Baseball May Be Missing, But Baseball Ethics Marches On; The MLB Verdict On The Boston Red Sox Sign Stealing Allegations

If you are just joining us, the Houston Astros (if you don’t know that’s a baseball team, then none of this will make sense to you, and neither does the United States in all likelihood) were slammed by Major League Baseball after it was determined that the team, primarily through the efforts of then-coach Alex Cora and veteran player Carlos Beltran, systematically utilized cameras at home games to steal catchers’ signs to opposing pitchers and relay them to Astros batters during their at-bats. This, the investigation found, continued through the 2017 season, post-season and World Series, which the Astros won. (Ethics Alarms covered the cheating scandal from many aspects, here.) The punishment meted out to the Astros was substantial, though not as severe as some, including me, would have liked. I think the team should have been stripped of their 2017 World Championship.

Shortly after the Astros scandal was first revealed by the baseball news media, the next year’s World Champions, the Boston Red Sox, were accused of another sign stealing scheme during 2018, one that involved using the team’s video replay equipment, which is near the dugout during games, to study the opposing team’s signs and relay them to batters. This seemed especially ominous since the bench coach  who had been identified as the mastermind behind the Astros scheme in 2017 was the manager of the Red Sox in 2018, and had led them to a record-setting World Series run.

MLB interviewed Red Sox players and management in a mysteriously long investigation, and only yesterday revealed the results and the sanctions. Boston’s video replay system operator J.T. Watkins was suspended without pay for one year, and banned from holding that same position with any team. Boston was stripped of the  its second-round draft pick in the2020  amateur.  Alex Cora, who was fired by the Red Sox in January after the revelations from the Astros investigation,  was suspended for this year, but only for his Astros conduct in 2017. The investigation exonerated him of any role in the Sox matter, which MLB found to be confined to Watkins acting on his own intermittently, and a few players. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Hymnal, 2/23/2020: Bernie Freakouts, And Other Amusing And Unsettling Ethics Phenomenon

It’s a glorious Sunday in Alexandria!

I hope you have the same good fortune wherever you are…

1. What a fun season the Astros are facing...Yesterday, in their first Spring Training game, the Houston Astros were booed by their own “home” fans in West Palm Beach, Florida. They will have an overhwelming amount of pressure on them this year in addition to being  pariahs in every ballpark in te American League. If they don’t win their division again, or approach the 100+ wins the team has amassed ever season since 2017,  the narrative will be that tis proves that it was the team’s cheating, not its superior talent, that had made them champions. Of course that will be a false conclusion, since there are many factors that could diminish the Astros in 2020, such as the loss of their best pitcher, Gerrit Cole, to free agency.

There were other ethically dubious moves by the Astros yesterday. Although teams are required by an MLB directive to include at least some team regulars in Spring Training games, since spectators are paying substantial amounts to attend, manager Dusty Baker had only minor leaguers in the line-up, apparently wanting to delay and minimize the fan abuse heaped on his team. Thus a line-up of players who had absolutly nothing to do with the sign-stealing that marred the Astros’ 2017 season and World Series victory absorbed the anger of the fans intended for the no-shows.

Meanwhile, ball park personnel confiscated signs brought by some fans to express their disapproval. The signs weren’t obscene or vulgar, just critical, like “Houston” with an asterisk,  implying that the Astros’ 2017 World Series title would be forever blemished by the team’s cheating. That sign is telling the undeniable truth.

Can’t have that.

2. Now here’s an old tradition that does not need to be revived...

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/18/2020: ARRRGH!!!

Grrrr…

Well, that’s my reward for setting the all-time ethics Alarms record for posts yesterday (8): I wake up to find my desk top won’t connect to the internet, sending me into Verizon Customer Service Hell. Then the tech puts me in safe mode, where I can connect to WiFi, but my password stops working, and I can’t get out of safe mode. I’m doing this post on my laptop, or as it affectionately known on Ethics Alarms, the Typo Machine. Other asides:

  • The Get Well bouquet Other Bill sent my wounded wife on behalf of the blog’s commentariat after her fall finally withered after exactly three weeks. It brightened our home and her spirits, and we are very grateful.
  • We joke about Trump Derangement, but the phenomenon resembles an actual illness, unlike its predecessors, the Clinton, Bush and Obama Derangement Syndromes. What has changed is the news media, which feeds and magnifies the mob-mentality and blind hatred with its daily, sometimes hourly, click-bait outrage stories aimed at the President. The Deranged immediately post them to a throng of “likes,” spawning the usual insulting comments. Imagine, a daily game based on denigration of the President of the United States, played daily and gleefully by millions of Americans. It is not healthy, responsible, respectful, or fair.

1. Wow, the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal is  making people angrier as time goes on. MLB is taking measures to protect Astros players from retaliation from pitchers, as dark comments have been made about how the competition will inflict punishment on the cheating players even if Commissioner Rob Manfred has not. Yesterday, a poll participated in by thousands of baseball fans favored the Astros having to forfeit their 2017 World Championship by a three to one margin. (Please  recall that taking away the title was my recommendation when the scandal first broke.)

I also find it disturbing that while the Astros players and owner have been on an apology tour (though not a very effective one), deposed Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was identified by the MLB investigation as the mastermind behind the sign-stealing scheme, has said nothing–no confession, no apologies, no statements at all.

Another scandal related note: the MLB Network’s Brian Kenny expressed amazement at the difference between players angry reactions to the sign-stealing revelations and the way they closed ranks and largely refused to condemn the steroid cheats. “They say now that they weren’t playing on a level playing field with the Astros knowing what pitches were coming,” Kenny said. “Level playing field! What did they think was the situation when the batters were juicing?” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/17/2020: The Presidents Day Edition

Good morning, guys!

Thank-you for your service!

In honor of our Presidents, Ethics Alarms is  posting some of the best and most important Presidential speeches during the day. We’ll see how many I get up; there are a lot of excellent ones to choose from.

In all of these cases, whichever I post, a President was acting in one of the non-partisan functions of the office, when the President’s job is to represent all of our nation’s citizens. It is a disturbing fact that the current President has been virtually blocked from discharging these duties, as part off the long, relentless effort by the A.U.C.—the Axis Of Unethical Conduct: Democrats, the “resistance,” and the mainstream media—to deny his Presidency’s legitimacy and to reduce his support among the public to the point where it becomes politically feasible to remove him without an election.

The nation needs those non-partisan Presidential moments, because they symbolize unity and strengthen, rather than weaken, our bonds: throwing out the first pitch of the baseball season, attending the funerals of distinguished Americans, hosting the Kennedy Center Honors. It is not this President’s fault that he had been prevented from doing his job.

1. Why look! Here’s another example! Yesterday President Trump, having been invited to serve as grand marshal for the Daytona 500, uttered the traditional “Gentlemen, start your engines!” and boarded  his official limousine, nicknamed “The Beast”, and, with a U.S. and Presidential flag on the front fenders flapping in the wind, headed out onto the track, pacing the full field of cars.

The Horror. Tweeted Maggie Halberman, the usual co-author of New York Times front page features—inevitably negative– on the Trump administration,

Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Obama and Bush throwing out the baseball season’s ceremonial first pitches, Obama using his limo for a Jerry Seinfeld comedy bit, and prominently attending an NCAA basketball tournament game–all good! President Trump serving as grand marshal at a NASCAR event? Unacceptably political.

This is smoking gun bias from the journalist the Times uses to inform its readers about what this President does.

2. Now Trump’s stupid tweets, however, are another matter entirely.  Politico reports on what District Judge Reggie Walton, a Reagan appointee,  had  to say about President Trump’s gratuitous social media commentary on the McCabe investigation: Continue reading

The Astros Sign-Stealing Scandal, Continued And Continuing

Rather than abating, the fallout from the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal is getting more intense.

On Valentine’s Day, Los Angeles Dodger star Cody Bellinger, the reigning National League MVP, told reporters , “I thought [Baseball Commissioner Rob] Manfred’s punishment was weak, giving [the Astros players}  immunity. I mean these guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don’t realize is [Astros second baseman José ] Altuve stole an MVP from [Yankee rightfielder Aaron] Judge in ’17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.”

The Astros defeated the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series, stealing their signs while doing so, according to MLB’s investigation.

Astros star shortstop Carlos Correa returned fire: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/13/2020: I’m So Sorry I Missed Your Birthday, Mr. Lincoln.

I am awash with shame.

Yesterday was Abe Lincoln’s birthday, and I didn’t remember until late last night. This is the inevitable result of Presidents Day, the lazy combination of Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays into one floating holiday that lumps all our Presidents together as if they were equally laudable. (They are all laudable, but not equally.) Thus Franklin Pierce gets as much love from our calendar as Abe and George, which is ridiculous. ( President Pierce’s birthday I remember, because it’s the same date as my wedding anniversary, November 23.) In the old days before the blight of Presidents Day, school children would spend both February 12 and 22  learning about and doing projects related Lincoln or Washington. Without either of these great leaders, we probably don’t have a nation today, or if we do, it would be a vastly diminished one. Our first and Sixteenth Presidents tower over the rest in leadership ability, vision, and impact on our history and culture. Both deserve their own holiday, because every American should take at least a day out of every year to remember these two icons and honor their essential contributions, at great sacrifice, to the existence of the United States of America as well as the welfare of all of its citizens, past, present and future.

Today, most Americans couldn’t describe what Lincoln said at Gettysburg, and that’s not a recent phenomenon. In the classic movie “Ruggles of Red Gap,” a barroom full of Americans in a Western frontier town are unable to recall Lincoln’s message, but the very British butler, recently immigrated, can. Charles Laughton, who played the butler, continued to deliver Lincoln’s masterpiece throughout his career after that scene became the highlight of the movie. You can watch it here—I’d embed it, but there is no YouTube version.

1. Self promotion dept. I’ll be participating in a live podcast later today, discussing the ethical implications of nepotism. Details to come.

2. Still more developments in the Houston Astros cheating scandal. Earlier this morning I watched a live press conference from the Astros Spring Training camp about the sign stealing scheme. From a public relations standpoint, the spectacle made the Astros problems worse.

Stars  Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve spoke for a grand total of 90 seconds, sounding for all the world  like American prisoners of war in North Korea. Owner Jim Crane did most of the talking, which was unfortunate for the Astros and baseball. He  took no responsibility at all for what went on in 2017, though he was at the top of the organization chart: this is called the “Ken Lay excuse.” Worse, Crane repeatedly refused to acknowledge that using a secret camera to relay to the Astros dugout the opposing catchers’ signs telling pitchers what to throw, which were then relayed to  Astros batters by players banging on trash cans, constituted cheating. All Crane would say was “We broke the rules. We can argue about what you want to call it.”

Worse still, Crane said that it was impossible to say whether the team’s full year of sign stealing, including the playoffs and the World Series (which the Astros won), gave his team a competitive advantage. “Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t” he said. “Our opinion is this didn’t impact the game. We had a good team. We won the World Series and we’ll leave it at that.”

In later interviews with the players after the press conference, it sounded like everyone had been prepped to keep saying “2017” over and over, because there are lingering suspicions that the Astros scam extended into 2018 and 2019. As commentator Matt Vasgersian mused afterward on the MLB cable channel, if the Astros had won a championship cheating all the way through 2017 and hadn’t been caught, why would they suddenly stop the next season? Continue reading

Evening Ethics Reflections, 2/11/2020, While Waiting For Joe Biden To Go Down

Hi!

It looks like Joe Biden will end up fourth or worse in the New Hampshire primary, and if he does, it will all be over but for the shouting, or in Joe’s case, the blathering. This was pre-ordained from the second Joe entered the race: how anyone knowledgeable and paying minimal attention could see Joe was a shell of his former self, and his former self was never anything to get excited about in the first place. I have never believed that President Trump thought Biden was a threat to defeat him; if his determination to unravel the Biden’s influence peddling in the Ukraine had a personal component, it was that he just wanted to stick it to Joe and expose his hypocrisy. We will never know, I guess. But I assume trump knew he didn’t need to “cheat” to beat Biden.

It’s amusing and somehow fitting that Joe’s inexplicable “Lying dogfaced pony soldier” outburst is serving as a tipping point, with a lot of people suddenly smacking their heads “I could have had a V-8!” style and thinking, “Hey! This guy really is an idiot!” Yes, he really is. The fact that the bland Amy Klobuchar is surging as the new moderate (relatively) savior of the party shows just how bad Biden has been, and also just how unforgivably incompetent and unattractive a field the Democrats have offered America in 2020. On the hopeful side, at least Democratic voters have recognized Senator Warrren as the manipulative, untrustworthy demagogue she is. If a Massachusetts leftist Senator can’t beat Buttigieg and Sanders in New Hampshire, she’s not going to win anywhere.

All of this couldn’t happen to a more deserving party.

1. The President thinks Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. Of course he does. Our President has an unhealthy tolerance for liars and rogues. There has been a depressing outbreak of renewed sympathy for Rose, the game’s all-time hits leader who was banned from baseball for life after being proved guilty of betting on baseball games while a manager, betting on games his own team, the Reds, was playing, and lying about both over many years. The reason is the recent sign-stealing scandal, because, of course, one cheating scandal mitigates a completely different offense that didn’t have anything to do with cheating.

Naturally, there’s a tweet… Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/30/2020: The Almost All Bolton Edition

No, that’s not my Christmas tree, that’s John Bolton.

 Reluctantly Taking Down The Christmas Tree Day has finally arrived.

I’m sad. This was one of the Marshall’s loveliest trees ever; a neighbor said just yesterday that seeing it through our big living room window cheered her up every day. I always dread this, and not just because of the inevitable prickle wounds: the world seems a darker and more pessimistic place without a bit of Christmas in evidence. However, there’s no avoiding the chore: this tree is so dry I am taking down ornaments by snapping off the ends of branches by my fingers.

1. On Bolton. I suppose this qualifies as a sub ethics train wreck to the Trump Impeachment Ethics Train Wreck, which is itself a sub ethics train wreck to the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck…

  • Former Trump National security advisor John Bolton, a hawkish loose cannon who gets along with no one, was another example of a doomed appointment by the “We’ll appoint the best people” President. A  falling out and  acrimonious dismissal were so predictable, just as with Moochie, Bannon, Omarosa and other dubious personalities.

And, of course, the President is a dubious personality himself.

What a great witness!

  • Bolton, like Omarosa, wasted no time cashing in on his truncated White House experience, and wrote a book for Simon & Shuster scheduled to be released in March of 2020. This conduct alone is signature significance for an untrustworthy snake. Once, now long ago, no respectable member of a Cabinet or high official in an administration would write a tell-all book revealing incidents and words  learned in trust and confidence while that administration was still trying to govern, and many would refuse to reveal such information ever.

Though Bolton’s venal disloyalty has entered “Everybody does it” territory, it is still wrong, still unethical, and still the mark of a Judas. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/26/2020: A Legal Ethics Lesson From Ted Cruz, A Ridiculous Apology From Dallas Keuchel, Res Ipsa Loquitur From George Stephanopoulos, And The AUC’s Character Con

I need a little blood-stirring today, and my father’s favorite hymn always does the trick…

You know, character is my business, and my record is visible, public extensive and undeniable regarding the position that leaders, and especially U.S. Presidents, should have exemplary character—not just average character, but outstanding. It is exceedingly dangerous to our culture in the short and long term to have a leader whose ethical values are obviously lacking. I say obviously, because leadership is substantially symbolic as well as substantive: a President who has a seriously flawed character does minimal harm if he 1) knows how the govern and lead and 2) is skilled at playing a leader of exemplary character, despite sociopathic tendencies, or worse.

However, as importunate as character is, the evident lack of it is not justification for impeachment or removing a President between elections. The false, opposite claim is essentially the basis of the entire three year coup attempt by the Axis of Unethical Conduct (Democrats, the “resistance” and the news media). That is why so much of the “case for impeachment” are really ad hominem attacks on the President’s presumed motives, personality and alleged beliefs, none of which are remotely relevant to impeachment. It is the duty of educated experts not driven by bias, as well as the news media (which is now incapable of doing it’s job, which is informing rather than confusing the public) to explain that impeaching a President for having an objectionable character (according to his critics) is an incompetent, illegal and destructive act. Yet this—he’s a liar, he’s a racist, he’s an idiot, he’s a sexist, he’s corrupt, etc., etc, and so on-–is the guarantee default retort when anyone correctly points out to the Trump-Deranged that the Democrats and the resistance have no evidence of impeachable offenses at all. This is also why the polling shows so many people want the impeachment to succeed; not because they have a clue about the limitations on the the act of impeachment, but because they interpret the question as, “Don’t you wish we had a President who wasn’t such an asshole?”

Maureen Dowd, the Times whatsit columnists who is half political commentator and half-Joan Rivers, thoroughly disgraced herself yesterday by writing,

“You don’t realize how important character is in the highest office in the land until you don’t have it,” Schiff said. But the more impressive the Democrats’ case is, the more depressing the reality becomes. They want to convince themselves that character matters. But many Americans knew they were voting for a thug. They wanted a thug who would bust up Washington, and they got one.

The Democrats are relying on facts, but the Republicans are relying on Fox.

No, Maureen (are you a dolt or a brazen liar?), the Democrats are relying on facts that have nothing to do with impeachment. Character matters (although during the entire two terms of Bill Clinton  the Democrats argued it didn’t), but it doesn’t matter in an impeachment trial. Acts matter in an impeachment trial. The Constitution matters. Precedent matters. Our institutions matter.

It is the mark of how incompetent and irresponsible the President’s critics are than the impeachment debate is being argued at this base level of civic and ethics ignorance.

1. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias… Continue reading

Was Mike Fiers Right To Blow The Whistle On The Astros’ Sign-Stealing Scheme? Pedro Martinez Has A Nuanced Ethics Answer

Martinez (L) and Fiers (R)

Last week I posted about ESPN baseball color commentator Jessica Mendoza earning her Ethics Dunce stripes for essentially calling Mike Fiers, the Oakland A’s pitcher who revealed to reporters that his former team, the 2017 Astros, had cheated their way to a  World Series title, a snitch. She said in part,

“When I first heard about it, it hits you like any teammate would. It’s something that you don’t do. I totally get telling your future teammates, helping them win, letting people know. But to go public with it and call them out and start all of this, it’s hard to swallow.”

Now Hall of Fame great Pedro Martinez , intrepid as ever, has weighed in with a verdict on Fiers that counters the accepted narrative that Fiers is a role model. Pedro also faults Fiers, but not for the reason Mendoza does. Pedro Martinez, fascinatingly enough, evaluates the problem by regarding a baseball team member as having similar relationship to his team mates as a lawyer does to a client.

That is not as much of a stretch as it might seem at first glance. Professions like that of lawyers is based on trust, and so is the relationship between team mates in sports (as well as partners in police cars, members of  military units, a manager and a personal assistant, and other close working relationships). The analogy is useful and apt.

Pedro opined (in an interview with radio WEEI in Boston, which broadcasts Red Sox games):

“If he was to do it when he was playing for the Houston Astros I would say Mike Fiers has guts. But to go and do it after you leave the Houston Astros because they don’t have you anymore, that doesn’t show me anything…You’re just a bad teammate. …

Now everybody knows you are going to have a whistle-blower in any other situation too [if Fiers is on your team.]. Whatever happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse and Fiers broke the rules. I agree with cleaning up the game. I agree that the fact that the Commissioner is taking a hard hand on this….

BUT!

“If you have integrity you find ways to tell everybody in the clubhouse, ‘Hey, we might get in trouble for this. I don’t want to be part of this.’ You call your GM. You tell him. Or you call anybody you can or MLB or someone and say, ‘I don’t want to be part of this.’ Or you tell the team, ‘Get me out of here, I don’t want to be part of this.’ Then you show me something. But if you leave Houston and most likely you didn’t agree with Houston when you left and then you go and drop the entire team under the bus I don’t trust you. I won’t trust you because did have that rule.”

Continue reading