Ethics Dunce: “The Big Hurt,” Frank Thomas [UPDATED]

An ethics whiff for Frank Thomas

An ethics whiff for Frank Thomas

Baseball, and all its annual ethics puzzles, begins in about two weeks when Spring Training gets underway.  Meanwhile, I have to tolerate everyone talking about Tom Brady and the Cheating Patriots as the NFL makes billions encouraging  Americans to cheer for the gradual lobotomizing of young athletes for their pigskin entertainment. Still, even the off-season of America’s Pastime provides ethics fodder.

Frank Thomas, the 6’6″ 300 pound ex-first baseman, never was suspected of using steroids before he was elected to the  Hall of Fame, in part because he was naturally so huge and strong that if he had used steroids he would have ended up battling Godzilla in Tokyo. “The Big Hurt,” as he was called, was and is an outspoken opponent of steroid use in baseball, but speaking at  the annual White Sox fan convention last week, he proved that he is an ethics bush-leaguer.

The recent Hall of Fame vote  elected two players, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez, long rumored to be users of performance enhancing drugs, and the vote totals showed  increased support for uber-steroid cheat Barry Bonds and accused steroid-user Roger Clemens. The New York Post reported that Thomas said, without mentioning names, after he was asked how he felt about the election results, Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The 2017 Hall Of Fame Vote

815-baseball-hall-of-fame-c

Baseball’s Hall of Fame votes were announced yesterday, and is often the case, the ethical issues raised were as interesting as the choices. The Baseball Writers Association Of America chooses who is to be enshrined; successful candidates must be on 75% of all ballots submitted, and have ten years of edibility after the initial 5 year waiting period expires.

Here were the vote totals of the players receiving significant support; the years each player has been on the ballot is the last number.

Jeff Bagwell 381 (86.2%)  (7)

Tim Raines 380 (86.0%) (10)

Ivan Rodriguez 336 (76.0%) (1)

Trevor Hoffman 327 (74.0%) (2)

Vladimir Guerrero 317 (71.7%) (1)

Edgar Martinez 259 (58.6%) (8)

Roger Clemens 239 (54.1%) (5)

Barry Bonds 238 (53.8%) (5)

Mike Mussina 229 (51.8%) (4)

Curt Schilling 199 (45.0%) (5)

Manny Ramirez 105 (23.8%) (1)

Bagwell, Raines and Rodriguez were elected. Hoffman, the all-time leader in relief pitcher saves, just missed, and will almost certainly get into the Hall next year.

Ethics Observations:

1. More than anything, it is discouraging to see Barry Bonds crossing the 50% threshold. Bonds cheated, took the integrity out of some of baseball’s most important records, has lied about it to this day, and corrupted the game. Of course he is disqualified by the character requirements for entrance to the Hall. Bond’s vote total rise is attributed to several factors, including the old, unethical rationalizations we have been reading in defense of Bonds since he was playing. The latest excuses include the influx of younger voters who never saw Bonds nor witnessed the grotesquely inflated mutant he turned himself into, more voters throwing up their hands in frustration over the problem of sifting through so many players whose PED use is rumored, likely, or insufficiently proven, and voters who find the Hall’s recent election of former commissioner Bud Selig hypocritical, since he contrived ignorance to allow Bonds and others break the rules as long as possible. None of those excuses and rationalizations justify a single vote for Bonds.

2. Ivan Rodriquez‘s election also probably helped Bonds. He was one of the greatest catchers of all time, quite possibly the greatest defensive catcher, but in Jose Canseco’s first baseball and steroid tell-all book, “Juiced,” the steroidal slugger wrote of personally injecting I-Rod with the stuff while they were Texas Rangers. The catcher never tested positive in a drug test, but Canseco’s accusation was credible, especially after Rodriquez magically gained about 25 pound of muscle and started hitting home runs. Unlike Bonds, however, the evidence against him was slim.  Jose, for example, is one of the great slime-balls in sports history. He may not be a liar, but since he admittedly wrote hisbook out of spite, he might be.

3. Ivan, in turn, was helped by the election of Jeff Bagwell. No player ever pinned steroid use on him, but Bagwell was judged a steroid-user by many because he became so muscular after starting out as a normally-built third baseman. Bagwell lifted weighs like a fiend, and clearly had a Hall of Fame level career, so keeping him out purely on suspicion seemed unfair, and was. His election slipped down the slope to boost Rodriquez, though, which in turn allowed some writers to rationalize voting for Bonds (and Roger Clemens, not as clearly guilty as Bonds, more seriously implicated than Rodriguez). Continue reading

Here’s The Ethics Lesson From The Hall Of Fame Voting Results Tomorrow…

HOF

And that lesson is: sportswriters have no clue when it comes to ethical analysis, or any other kind of analysis, really.

Tomorrow the results of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame voting will be announced, and those former stars receiving at least 75% of the vote will be officially enshrined as immortals. Every year before the steroid era, the voting was preceded by weird arguments that made no sense, like the one about whether a former player should be a “first time electee.” Some writers would concede that a given player was great enough for the Hall, but not vote for him because “he wasn’t good enough to get in on the first ballot.” This was, and is, ridiculous, and unfair. The question is, “Was this player great enough to deserve enshrinement, when the standards are unchanging?” It’s a yes or no question. “Maybe next year” is not a valid answer.

Thus I suppose that it should be no surprise that these same clods, faced with some really difficult ethical lines to draw in the wake of the so-called steroid era, show themselves to be not merely dunces, but ethics dunces as well. I just heard a sportswriter, Marty Noble, tell a baseball talk show that he won’t vote for any player about whom there is any question whatsoever regarding whether he cheated with steroids, including doubts based on rumors, whispering campaigns, looks, suspicions and drug tests. But he still voted for some players, he says. Well, that’s just wrong, by his own standards—he can’t be 100% sure about anyone. He also said that while he can vote for up to ten players, and agreed that there are more than ten players this year who have strong Hall credentials, he’s only voting for three. Why? Because, he says, the induction ceremony is too long.

Yes, he’s an idiot. Continue reading

Ethics Heroes: The Baseball Writers Association of America

Nope.

Nope.

In the Baseball Hall of Fame balloting announced today, those who elect baseball’s greats to its shrine of heroes failed to give anyone the requisite 75% ballots required for election. That’s too bad: Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Mike Piazza are deserving candidates.

The writers also did not elect unrepentant cheater, record thief and game-corrupter Barry Bonds, however, who was on only 36.2% of the ballots, slightly less than suspected steroid cheat Roger Clemens (37.6).

Good.

Hall of Fame Ethics: The Jeff Bagwell Dilemma

Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America have been turning in their ballots for the Hall of Fame, their collective totals eventually determining which retired major league baseball stars will have plaques in Cooperstown. If you follow baseball closely, you are aware of the big debates this year: Is Tim Raines worthy? Will Bert Blyleven finally make it? Has Alan Trammel been unfairly neglected? What about Jack Morris and Roberto Alomar? If you don’t follow baseball, you couldn’t care less, and I pity you. One controversy this year, however, should be of interest to non-fans as well as fans, because it involves the proper application of the ethical principles of fairness and equity in an environment of doubt. It is the Jeff Bagwell dilemma. Continue reading