Baseball Hall Of Fame Ethics Bulletin

The results of the voting for the Major league Baseball Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown are in. The Baseball Writers Association of America elected Braves third-base great  Chipper Jones, slugger Jim Thome , relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman and Montreal Expo legend Vladimir Guerrero, excellent ad deserving choices all.

Joe Morgan is happy tonight. The writers did not elect Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa or Gary Sheffield, steroid cheats all. Nor did any of them come particularly close to the 75% of ballots cast (a voter can select up to ten) necessary for enshrinement.

Good.

Ethics Hero: Baseball Great Joe Morgan

The baseball writers are filling out their Hall of Fame ballots, and Hall of Fame member Joe Morgan authored a much-needed letter on behalf of his fellow honorees to urge voters to keep steroid cheats out of the Hall. He wrote—on Hall of Fame stationary, so it is clear that this was both personal and official:

The Hall of Fame is Special – A Letter from Joe Morgan

Over the years, I have been approached by many Hall of Fame members telling me we needed to do  something to speak out about the possibility of steroid users entering the Hall of Fame. This issue  has been bubbling below the surface for quite a while. 

I hope you don’t mind if I bring to your attention what I’m hearing. 

Please keep in mind I don’t speak for every single member of the Hall of Fame. I don’t know how  everyone feels, but I do know how many of the Hall of Famers feel. 

I, along with other Hall of Fame Baseball players, have the deepest respect for you and all the writers who vote to decide who enters Baseball’s most hallowed shrine, the National Baseball Hall of Fame. For some 80 years, the men and women of the BBWAA have cast ballots that have made the Hall into the wonderful place it is. 

I think the Hall of Fame is special. There is a sanctity to being elected to the Hall. It is revered. It is  the hardest Hall of Fame to enter, of any sport in America. 

But times change, and a day we all knew was coming has now arrived. Players who played during  the steroid era have become eligible for entry into the Hall of Fame. 

The more we Hall of Famers talk about this – and we talk about it a lot – we realize we can no longer  sit silent. Many of us have come to think that silence will be considered complicity. Or that fans  might think we are ok if the standards of election to the Hall of Fame are relaxed, at least relaxed  enough for steroid users to enter and become members of the most sacred place in Baseball. We don’t want fans ever to think that. 

We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They  cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here. 

Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League  Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in. Those  are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right. 

Now, I recognize there are players identified as users on the Mitchell Report who deny they were  users. That’s why this is a tricky issue. Not everything is black and white – there are shades of gray  here. It’s why your job as a voter is and has always been a difficult and important job. I have faith in  your judgment and know that ultimately, this is your call. 

But it still occurs to me that anyone who took body-altering chemicals in a deliberate effort to cheat  the game we love, not to mention they cheated current and former players, and fans too, doesn’t  belong in the Hall of Fame. By cheating, they put up huge numbers, and they made great players  who didn’t cheat look smaller by comparison, taking away from their achievements and consideration for the Hall of Fame. That’s not right. 

And that’s why I, and other Hall of Famers, feel so strongly about this.  

It’s gotten to the point where Hall of Famers are saying that if steroid users get in, they’ll no longer  come to Cooperstown for Induction Ceremonies or other events. Some feel they can’t share a stage  with players who did steroids. The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame  too. The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will  divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear. 

Section 5 of the Rules for Election states, “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing  ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player  played.” 

I care about how good a player was or what kind of numbers he put up; but if a player did steroids,  his integrity is suspect; he lacks sportsmanship; his character is flawed; and, whatever contribution  he made to his team is now dwarfed by his selfishness. 

Steroid use put Baseball through a tainted era where records were shattered. “It was a steroidal farce,” wrote Michael Powell in the New York Times. It is no accident that those records held up for decades until the steroid era began, and they haven’t been broken since the steroid era ended.  Sadly, steroids worked. 

Dan Naulty was a journeyman pitcher in the late 1990s who admitted he took steroids, noting that his fastball went from 87 to 96. He told Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci in 2012, “I was a full-blown  cheater, and I knew it. You didn’t need a written rule. I was violating clear principles that were laid down within the rules. I understood I was violating implicit principles.” 

The Hall of Fame has always had its share of colorful characters, some of whom broke or bent society’s rules in their era. By today’s standards, some might not have gotten in. Times change and  society improves. What once was accepted no longer is. 

But steroid users don’t belong here. What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change  for the worse. 

Steroid users knew they were taking a drug that physically improved how they played. Taking  steroids is a decision. It’s the deliberate act of using chemistry to change how hard you hit and throw by changing what your body is made of. 

I and other Hall of Famers played hard all our lives to achieve what we did. I love this game and am  proud of it. I hope the Hall of Fame’s standards won’t be lowered with the passage of time.  For over eighty years, the Hall of Fame has been a place to look up to, where the hallowed halls  honor those who played the game hard and right. I hope it will always remain that way. 

Sincerely, 

Joe Morgan

Good.

I agree in every respect. Continue reading

No, Craig, Barry Bonds Wasn’t A “Great” Baseball Player. Bernie Madoff Wasn’t A “Great” Investment Manager, Either

Christy Mathewson, a genuine hero. Barry Bonds would have made him want to throw up.

Christy Mathewson, a genuine hero. Barry Bonds would have made him want to throw up.

I like and admire Craig Calcaterra, who blogs entertainingly and perceptively about baseball on the NBC Sports website. I suppose I’m a bit jealous of him too: he’s a lawyer who now earns his living blogging about something he loves.

But Craig has always been a bit confused about how to regard baseball’s steroid cheats (they are cheats, which should answer any questions, but somehow doesn’t for a lot of people), and predictably, I suppose, he couldn’t resist reacting to the early results of Major League Baseball’s “Franchise Four” promotion, in which fans vote (until mid-May) for “the most impactful players who best represent each Major League franchise” as well as some other categories, including “Four Greatest Living Players.” The early results have Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver leading in the “Greatest Living Players” category, so Craig snarked that this is sad, because “it must mean Barry Bonds has died in a tragic cycling and/or Google Glass accident and no one thought to tell me.”

No, Craig, this is what someone failed to tell you: cheaters in any profession are not “great” by definition. Great baseball players, like great lawyers, writers, doctors, scientists and Presidents, bring honor on their profession, don’t corrupt everyone around them, don’t force people who admire them to embrace unethical conduct and turn them into aiders and abetters, and accomplish their great achievements while obeying the law, following the rules, and serving as role models for everyone who follows them. Barry Bonds was not a great baseball player. He had the ability to be one, but not the character.

Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver never once disgraced their game while they wore a uniform, and indeed made baseball stronger and better while they played. Good choices all.

The disgrace is that San Francisco fans voted Bonds as one of that team’s “Franchise Four,”  dishonoring great Giants of the past like Juan Marichal, as well as New York Giants greats like Christy Mathewson, Bill Terry, Carl Hubbell, and Mel Ott, Hall of Famers  and lifetime Giants who played with honesty and sportsmanship. But Giants fans warped values are among the casualties of Bonds’ career…and one more reason he can’t be rated anything but a great villain.

Comment of the Day: “From ‘Psychology Today’: How To Be A Better Liar—And A Negligent Endorsement Of Deceit”

Every adult a lawyer: the politician's worst nightmare!

Every adult a lawyer: the politician’s worst nightmare!

The second Comment of the Day comes from Australia, as zoebrain flags an excellent example of deceit at work, in her comment to my post about the dangerous tendency to regard deceits as less unethical than straightforward lying, and yes, that’s quite an oxymoron.

One of the many points of contention between me and the lawscam crowd is that many of the aggrieved out-of-work and under-employed lawyers only obtained their law degrees as a means to achieve what they believed were guaranteed riches, and thus feel cheated that the current economic mess has shown that to be a false assumption. I, in contrast, assert that a law degree pays for itself over a lifetime regardless of whether or not it leads to well-compensated employment as a lawyer, and one of the reasons is that legal training inoculates you against the deceit of others. If nothing else, law students learn to pay attention to what words really mean, making it much harder for masters of deceit to fool them with carefully chosen weasel words. A nation of citizens trained in the law would not so easily fall victim to the deceit of politicians, those who peddle bad loans and investments, weight loss scams (“results not typical!”) and the predations of other con-artists….including, sadly, other lawyers.

Here is zoebrain’s Comment of the Day on the weekend’s post, “From ‘Psychology Today’: How To Be A Better Liar—And A Negligent Endorsement Of Deceit”:

“Here’s an example for you: testimony in an Australian Senate inquiry on same-sex marriage”:

Senator Pratt: But what if someone is of indeterminate gender? I am unclear whether they should have the right, according to the way you would argue it, to be part of such a union.

Mr Meney : People suffering from Turner syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome and things of that ilk are typically infertile or regarded as being mentally handicapped in some way. Many things about marriage require people to have the capacity to consent to what marriage is all about, so a significant mental incapacity might be something that might mitigate against a person being able to consent to a contract of marriage. But that is true of any marriage.

Every word true, as befits testimony from the Director of the Life, Marriage & Family Centre, Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.

“Although they are not mentally retarded, most XXY males have some degree of language impairment. As children, they often learn to speak much later than do other children and may have difficulty learning to read and write.”

——Understanding Klinefelter Syndrome — National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

“Mental retardation is not a feature of Turner syndrome, despite such claims in older medical textbooks. Thorough psychological studies show that these women are normal intellectually, but often have a characteristic pattern of intellectual functioning. While their verbal 10 usually is average or above, their non-verbal IQ may be considerably lower because of problems visualizing objects in relation to each other. This difficulty may show up in poor performance in math, geometry, and tasks requiring manual dexterity or sense of direction.”

—–Turner Syndrome — Human Growth Foundation.

He didn’t lie: it’s true that “People suffering from Turner syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome and things of that ilk are typically … regarded as being mentally handicapped in some way.” They’re not, of course, as he well knows, but that’s not what he said, is it?

That was his defense when the Organisation Intersex International took him to task for this. He didn’t actually lie. As a good Catholic, he wouldn’t do that – it would be a sin.

______________________________

Graphic: Financial Post

From “Psychology Today”: How To Be A Better Liar—And A Negligent Endorsement Of Deceit

Tommy Flanagan

“Psychology Today” has tips for Tommy Flanagan and the other aspiring liars out there.

Jeff Wise provides what he calls “The Ten Secrets of Effective Liars” on the “Psychology Today” website. I have some problems with his list, among them that despite his protestations to the contrary, it sure reads more like a handy-dandy self-help list for the George Costanzas, Tommy Flanagans and Bill Clintons among us.

My main objection, though, is to his #3 on the list, #3 Tell the truth, misleadingly. He correctly points out that a statement that is technically true will often be the most effective way of misleading others, but writes, “Technically, it’s only a prevarication – about half a sin.” I don’t know or care about how it ranks on the sin scale, but he is describing deceit, and deceit is a lie, period, no question about it. Wise is passing on a misconception himself, one that allows the most effective and destructive liars among us deceive routinely and then rationalize that they “really weren’t lying.” Spreading this common, popular and useful—to liars—myth does more damage than any of the supposedly beneficial results of his list could make up for.

Among the sinister results of promoting deceit as only half a lie, and therefore twice as forgivable as a “real” lie, is that it gives deceit masters (like Clinton) an effective excuse when they are caught. “Oh! Oh, I’m sorry! When I said ‘I didn’t have sex with that woman,” you thought I meant that I didn’t use my superior power and influence to persuade my young female intern to give me a hummer! I should have been clearer!” Right. Thus the liar switches the real blame onto the listener who was originally deceived. If that listener likes the liar and was inclined to trust him (or her), the rationalization that it was all a big misunderstanding will often be enough to allow the party deceived to keep trusting the liar…and be set up to be deceived again. Continue reading

Most Unethical TV Series Episode of the Year: “C.S.I.” (Premiere)

In next week’s episode, D.B. dreams that he owns a bar in Boston….

I like “C.S.I.”, especially since Ted Danson took over the show as family man D.B. Russell. I won’t be watching the show for long, however, if it continues to cheat its audience as it did tonight, in the much heralded premiere to the new season.

The plot involved the kidnapping of Russell’s granddaughter in an extortion plot engineered by an imprisoned Vegas mobster. In fact, there wasn’t much to the story: they tracked down the little girl, and she was alive. The show was padded out by an obnoxious and unprecedented gimmick for “C.S.I”, showing scenes of great tragedy, violence or drama that turned out to be nothing but dark forebodings in Ted Danson’s stressed-out head. We see him viewing the body of his daughter in the coroner’s lab; she has a bullet hole in her temple. Surprise! It’s not really happening! Ted is just dreading it, because he’s so worried. D.B. gets a gun, goes in to a holding cell to talk to the mobster, loses his cool and shoots him dead. Oops! That didn’t happen either! D.B. is just thinking about how much he’d like to do that, you see. After the child is found unharmed, after real events that would have taken up about a 30 minute episode, D.B./Danson comes home to find his beloved wife leaving him! Oh, no, not that! D.B. loves his…Dang! They got me again!  That was just another day dream! Continue reading

The Prince, The Sex Offender, and the Ethics of Friendship

Prince Andrew with one of his friend's victims in 2001

The ethics of friendship is complicated.

President Bush claimed to be friends with Vladimir Putin. F.D.R. once said that Josef Stalin was his friend. President Obama was famously friendly with dubious characters like Rev. Wright and William Ayres.

History is full of heroes and near-heroes who had infamous friends, though the extent of the often friendship is difficult to know. Sammy Davis, Jr. and Elvis were supposedly buddies with Richard Nixon. Bill and Hillary Clinton were close friends with Dick Morris. Wyatt Earp was a life-long friend of “Doc” Holliday; Andrew Jackson may have been friends with pirate Jean Lafitte, who helped him win the Battle of New Orleans. We simultaneously celebrate loyal friends, and yet we also judge people by the company they keep. Should we condemn individuals who have friends with serious character flaws or a history of unsavory acts? Or should we admire them for sticking with their friends when everyone else is turning against them? Continue reading