Law vs. Ethics In Baseball: The Great On-Deck Circle Controversy!

What’s going on here?

During last night’s Texas Rangers, in a crucial moment with the bases loaded, Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre, waiting for his turn at bat,  suddenly turned up within a few of yards of home plate, watching a pitcher he wasn’t familiar with to give Beltre an edge when he got to the plate. Baseball’s rules, however, require that the next batter remains in the on-deck circle provided, which is closer to the dugout and not behind home plate. Reasons for this include making sure that on-deck batters don’t interfere with play, can’t relay stolen signs to the batter, and aren’t killed by foul balls.

The home plate umpire called time and told Beltre to get back in the on-deck circle. Beltre then moved the on-deck circle to where he had been standing.

The umpire threw him out of the game, and rightfully so. Continue reading

Jacoby Ellsbury, Catcher’s Interference, And The Perplexing Ethics Problem Of “Using A Shield As A Sword”

interference

I led two legal ethics seminars for the Oregon State Bar yesterday. For some reason the issue of “using a shield as a sword ” kept coming up.

“Using a shield as a sword” is when lawyers game the ethics rules. Many local bar associations include a pledge within their creeds promising not to intentionally use the ethics rules as a tactical weapon; still, it’s not an enforceable promise. Examples are limited only by a lawyer’s devious ingenuity, but they usual involve one side creating a conflict of interest for the opposing firm or lawyer that will force the lawyer to withdraw from the case. One ploy: a lawyer recruits a key expert witness specifically because she was once a client of the the lawyer on the other side, making it impossible for her to be impeached on the witness stand by that lawyer because he would have confidential information about her that he would be bound to keep secret, even while being required to represent his current client by ripping her credibility to shreds.

What does this have to do with Yankee centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury? Well, Ellsbury is in the process of shattering an obscure baseball record: number of times reached base on catcher’s interference during a season. Catcher’s interference refers to instances in which a catcher makes any contact with a batter or his bat during a pitch. Usually, this involves the batter’s bat hitting the catcher’s glove, as in the photo above. When that happens, a player is awarded first base. The rule is based on fairness and  designed to protect the batter, but apparently Ellsbury has perfected the weird practice of using it as an offensive weapon.

Jacoby Ellsbury became the single-season record holder in catcher’s interference calls  in July with his ninth instance  getting rewarded for it. The record was formerly held by Roberto Kelly, who did this eight times in 1992.  Since breaking the record, Ellsbury has gotten catcher’s interference called three more times, for a current total of 11 with almost a month  left to the season. He is also second all-time in catcher’s interference with 23. The career record belongs to Pete Rose with 29; since Rose is baseball’s all-time leader in games played and career at bats, we would expect him to hold this record. No one else in baseball history has more than 18. Ellsbury is only five catcher’s interferences shy of Rose’s mark, and has done it in less than a third of the at bats. Continue reading

Baseball Season Opener Special: The Little League Baseball Ethics Challenge

The Bad News Bears never had to face a problem like THIS...

The baseball season began March 31, with most teams, including my beloved Boston Red Sox, starting play on April 1. To salute this landmark, which annually signifies the date on which my mood changes from irritable to gay, I am presenting my favorite baseball related ethics post, from 2005. It is still a story with many difficult ethical dilemmas, one that explores the proper application of rules,  ethics, sportsmanship, the importance of winning, balancing the welfare of a team with the needs of the individual, and more. Here is “the Little League Baseball Ethics Challenge.”

Play Ball! Continue reading