s speech…I finally read the text of President Biden’s speech; it was even worse than I expected. What kind of advisors would let a President make such a speech? What kind of President would deliver it rather than fire the speechwriter and whoever advocated saying such stuff in public? It says something significant about the distribution of partisan extremism in the media that CNN and MSNBC would be the only networks to broadcast it, yet, ironically, as true blue propagandists, they should have embargoed the speech for their party’s own good. Fox News should have wanted to broadcast it. It’s the best marketing for the Republican Party I’ve ever seen.

Because there is, as the saying goes, no reason to re-invent the wheel, I’m going to send you over to Althouse for her section-by-section analysis, which is close enough to mine to make a parallel post here a waste of time. A sample:

There are far more Americans, far more Americans from every background and belief, who reject the extreme MAGA ideology than those that accept it.

His version of the soul of America represents what “far more” Americans think, so — what? — screw those other people? Something like 47% of voters voted for Trump, but even if the Trump voters were more dramatically overwhelmed by throngs of more “normal” people, they are still part of the population. Or maybe it’s not about excluding everyone who’s not in the majority. Maybe it’s about rejecting them because they have “extreme MAGA ideology.” What is “extreme MAGA ideology”? Desire for a secure border? Pro-life? Really, what are the elements that Biden envisions as not worthy of debate but justifying denouncement as not normal and not mainstream?

And folks, it’s within our power, it’s in our hands, yours and mine, to stop the assault on American democracy….

It seems to me that it’s within our power to participate in democracy and vote. Where is this “assault”? Why in the name of all that is normal and mainstream is he conjuring up violence — an “assault”? It’s going on right now. Don’t you see it? The “assault” I see is the effort to keep Donald Trump from running again. If the overwhelming majority of Americans reject his “extreme MAGA ideology,” what’s the problem? Let him run and he will be defeated.

Ann calls the speech “disturbing and incoherent.” I’d call it dangerous and irresponsible. Continue reading