Tag Archives: baseball

Major League Baseball Cares About Integrity And I Wish This Proved It…But It Doesn’t

I know this will be a shock, Henry, but there's forest here, not just trees...

I know this will be a shock, Henry, but there’s forest here, not just trees…

On Baseball Prospectus, one of the scholarly baseball sites, Henry Druschel has a provocative, inspiring and ultimately silly post pointing out that if baseball teams were only concerned with winning, they would forfeit games for strategic purposes, yet they literally never do. He writes…

“Teams are almost certainly harming their long-term win rates in a meaningful way by playing until every out of every game has been recorded. For example, the Red Sox encountered a grueling quirk of the schedule on Wednesday night, when they were scheduled to play the Orioles at 7:05 p.m. before traveling to Detroit and playing the Tigers at 1:10 p.m. the next day. When it began to pour in Baltimore at roughly 9:00 p.m., the Red Sox were leading 8-1 after six innings, but imagine if the situation was reversed, and Boston was instead trailing 8-1 with three innings to go. Their odds of coming back to win such a game would be something like 0.5 percent. In such a scenario, they could either wait in the clubhouse until the game was either resumed or officially cancelled, or they could forfeit as soon as the rain began, and head for the airport and Detroit right away. In the non-hypothetical game, the rain delay lasted about 80 minutes before the game was officially called; it seems obvious that an extra hour and a half of rest before the next game would add more to a trailing Boston’s total expected wins than remaining in Baltimore and hoping for a miracle would. That might seem like a corner case, and truthfully, it is; I bring it up to note that no one would even consider a forfeit in such a scenario, despite the strategic logic of the move. This isn’t limited to corner cases, however; every time a position player enters a baseball game as a pitcher in a blowout, teams are harming their long-term expected win totals by not forfeiting instead….”

The writer concludes:

Given that forfeitures would be win-maximizing in certain cases, and given that teams choose never to strategically forfeit regardless, there are two possible conclusions. One: Teams are behaving irrationally. Given the immense value even a single win can have to a franchise, I feel confident stating that this is not the case. That leaves the second conclusion: There is something the team values more than winning as much as possible. There is a societal norm that places something—a competitive ideal, maybe, or just completion—over winning, a norm that would be violated by a strategic forfeit, and a norm that teams invariably follow.

As someone who values other things over winning, this excites me…

Don’t get too excited, Henry.

Yes, I believe that baseball teams take considered actions sometimes that do not maximize their chances of winning. I was roundly pilloried in baseball circles for an article I wrote in 2008 (for another scholarly baseball site)  which argued that Barry Bonds, the shameless steroid cheat and home run champion who was suddenly a free agent and who could, based on his recent exploits, still hit though well past 40, would not be signed by any team—not even the Yankees!—because doing so would signal to that team’s fans, city, players and organization that the team endorsed flagrant dishonesty as well as a willingness to disregard fairness, integrity and sportsmanship for a few extra wins. I was on a MLB radio show where the host laughed at me. “Of course he’ll be signed! You’re crazy!” were his words. “Just wait,” I said. “If he isn’t signed, it will mean that baseball colluded against him!” he said. “Just wait,” I said.

Bonds, who said he was dying to play, that he was healthy, that he’d play for the Major League minimum, that he’d sue MLB is someone didn’t sign him, never swung a bat in anger again. There was no collusion, either. It was pure cognitive dissonance, you see. Remember the scale? Continue reading

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KABOOM! The Wrigley Field DJ Really Thought This Would Be OK! (And The Cubs Get A Jumbo…)

exploding-head5

Talk about malfunctioning ethics alarms! This story made my head explode, once I confirmed that it was not a hoax, as I desperately hoped. It apparently made the heads of a lot of Cubs fans and Cubs executive blow craniums too.

If you don’t follow baseball closely, and by the way, what’s the matter with you?, you probably don’t know two crucial facts about the Chicago Cubs closer (that’s the pitcher who comes in to pitch the ninth when his team is ahead in a close game) Aroldis Chapman:

1. He throws the baseball over 100 mph. on almost every pitch, and has hit 105 mph. on the radar gun this season. Traditionally 90 mph on a pitcher;s fastball is considered good. 95 mph is considered very good. 100 mph is outrageous. Last year, Chapman threw more pitches over 100 mph than the rest of his league’s pitchers combined.

2. Chapman was suspended for much of this season for domestic abuse, under baseball’s new policies.

The Cubs recently acquired Chapman (from the Yankees) to be the team’s closer, in this, a season that bids fair to be the one that finally ends the team’s epic string of seasons without a World Series title. The Cubs last won the Series in 1908, over a century ago. The team hasn’t even made it to the Series since 1945.

Now here’s the punch-line.

Hold on to your head. Continue reading

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Well, THAT Question’s Answered: No Parting Gifts For A-Rod

No-GiftI wrote in an earlier Ethics Quiz that the retirement of Yankee Cheat and Head Creep Alex Rodriguez tomorrow would put the Boston Red Sox in a difficult position tonight. Should they honor him, as the Yankees will honor Red Sox star David Ortiz in his final appearance in Yankees Stadium? Or should they  eschew any recognition, since the Boston fans hate Alex’s guts?

Apparently, as often is the case, the problem was not as difficult as my ethical alarms were telling me. The Sox won’t even give A-Rod a cupcake. There will be no recognition of his career, other than the symphony of boos that will rain down on him from the Fenway Faithful every single time he comes to bat.

Good.

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Ethics Quiz: Boston’s A-Rod Dilemma

newsday-AROD

This is a really, really hard one.

Over the weekend, as reported here, Yankee superstar/pariah/cheating jerk for the ages Alex Rodriguez announced that he would “retire” after next Friday night’s game. He’s not really retiring, of course. Like almost everything involving A-Rod, lies and cover-ups reign. Since the Yankees were going to have to pay the rest of his contract to the tune of 27 million bucks either way, they told Alex that they could release him, thus ending his career on a sour note, or allow him to pretend to make the decision to leave the game himself, which would be better PR for all concerned.

However, the announcement presents a problem for the Boston Red Sox. A-Rod’s next-to-last game is Thursday night in Fenway Park, and a player with Rodriguez’s astounding career on-field achievements would typically warrant an on-field salute, like the Sox gave Yankee icon Derek Jeter when he retired. The problem is that Red Sox fans don’t like or respect A-Rod, and they shouldn’t. No baseball fan should. He disgraced the game with his drug use and lies; was an unsportsmanlike presence for most of his career, and will not reach the Hall of Fame despite one of the best careers ever unless the Hall junks all of its character requirements.

Yet reciprocity raises its ethical head. David Ortiz, the beloved Red Sox slugger, is also retiring after this season, and the Yankees have planned to give him a big send-off when Big Papi plays his last game in Yankee stadium. How can the Red Sox snub A-Rod, and expect the Yankees to honor their hero? If the Red Sox do hold a ceremony for Rodriquez, will Sox fans use it as an opportunity to heap well-deserved abuse on Alex one last time? If Sox fans fill Fenway with boos, will Yankee fans reciprocate by ruining Ortiz’s moment in New York? (I would give my guess on this, but it might expose a long-held bias against Yankee fans.)

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

What is the most ethical way to handle this awful situation?

Continue reading

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Alex Rodriguez Announced That He’s Retiring As A Baseball Player. He Could Have Been Fair And Ethical About It. Nah!

alex-rodriguez

New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, a three time MVP, 14-time All-Star and one of the most talented and controversial players in baseball history—and the epic Ethics Corrupter  who has been criticized on Ethics Alarms more than any other sports figure!—  announced that he will play his final major league game next Friday. For his 20 million dollar  salary this year, “A-Rod” is hitting only .204 with nine home runs and 29 RBIs in 216 at-bats. He can’t play in the field anymore, and any normal player of his age (41) and diminished skills would have been released long ago. (Indeed, any normal player of  his age and diminished skills would have quit.) The team, however, is obligated to pay Rodriguez’s 20 million annual salary not only this year, but also the next. This makes him untradeable as well as too expensive to release.

Of course, if a player voluntarily ends his relationship with a team by retiring, he waives the rest of his contract. Many players have done that when they reached the point in their careers where they were no longer helping the team, taking the place of a better young player on the roster, and embarrassing themselves. None of those players, however, would be forfeiting 27 million dollars, the current tab the Yankees are contractually obligated to pay A-Rod as the final lap of a $275 million, 10-year contract that was baseball’s largest in 2007.

Nevertheless, forfeiting the money is what an ethical player should do. He’s not earning it. Rodriquez has made more than a half-billion dollars in his career, not counting various endorsement fees and bonuses. His two children are guaranteed to be tycoons many times over. He has lots of money, but very little accumulated good will or respect, as a confessed steroid cheat (he was suspended for the entire 2014 season for PED use and a cover-up) and is one of the most disliked players in any sport. Retiring as a straightforward admission that he is no longer able to play and has been hurting his team and team mates would have been the ethical course—a sacrifice, but not much of one.

Nah. Continue reading

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Perhaps The Best Baseball Ethics Story Ever: The Chris Sale Uniform Freak-Out

White Sox uniforms

Last night, incomplete fragments of news came through the baseball media that Chicago White Sox pitching ace Chris Sale had been pulled from his scheduled start against the Tigers. Was he about to be traded? No, we learned that there had been a “non-physical” altercation with someone in the White Sox front office. Huh? What did that mean?

It turned out that the truth was stranger than any speculation. Sale, we learned, had refused to wear a retro White Sox uniform during a “Turn Back The Clock” promotion that nigh, and to ensure that he wouldn’t have to, he cut up all the vintage uniforms, using a scissors and a knife, while the rest of the team was taking batting practice.

As soon as I heard this, I told my wife,”I bet I know exactly which uniforms the team was supposed to wear.” I was right: the White Sox promotion involved giving out free facsimile 1976 uniform jerseys to the first 15,000 game attendees, with the team wearing the infamous fashion abortion perpetrated on baseball by puckish former White Sox owner Bill Veeck, the same iconoclast who sent a midget up to bat in a real game.

Here are those uniforms, almost unanimously agreed-upon by all critics as the silliest baseball garb ever to appear on a Major League player (that’s Veeck in the middle; the ones on the left are the uniforms in question):

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It is recorded that the players and the fans hated the 1976 uniforms, which were quickly discarded, especially the version with the shorts, which only appeared in one game. No wonder Sale was upset.

Now to the ethics issues: Continue reading

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Baseball Ethics: Revealed At Last! Extraordinary Cheating By The 1975 California Angels

Dick Williams, cheat...but a successful and creative cheat, you have to admit.

Dick Williams, cheat…but a successful and creative cheat, you have to admit.

Yesterday on the New England Sports Network broadcast of the Red Sox-Yankees game, Sox color man Jerry Remy was discussing how some teams doctor their home fields for tactical advantages. The Yankee Stadium infield grass, for example, is kept long, slowing down ground balls so the infielders have a better chance of getting to them before they scoot into the outfield for hits. The current Yankees team hitting, such as it is, tends to be fly ball oriented. Jerry expounded on how teams that bunted a lot would sometimes have groundskeepers slant the dirt around the foul lines toward fair territory. “In 1975, when I played for the Angels,” he said, “our home baselines were like gutters. A bunted ball almost couldn’t roll foul.” Such customization is considered fair gamesmanship, because the rules don’t specify ground conditions in sufficient detail.

Then Remy revealed an example of  baseball cheating in the extreme. Also n 1975, Remy said, during his rookie year with the California Angels, manager Dick Williams realized that speed on the bases was one of his few assets on a weak roster. (The ’75 Angels would finish  last in the AL West with a 72-89 record) Remy, Tommy Harper, Mickey Rivers and Dave Collins were all accomplished base-stealers, so Williams had groundskeepers move second base six inches closer to first base, thus shortening the distance a base-runner attempting to steal second would have to cover.

“It was that way all year,” Remy said. “Nobody ever noticed.” Continue reading

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