Ethics Catch-Up 11/14/2009: Better Late Than Never

Good morning!

Good Afternoon!

Good Night!

I started this post at about 10 am, and again, and again, and each time another post topic intervened, pushing the daily Warm-Up from the beginning of the day to the end of it…

1. Yet another shield becomes a sword…Add caller ID to the list of useful developments ruined by unscrupulous technology. I was recently tricked by what my phone said was a call by the Social Security Administration, and it included a phone number that I had recently received a legitimate call from, via an agent. This call was a scam. Investigating, I found that there are inexpensive apps available at the Android and Apple app stores with no limitations on who can purchase them that have few if any legal of legitimate purpose. SpoofCard, TraceBust, Fake Call Plus and more  allow a caller to enter any ID they choose, and any number. They also offer menus of background sounds, various voice pitches and other features to facilitate fraud.

When ethics fail, the law must step in, and these apps should be illegal.

2. Mona Lisa Ethics. “Leonardo’s painting is a security hazard, an educational obstacle and not even a satisfying bucket-list item. It’s time the Louvre moved it out of the way” shouted a New York Times sub-headline.” It’s hard to argue with the article’s conclusion….or its author’s contempt.  Here’s a photo of the typical crowd in the Louvre’s room where the Va Vinci painting is exhibited:

The Times observes…

Content in the 20th century to be merely famous, she has become, in this age of mass tourism and digital narcissism, a black hole of anti-art who has turned the museum inside out…Relocated to the Richelieu painting wing, the Mona Lisa reduced the museum’s Flemish collection into wallpaper for a cattle pen, where guards shooed along irritated, sweaty selfie-snappers who’d endured a half-hour line. The overcrowding was so bad, the museum had to shut its doors on several days. “The Louvre is suffocating,” said a statement from the union of the museum’s security staff, who went on strike…[The author] went up with the crowds recently. Things were no better. Now, you must line up in a hideous, T.S.A.-style snake of retractable barriers that ends about 12 feet from the Leonardo — which, for a painting that’s just two and a half feet tall, is too far for looking… visitors…could hardly see the thing, and we were shunted off in less than a minute. …Pathetic new signs [read]: “The Mona Lisa is surrounded by other masterpieces — take a look around the room.”

Morons. These are the fruits of celebrity culture and the spread of the sick addiction to self-celebration. Taking selfies of an art masterpiece only has the objective of proving an idiot was there, for other idiots who are impressed. Meanwhile, those who might really appreciate the painting are  prevented from doing so. Continue reading

The Houston Astros Cheated In Their 2017 Home Games On The Way To The World Championship. MLB Should Strip Them Of That Title.

I’ve thought a lot about this since learning that the Houston Astros, baseball’s best team over the last three seasons and this year’s World Series losing team, has been exposed as cheating by using technology to steal signs during the team’s 2017 Championship season, and perhaps in subsequent seasons as well. Former Astros pitcher  Mike Fiers revealed this week that the Astros deployed a secret center-field camera during home games to help steal signs from opposing catchers, and relaying them to Astros batters. Here is the background to consideration of the ethics question this raises, which is, simply put, “Now what?”

Sign-stealing in baseball is the act of decoding an opponent’s signs, usually the catcher signaling which pitch to throw. Traditional and legal sign-stealing involves a runner on second base decyphering the signs and relaying them to the batter by some kind of physical signal. Using out-of uniform personnel, like employees with binoculars in the stands, or hidden cameras, to steal and relay signs is not legal. It is forbidden, and considered cheating.

Fiers said the Astros had a camera set up in their stadium’s center field with a feed sent to a television monitor in the tunnel next to the Astros’ dugout. Astros players and team employees could watch the live feed and would relay the pitch by banging loudly on a garbage can in the tunnel. Reporters at “The Athletic” confirmed his account. So far, the only part of the scheme that has been proven is the Astros regular season home games in 2017, not the post-season or World Series (although it would be strange if the team suddenly stopped cheating when the games counted most) and not the 2018 or 2019 seasons, though it is a rebuttable presumption that if the Astros were successful doing this in one season, they would continue the practice.

MLB issued a memo clarifying the ban on technological cheating to steal signs in 2019, but no team was under the misconception that using a camera to steal signs wasn’t flagrant cheating long before 2019. Undoubtedly, the Astros will try to use the fact that the MLB guidance came out in 2019, after the team’s 2017 conduct, as a mitigating factor.  It isn’t. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 11/8/19: “People Who Need To Leave” Edition

1. Clean-up on the baseball aisle! Last April, I wrote a post urging Baltimore Orioles first-sacker Chris Davis to retire and save his desperate team some money, since it is clear that he can no longer play at a major league level despite being paid 23 million dollars in 2019, with a similar amount due him through 2022. At the time, Davis Davis was 0-for-23 with 13 strikeouts and  hitless in 44 at-bats since the previous season, when Davis batted .168, the worst in major league history for a regular, with a horrible .539 OPS (On base percentage plus slugging percentage), and a -2.5 WAR, meaning that the Orioles would have won 2.5 more games with a borderline major leaguer from the minors playing in his place.

Several readers have emailed me asking how things turned out for Davis, who did eventually get a hit, and who was still in the starting line-up frequently enough to hurt the team. The answer is that Davis was better than he was in 2018, but he was still horrible. He batted only .179, with a -1 WAR, and an OPS of  .601. He earned more than $418,000 per hit.

He’s earned almost 119 million dollars in his career, yet appears willing to continue to embarrass himself and hurt his team and team mates for three more sure-to-be-ugly seasons in order to collect another 69 million.

Yechhhh.

2. More on Joy Behar’s terrible, no good, very bad week: The highlight of Donald Trump Jr.’s visit to “The View” came after Behar recited the typical and overly-familiar talking points about Trump Sr.: “[President Trump] called some Mexicans rapists [Correction: He referred to illegal immigrants from Mexico as rapists who were rapists] , he attacked the handicapped, [No, Joy, he mocked a single handicapped reporter, and there is some evidence that he didn’t even do that], he bragged about it” [Huh?], and “We heard the ‘Access’ tape, where he bragged about grabbing women by their genitalia.” [No, he never said that he had personally grabbed any women “by the pussy.” Boy, am I sick of THIS narrative..] Rather than quibble with her, DJT Jr, had come armed and ready, and replied, “We’ve all done things that we regret, I mean, if we’re talking about bringing a discourse down, Joy, you’ve worn blackface.” Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce And Revealed Jerk: Former Houston Astros Pitcher Gerrit Cole”

For non-fans with the imagination to explore them, the Ethics Alarms baseball posts usually involve interesting ethics issues that are relevant to other fields. Perhaps no such post exemplifies this more than the recent essay reacting to a controversy after the 2019 World Series. The favored Houston Astros had lost in shocking fashion to the underdog Washington Nationals in a dramatic seventh game, and its ace pitcher, Gerrit Cole, apparently couldn’t wait to shed his Astros jersey and announce his free agency, which is widely expected to provide him with more than a third of a billion dollars. While the rest of his team was consoling each other and licking their wounds, Cole donned the cap of his super-agent’s company, and proclaimed that he was no longer on the team.

Ethics Alarms veteran commentator Glenn Logan was previously a distinguished sports blogger—though concentrating on college basketball, not baseball—and he authored the following Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Dunce And Revealed Jerk: Former Houston Astros Pitcher Gerrit Cole”:

I usually demure on baseball-related commentary because I don’t watch professional baseball much, but this one struck me as much more generally applicable than usual:

“Is it ever competent, responsible business to make an established jerk the top salaried employee in your organization? Isn’t that a version of The King’s Pass?”

I think that’s a great question.

So let’s look at this in a non-sports context. Would we be okay as an employer with paying top salary to a talented guy with a well-known public reputation for being a self-centered asshole who is anything but a team player? His results are indisputable, but his personality is abrasive, his maturation is completely arrested at fifteen, his learning curve is as steep as the Nevada Salt Flats, and every time he opens his mouth he embarrasses his employer.

I’m going to say yes. We hired just such a guy as President of the United States. So Americans are either incompetent, or, perhaps, the results are sometimes worth the price.

So that’s the question for whoever Cole’s next employer is. “Is this meat worth the pain?” If yes, then, well, break out the gold card, boys! Continue reading

And Yet Another Evening Ethics Watch, 10/29/2019, Because Everything Has Been Upside Down At ProEthics Lately…

Good evening again.

We’ll have to stop meeting like this.

1. Can’t make up my mind if I want there to be disastrous botched ball/strike call in Game 6 of the World Series or not. It will take one of those—a bad call that turns the game and eventually the World Series around to get MLB off its metaphorical butt and force it to establish an electronic pitch-calling system. Of course, it is worth noting that one of the most devastating wrong umpire calls in history stole a World Series away from the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985, and it took another 30 years for baseball to adopt an instant replay system that would have reversed it.

Don Denkinger was the first base umpire in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series in Kansas City.  The St. Louis Cardinals led the home team Royals by 3 games to 2, and tooka 1–0 lead in the 8th inning. In the bottom of the ninth, Jorge Orta, the leadoff batter for the Royals, hit a slow roller to Cards first baseman Jack Clark. Clark tossed the ball to his pitcher, Todd Worrell, who was covered first base. Orta was out by half a step, but Denkinger called Orta safe, even though television replays and photographs clearly showed that he was out by half a step. Orta eventually scored, allowing the Royals to go  on to win Game 6 by the score of 2–1.

Denkinger was the home plate umpire in the Series-deciding Game 7, apparently driving the angry Cardinals mad. Denkinger ultimately ejected both Herzog and pitcher Joaquín Andújar in the fifth inning, as the game deteriorated into Royals rout,  11–0 . Denkinger accepted that he had made a terrible call, but as was the ethics in baseball at the time, took the position that such mistakes were an unavoidable part of the game. In  aftermath of the 1985 World Series, Denkinger death threats, from Cardinals fans. Two St. Louis disc jockeys doxxed him, giving out the umpire’s telephone number and home address. He was a well-regarded umpire, who at 83 years of age will still sign photographs of “the Call” when asked.

I guess I don’t want to see another umpire suffer Denkinger’s  fate tonight. It is inevitable that there will be a bad call of a strike or ball that makes an umpire a lifelong pariah, unless baseball locks that barn door as soon as possible. Continue reading

Monday Evening Ethics Feature, 10/28/2019: Boo! Lyric Woking! Name-Calling! And Much, Much Worse…

Good evening.

1. World Series ethics observations:

  • It was little noticed, but Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole did something admirable and unusual last night on the way to dominating Washington Nationals hitters and leading his team to a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. At one point in the game, Nationals first-baseman Ryan Zimmerman laid off a tantalizing pitch just off the plate with two strikes on him. Cole could be seen saluting the batter and saying “Good take!” It is rare to see a baseball player acknowledge an adversary’s skill on the field.

I wouldn’t mind seeing such gestures more often.

  • The President not only attended the game last night, but stayed unusually long for a dignitary, who usually go to baseball games to be seen more than to watch. Trump stayed until the 8th inning, when much of the discouraged Nats fandom was streaming to the exits. I wrote last week that I hoped he would subject himself to the fans’ ugliness, and they responded as we knew they would, loudly jeering and chanting “Lock him up!” It was a black eye for Washington, D.C., not President Trump.

Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Pitch, 10/26/2019: Calvin Coolidge Was Right, Baseball is Wrong, And Other Revelations

Here it comes!

1. Oh-oh...I was worried about this. Early in the baseball post-season there were rumors flying that MLB had deadened its baseballs after a 2019 season that saw records shattered for homer frequency. I wrote (somewhere this month: I can’t find it) that if the sport really did mess with the balls at this point it would be a massive breach of ethics, changing the conditions of the game when the games mattered most.

So far, the conspiracy theorists have been bolstered by the statistics.

 Baseball researcher Rob Arthur revealed in a Baseball Prospectus report on October10 that after nearly 20 postseason games, home runs were occurring at at half the rate the 2019 season’s homer frequency would predict. Arthur allowed for the fact that better pitchers and hitters  made up  playoff teams, and still  concluded that the ball was not flying as far as it did during the regular season. “The probability that a random selection of games from the rest of the regular season would feature as much air resistance as we’ve seen so far in the postseason,” he wrote, “is about one in one thousand.” A follow-up report by Arthur again found significant variation in the flight of the ball this postseason.

This isn’t good.

2. It’s not even 2020, and the New York Times isn’t even pretending  to be objective. Two examples from today’s Times:

  • In a story about Tulsi Gabbard announcing that she would not run for re-election to the House, the Times spun for Hillary Clinton, writing, “Last Friday, Hillary Clinton suggested that Republicans were “grooming” her for “a third party run”, though Ms. Gabbard has denied any such plans.” What was notable about Clinton’s smear was that she said that Gabbard was “a favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.”  This is a variety of “fake news” that the Times excels at, telling only part of the story to manipulate public perception.
  • Headline (Print edition) : “Speaking at Black College, Trump Ridicules Obama For Effort on Racial Equity.”  Wow, what a racist! Attacking efforts at racial equity! In fact, the President criticized the paltry results of Obama’s efforts to advance racial equity. He in no way ridiculed Obama for making those efforts.  Again, the Times is now a master at playing to its anti-Trump readers confirmation bias.

Continue reading