Tag Archives: baseball

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.
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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/14/17: Too Much Liberty, Too Much Precision, Too Much Success, Too Much Posturing, And More

Good Morning!

1 Today I’m going to have to waste several hours responding to a vexatious and retaliatory lawsuit by an Ethics Alarms commenter. It’s remarkable I’ve been able to avoid this annoyance for so long, I suppose, but annoyance it is. I’ve been threatened with a few lawsuits, and served once before, in that case by a lawyer who was angry that I described his ridiculous law suit against a Hollywood film as ridiculous.

The misuse of the legal system to harass and extort is an expensive price we all pay for living in a democracy that agrees with Clarence Darrow that in order to have enough liberty it is necessary to have too much. Our prices are higher, our medical expenses are inflated, and other rights, like freedom of expression, are constrained by the nation’s commitment to let common people, and often common people with unethical motives, have easy access to the courts to address their grievances, real, imagined or manufactured. I support this without reservation, , but it is no fun being the victim of it.

2.  It is a common refrain in resistance circles and the social media echo chambers that President Trump “isn’t doing anything.” That is hardly the case, and like a lot of anti-Trump rhetoric, is intentional disinformation. Since the anti-Trump collective spends all of its time trying to devise ways to somehow un-elect him—the 25th Amendment nonsense in back in the news—-while focusing on his tweets, his boorishness,  his feuds, and what he hasn’t done, they ignore the fact that Trump’s administration has been remarkably productive in addressing the issues that helped elect him. The U.S. is no longer wink-winking about illegal immigration. It is undoing the Obama policy of issuing restrictive energy regulations to signal concern over climate change that won’t have any measurable effect on climate change. The disastrous “Dear Colleague” please start assuming all male college students accused of sexual assault are guilty letter is gone and unlamented. We are not being bullied by little North Korea any more. Regulations of all kinds are being cut back. He is remaking the judiciary, pointing it away from judicial activism. Consumer confidence is high, and the stock market is soaring.

All of this has taken place in less than a year. The wisdom of many of these measures can be debated, and progressives hate all of it, but that’s irrelevant. There is much to criticize President Trump for, and much to deplore about his long and short-term effects on his office and the culture. Not accomplishing his stated goals, however, is not one of his flaws.

3. The Washington Nationals, who have morphed into the post 1986 Boston Red Sox as the team that always finds a way to miss winning the World Series, were eliminated in the National League Division Series with the assistance of many flukey plays that went against them. Particularly galling was when an 8th inning Nats rally was cut short in the fifth and decisive game against the Chicago Cubs because Washington’s second-string catcher was picked off first base with the potential game-tying run in scoring position. Jose Lobaton—now a name that will live in D.C. infamy–looked safe on TV and was called safe by the umpire when a snap throw to first by Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras caught him taking too big a lead. A slow motion review of the instant replay, however, showed that Lobaton’s  foot came off the first base bag for a nanosecond while Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo still had the tag on him. The naked eye would never have caught it. Still, if a runner is tagged while not on a base, he’s out.

On the NBC Sports website, blogger Bill Baer argued that this was a misuse of instant replay, writing in part,

“I]t feels unfair to use replay review in this manner. Both teams’ success or failure hinged on Lobaton’s foot coming off of the bag for one-sixteenth of a second. It’s a technicality, like coming back to your car at 10:01 only to see the meter maid walking away and a ticket on your windshield.

The spirit of replay review wasn’t about microscopic technicalities, it was about getting certain calls right: home run/not a home run, fair/foul, safe/out (in other areas, obviously, given this argument). Major League Baseball should greatly consider amending the rules to make it so that a player simply returning to the bag is grounds to be called safe, ending the pedantry of these types of reviews.”

This reminds me to add “It’s just a technicality” to the rationalizations I haven’t gotten around to adding to the Ethics Alarms list. (This makes four.)  It may feel unfair to enforce the rules, just like it feels unfair when you flunk the written test to get a license by one question, or get a ticket when you were driving just a little over the speed limit, or win the popular vote and still don’t get to be President because of the Electoral College. The “spirit of replay review” was to get calls right based on what really happens, not based on what the umpire saw or what he thought happened. Not “certain calls”: there’s no virtue in a wrong call that was just a little wrong. The difference between safe and out isn’t small or technical in baseball. It is everything. Lobaton was out, and it isn’t anything but a benefit to the integrity of baseball that he was finally called out. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2017: Ben Affleck Is Called A Liar, A Blind Man Wants to See Websites, The Boy Scouts Want Girls, And More…

Good Morning!

1 Tales of Moral Luck: Yankee manager Joe Girardi was facing a possible post-season firing for an embarrassing  botch during the second game of the American League Divisional Series against the Cleveland Indians. NY had lost the second game, putting them in an 0-2 hole in a best of 5 series, after an Indian batter’s foul tip into the catcher’s glove for strike three and the inning’s final out was mistakenly ruled a hit by pitch, loading the bases. Replay showed that the ball had hit the knob of the bat, not the batter’s hand, but Girardi didn’t call for a replay review even though his catcher demanding one.  The HBP loaded the bases, and the next batter hit a decisive grand slam. Girardi made things worse in his post-game comments by spinning and rationalizing, then finally took responsibility the next day. He also admitted that he didn’t realize that managers had two challenges in the play-offs, when they had only one a game during the regular season.

Yesterday, the Yankees completed a remarkable comeback, winning three straight games to defeat the odds-on favorites to represent the American League in the World Series. Girardi’s bad judgment, poor preparation and immediate resort to excuses when he undermined his team’s chances no longer matters. He was saved by moral luck, just as earlier he had been slammed by moral luck. After all, if the next batter in Game 2 has popped up harmlessly, ending the inning without any damage, Girardi’s terrible mistake would have been a footnote to a Yankee victory.

Now it’s a footnote again.

Moral Luck.

2. WHOA!  Didn’t see THAT coming! TWITTER just boarded the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck!

Actress Rose McGowan, one of Weinstein’s victims who reached a $100,000 settlement with the Hollywood serial harasser 20 years ago and  who is now on the attack having decided that she doesn’t want to be a Hollywood actress any more, has been using social media to condemn actors and executives who enabled Weinstein, writing in one tweet, “you all knew.” Recently, after Ben Affleck  tweeted that the allegations against  Weinstein “made him sick,” McGowan called him out on Twitter.:

@benaffleck “GODDAMNIT! I TOLD HIM TO STOP DOING THAT” you said that to my face. The press conf I was made to go to after assault. You lie.

Twitter suspended her account. In response, McGowran wrote on Instagram.

TWITTER HAS SUSPENDED ME. THERE ARE POWERFUL FORCES AT WORK. BE MY VOICE. #ROSEARMY #whywomendontreport

These social media platforms are untrustworthy. All of them.

McGowan, meanwhile, is fast approaching Ethics Hero territory. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/8/2017: TV Comics, Law Deans, Sports And California…Everything Is Seemingly Spinning Out Of Control!

Good Morning!

On the day that the Boston Red Sox will begin their stunning comeback against the Houston Astros …

 

1 Speaking of baseball, a poll shows that the NFL fell from the most popular major sport in the nation last year to the least favorite last month, while baseball regained its traditional but usually treated as fictional “National Pastime” status. The NFL also dragged down the popularity of college football. Not all of this can be blamed on Colin Kaepernick, Black Lives Matters, and incoherent protests that aren’t against the National Anthem, well, maybe its third verse, but take place during the National Anthem, well, because. Ethics Alarms isn’t the only voice that has declared football to be callous and barbaric, now that the game’s unavoidable concussions are being shown to cause a deadly brain disease. Too many helmeted heroes beat their spouses and lovers, and commit felonies. The biggest star in the NFL, Tom Brady, is a smug, cheating jerk. It never helps when the President of the United States, even one like Trump, attacks an institution from the bully pulpit. Still, the timing certainly suggest that the NFL’s botched handling of The Knee is the catalyst for its current nosedive in popularity. Just think how many brains will be saved if this is permanent.

Meanwhile,  Major League Baseball is benefiting from staying true to its traditional national role of unifying the country rather than dividing it. No on-field protests mar the National Anthem. The sport is entertainment, celebrating American themes like individualism, the triumph of the underdog, and grace under pressure. In 1942, FDR urged Major League Baseball to keep playing, even though the remaining players were unfit for military service, leaving the teams stocked with older players and a collection of misfits, like Pete Gray, the one-armed outfielder.  After Baseball Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis wrote President Roosevelt in January, FDR replied with this letter the same day:

It is not, however, in the best interest of the country to keep the NFL “going.” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/1/2017: Puerto Rico, Baseball Ethics, And Good Riddance To Hugh Hefner

Gooood Morning October!

1 And with October comes the wonderful post-season of that all-American sports that does not leave its athletes with brain disease, that requires some erudition and an attention span longer than a terrier puppy’s to appreciate, and that does not subject its fans to incoherent political theater as part of the price of watching a game. Yes, “it’s baseball, Ray.”

Yesterday the Boston Red Sox finally clinched the America League East title, the first time in over a century that this perverse team has won a championship in consecutive years. In other words, nothing can spoil my mood today.

There are a couple of baseball ethics notes, too:

  • In Miami, Giancarlo Stanton has one last game to hit his 60th home run, which would make him the sixth major league to reach that mark in baseball history. Two of the six, Babe Ruth, whose 60 homers in 1927 stood as the season record for 34 years, and Roger Maris, the Yankee who broke the record with 61 in something of a fluke season, reached the mark fairly. The other three, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds, were steroid cheats. Ever since Stanton caught fire after the All-Star break and looked for a while as if he would exceed 61, wags have been saying that he would become the “real” record holder, since the totals of Mark, Sammy and Barry ( 73, the current record, in 2001) shouldn’t count. Of course they should count. They have to count. The games were official, the runs counted, the homers are reflected in the statistics of the pitchers, the teams, and records of the sport. Bonds should have been suspended before he broke any records, but baseball blew it. Saying his homers (and Sosa’s, and McGwire’s) don’t count is like arguing that Samuel J. Tilden, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton were elected President.

Integrity exists in layers, and the ultimate integrity is accepting reality. The 1919 Reds won the World Series, fixed or not. O.J. is innocent in the eyes of the law, and Roger Maris no longer holds baseball single season home run record.

  • In Kansas City, manager Ned Yost did something gracious, generous, and strange. The Royals, a small market team that won two championships with a core of home grown, low-visibility stars, now face losing all or most of them to big free agent contracts that the team simply cannot afford. Fans are often bitter about such venal exits, and teams usually fan the flames of resentment: better that the market be angry at the players than the organization. After Red Sox fan favorite Johnny Damon, a popular symbol of the 2004 World Series winning club, left for greener pastures in the New York Yankees outfield, he was jeered every time he came to bat in Fenway Park for the rest of his career.

But Ned Yost, who will be left with a shell of his team and a new bunch of kids to manage in KC next year, was not going to let the players who made him a winner depart amidst anger and recriminations. During yesterday’s 4-3 victory in front of the home crowd at Kauffman Stadium, Yost engineered an emotional curtain call for all four of the players who were probably playing their last games as Royals.

He pulled them from the game, one by one, all while the team was in the field or the player on the bases, so each could get a long standing ovation: Eric Hosmer in the moments before the fifth inning; Mike Moustakas with one out in the sixth. Lorenzo Cain for a pinch runner. Alcides Escobar in the middle of the seventh.

Nice.

And none of them took a knee on the way out…

2. I have been researching to find any objective reports that support the claim that the federal government and FEMA are not doing their best to help Puerto Rico. There aren’t any. There are plenty of videos of the devastation, but even the New York Times, which is the head cheerleader for anti-Trump porn, has only been able to muster headlines about the relief effort being criticized. All of my Facebook friends writing—it’s really dumb, everybody—about how Trump is uncaring as they signal their virtue by telling us how their hearts go out to the residents of the island literally know nothing about the relief efforts. They don’t know anything about the planning, the logistics, the problems or what is feasible. Nonetheless, they think they have standing to say that it is incompetent, or slow (which means, slower than it has to be), or, and  anyone who says this better not say it to me, based on racism. Their assertions arise out of pure partisan bias, bolstered by convenient ignorance.

Vox’s Matt Yglesias, one of the knee-jerk doctrinaire leftists in the commentary world who does an especially poor job hiding his malady,  attempted to take a shot at the Trump administration by tweeting,

“The US government supplied Berlin for nearly a year by air despite a Soviet blockade using late-1940s technology.”

This is only a valid comparison for the willfully obtuse. You can’t airlift electricity and water, or a communication and transportation infrastructure that is necessary to distribute supplies. Berlin was surrounded, but it had all of these. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/26/17: The News Media Hides Sen. Strange’s Corruption, And An NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck Update

Good Morning, Dallas! Proud of your politically correct football team?

Good Morning!

1 The New York Times and the rest of the mainstream news media, it is a relief to know, unethically and deceptively slants its news reporting in favor of Republicans when even worse Republicans are involved. Since the Ethics Alarms post about the horrible Strange-Moore run-off, I’ve been reading several articles about the issues involved. So far, I have yet to read any that mention the corrupt manner in which Sen. Strange got his seat. They all mention Moore’s problems, like the fact that he’s a theocrat who doesn’t believe in the Rule of Law.

And now your NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck update, because it can’t be avoided, unfortunately…

2. The sports weenies of the year have to be the Dallas Cowboys, who didn’t have either the courage to play it straight and let the silly NFL Anthem Protest Train Wreck miss a stop, or the fortitude to climb right on. On Monday Night Football’s game this week, the Cowboys, owner Jerry Jones, Coach Jason Garrett and other coaches and front office executives kneeled in unison before the anthem, then rose and locked arms as it was being performed. What did it all mean? “Our players wanted to make a statement about unity and we wanted to make a statement about equality,” Jones said at a post game news conference. “They were very much aware that statement, when made or when attempted to be made in and a part of the recognition of our flag, cannot only lead to criticism but also controversy. It was real easy for everybody in our organization to see that the message of unity, the message of equality was getting, if you will, pushed aside or diminished by the controversy. We even had the circumstances that it was being made into a controversy.”

That’s clear as mud, as my dad liked to say.

Here was another theory: Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant told the news media that the decision “was a team thing” that was a direct response to comments and tweets by President Trump over the weekend.

“I feel like that’s the true definition of unity.Trump can’t divide this. I think sports show the perfect example of unity. It’s not just black NFL players, it’s different races. I feel like that was a clear shot at Trump, sitting on that knee like that because you just can’t do that [What Trump said was] super disrespectful. We showed great unity tonight. That’s what that was for. I feel like that was needed. … We’re not going to let a guy like that tear us apart. Not just us but this whole entire league. We’re a prime example of positive people. … He should have never said that. It was a clear punch in the face. I feel like we made up for that.”

Wait, so now this is an anti-Trump protest? What happened to protesting officers getting paid while cop-involved shootings were being investigated—you know, what Colin Kaepernick said?

The Cowboys’ whatever it was was naked, cynical virtue-signalling that ended up being stupidity-signalling. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/22/2017: Listening To Maxine Waters And Getting Hit In The Face With A Baseball

Good Morning!

(Boy, am I glad this week is almost over…)

 

1 There is an Ethics Alarms category for incompetent elected officials like Maxine Waters, but in general I try not to state the obvious, and Rep. Waters has been an embarrassment to her district, her party, the House of Representatives, her party, the Congressional Black Caucus, her gender, her race and democracy generally for decades. Her latest statement that “Impeachment is about whatever Congress says it is. There is no law that dictates impeachment” is an especially striking example of her ignorance, her defiance of her ethical duties, and her sick partisan extremism, but still: Who that has watched this woman can be shocked at this?

During a Congressional Black Caucus town hall yesterday, Waters called on the black community which, to our pity and its shame, trusts this despicable woman to support impeaching President Donald Trump because “there is no law” restricting the practice.

Waters either is unaware of or chooses to defy the Constitution’s Article II Section 4: 

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

A. That’s law. In fact, it’s the law of the land.

B. “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” is not synonymous with “Anything Congress decides”

One of the worst things about Waters is that she makes citizens who trust her more ignorant about their own country. Her characterization of impeachment is simply false. It is also a prelude to an anti-democratic, ant-Constitutional system in which the Legislative Branch can veto the results of an election as long as one party has a sufficient majority. In this regard, Waters is not alone: this has been a theme of the Democratic “resistance” since the election. That alone is just reason for any rational American to vote against the Democrats, and this would be true if a werewolf were President.

It’s always fun to guess whether Waters is stupid, or lying. I vote stupid. “Bill Clinton got impeached because he lied,” Waters said yesterday. “Here you have a president who I can tell you and guarantee you is in collusion with the Russians, to undermine our democracy. Here you have a president who has obstructed justice, and here you have a president that lies every day.”

Bill Clinton was impeached for lying under oath, which made him unfit to be a lawyer, much less make the laws. He was also impeached for lying to a grand jury, another crime, and obstructing justice for real, not by firing his own subordinate.

An ethical party would censor Waters the way Republicans supported censoring Joe McCarthy. At this point in its history, the Democratic Party is closer to following Waters’ unethical conduct than opposing it. Continue reading

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