From The Ethics Alarms “Butt Out!” Files: Now Members Of Congress Are Telling The Hall Of Fame Who To Enshrine

Yesterday,  U.S. Rep. David Trone Trone (D-Md.) and  Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) held a news conference calling  on the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame’s Golden Era Committee to nominate and elect former centerfielder Curt Flood when the committee meets in December. Trone said he was looking for something that both parties could agree on, and hit on this, which is, coincidentally, something neither party has any expertise about whatsoever.

“This really resonates across both sides of the aisle,” Trone said.  “Everybody in America, whether you’re Republican, Democrat, independent, white, black or brown, believes in the American dream and fairness and decency. Decency and fairness and justice. And we all believe in that at our core, in all parties, in all colors.’’

Trone says he polled colleagues in each party about supporting Flood “because Washington is such a broken community, nobody is doing stuff together. We ought to try where we can actually do something together to honor somebody who really paid a price. Curt Flood paid a pretty horrible price. He put everything on the line — his whole career, his whole life, he put it all out there on the line. It’s been really easy for people to come together and say, ‘You know what? We have to do something about this. Let’s do something decent for a change and speak to who America really is.”

Grandstanding. Race-pandering. Virtue -signaling. Abuse of position.

Also ignorant and stupid. Continue reading

The Phenom, The Agent And The Cubbies: 2015’s First Baseball Ethics Controversy

No, I don’t count Pete Rose.

Kris Bryant, whose day will come.

Kris Bryant, whose day will come.

The lesson of the Kris Bryant dispute is that sometimes the result that seems the least fair is also the right one. Bryant, in case you don’t follow baseball or do not live in Chicago, is the hot Chicago Cubs minor leaguer—what used to be called a “phenom” in the old days—who will not be playing third base for the Cubs when the season opens despite everyone’s agreement that he is not just ready for National League, but ready to star in it. Last week, the young man was assigned  to  the Cubs’ Triple-A Iowa farm team.  Cubs fans are upset. Sports pundits are outraged. Bryant’s agent is furious.

What’s going on here?

A lot.

The MLB  collective bargaining agreement, negotiated and signed by both baseball management and the players union, gives teams control over players for six years before a player can enter free agency and sell his talents to the highest bidder. Thus most young players earn a small percentage of their true market value initially, and, if they are good, hit the jackpot after that. (The average salary in Major League Baseball is $4 million a year). There is a catch, however—and an unavoidable loophole. A full season is defined as 172 days, though the season is 180 days. If a young player is left off the roster until there are fewer than 172 days remaining in the regular season, that season doesn’t count as one of the six years; a player can’t become a free agent mid-season six years later. Before the demise of the reserve system that bound a player to one team until the team released or traded him, there was no reason not to promote a promising minor league star to the big team the second it looked like he was ready. Now, there is a big reason: delaying those few games will give the team an extra year of control, since under the rule, 6 years and 171 games is still just six years. That means an extra year of the player at bargain compensation, and possibly an extra year of the player, since he can fly the coop once the clock has run.

This is not a new issue: players and agents have been complaining about teams doing this for years, but the rules allow it. Since the rules allow it, and since the monetary and competitive benefits of waiting those extra nine days can be huge, there is nothing unfair or unethical about a team taking advantage of the provision. Indeed, it would be irresponsible and a breach of management’s fiduciary duties not to save millions and ensure the extra year of a star’s services. What, then, has made Bryant’s case so contentious?

It’s the Cubs, that’s what. Continue reading

Ethical Quote of the Week: Angels Pitcher Jered Weaver

Is enough ever enough?

“How much more do you need? Could have got more, whatever. Who cares? If $85 million is not enough to take care of my family and generations to come, then I’m pretty stupid.”

—Los Angeles Angels pitching ace Jered Weaver,after signing a 5 year, $85 million contract to stay with Angels.

Weaver hardly signed for chicken feed, but his statement should be heeded by greedy athletes and corporate executives alike. After next year, he probably could have demanded another two or three million dollars a year or more from the highest bidder for his services, in exchange for leaving a team and a city where he is appreciated and comfortable, putting additional pressure on himself, and using funds that otherwise could pay the salaries of many lower paid club workers who might end up with no jobs at all. Continue reading

Update: Derek Jeter Is Now A Full-Fledged Ethics Dunce

In an earlier post, I noted that Yankee legend Derek Jeter could do the right thing and accept the New York Yankee’s generous offer to pay him about twice what he’s worth, or become an Ethics Dunce (qualifications: greed, ingratitude, selfishness, unfairness, abuse of power ) by trying to extort the team for millions of dollars he neither needs nor deserves.

He has chosen the latter. Sorry, Yankee fans. Derek’s a Dunce after all.

I really thought he was better than this.

One Word Removed From Ethics Dunce-hood: Yankee Shortstop Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter is not an Ethics Dunce yet, and all those who admire the career of the great Yankee shortstop—even grudging Red Sox fans like myself–have to hope and wish that he does nor become on. He is perilously close, however—one word away, in fact. The word is “no,” and if he utters it in response to the reported contract being offered to him by the New York Yankees, it is time to replace his NY cap with a tall, pointy one. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: San Diego Padres First Baseman Adrian Gonzalez

“In essence, if I take what you call a San Diego discount then I’m affecting their market. I’m affecting what they are going to make. It’s a lot like real estate. That’s the reason why. The way the game of baseball is set up, we have to protect each other. We have to do what’s best for each other.”

—-San Diego Padres superstar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, explaining to an interviewer why he would sign with the highest bidder when he becomes a free agent next season, rather than stay in San Diego, his home, for a lesser salary.

If you don’t follow baseball, you might not know who Adrian Gonzalez is. He is a phenomenal young (28) superstar who has yet to earn the mega-millions that his skill would demand on the open market, because he has yet to fulfill his obligation to the team that brought him to the majors, the San Diego Padres. His time is coming, however: he will be a free agent after the 2011 season. The Padres, a small market franchise without a spendthrift owner, can’t and won’t pay as much to keep their best player as large market predators like the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels or Phillies will pay to acquire him. Gonzalez will be able to demand in the vicinity of 20 million dollars a year from these teams. The only hope the Padres have would be if Gonzalez, a longtime resident of San Diego and active in the community there, will accept less money to stay where he has roots, what is referred to as a “home town discount.” Continue reading