Ethics Quiz: The Aborted No-Hitter

Friday night, Miami pitcher Adam Conley  was pitching a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers with two outs in the eighth inning, meaning that he was just four outs away. A no-hitter—no hits, no runs, for an entire game—places a pitcher name in the  Hall of Fame. It makes him an instant part of sports history. In today’s hyper-celebrity culture, it means interviews and endorsements.

Moreover, the Marlins needed something to make their fans feel better. Dee Gordon, the team’s star second baseman, had just tested positive for steroids and was suspended for 80 games. Nonetheless, Marlins manager Don Mattingly lifted Conley because he had exceeded his pitch count. Though baseball paid little attention to the statistic for 70 years, today teams carefully monitor how many pitches a hurler throws, both to anticipate ineffectiveness, and to guard against injury.

In Conley’s case, he had never thrown more than a hundred pitches in a game, and had topped out at 116. To Mattingly and Marlins pitching coach Juan Nieves, that meant that even on the verge of immortality, Conley had to be removed. Conley was angry, though he said all the right things after the game. Still, knowing the alleged risk to his arm and career, he wanted to try to finish his masterpiece. (The Marlins blew the no-hitter and the shutout in the 9th, though still managed to win 5-3.)

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Was removing Conley “for his own good” when he wanted to have the chance at a no-hitter fair?

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Ethics Dunce: Miami Marlins Manager Don Mattingly

stabbed-in-the-back

When new Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly chose Barry Bonds as his batting coach, it was considered a bold move. Bonds, after all, is simultaneously baseball’s all-time home run champion, holding both the single season and career records, and its biggest cheat, having achieved both records while being secretly, illegally and unethically assisted by steroids. In addition to knowing how to cheat, Bonds undeniably knows how to hit (he was a great hitter before he decided to mutate himself), so this was a chance at redemption for Barry, as well as an opportunity to soften some of the sports media antipathy toward his conduct and character which has so far kept him out of the MLB Hall of Fame.

Asked this week how Barry Bonds was doing as batting coach, Mattingly replied,

“Him getting used to the coaching part of it is a work in progress from a standpoint of the amount of time and the preparation. You see [assistant hitting coach Frankie Menichino] still doing a lot of the prep work. Barry is still getting into the routine of the ugly side of coaching — being here at 1, and studying video, and studying on the plane and you don’t get a chance to watch movies, and things like that. It just depends how good you want to be as a coach. If you want to be a really good coach, you’ve got to do the work.”

Translation: “So far, Barry’s been lazy and isn’t doing his job. His assistant is doing it for him. The job requires a lot of hard, tedious work, and Barry hasn’t shown that he’s willing to do it. At this point, he not a good coach.”

Ethics foul. Mattingly was a fool to hire Bonds, and MLB is wrong to let this sport-wide ethics corrupter set foot in a clubhouse. Bonds is a living, breathing advertisement for the proposition that cheating pays, and should not be trusted not to promote that proposition to young players. Having hired Bonds, however, Mattingly still is obligated to treat him fairly and professionally.

It is not fair and professional to make a negative job review public by communicating it to the news media. Mattingly gave a critique of Bonds’ performance that should have passed from him to Bonds, and only from him to Bonds, in private. Attacking Bonds—and it was an attack, if a passive aggressive one—in the press is unfair, irresponsible, disrespectful, a betrayal of trust, and also cowardly.

Mattingly’s job is called “manager,” and this is atrocious, unethical management. He owes Bonds an apology, and if I were Marlins management, I would be thinking very hard about whether Don Mattingly is qualified for his job.