Baseball Ethics: Revealed At Last! Extraordinary Cheating By The 1975 California Angels

Dick Williams, cheat...but a successful and creative cheat, you have to admit.

Dick Williams, cheat…but a successful and creative cheat, you have to admit.

Yesterday on the New England Sports Network broadcast of the Red Sox-Yankees game, Sox color man Jerry Remy was discussing how some teams doctor their home fields for tactical advantages. The Yankee Stadium infield grass, for example, is kept long, slowing down ground balls so the infielders have a better chance of getting to them before they scoot into the outfield for hits. The current Yankees team hitting, such as it is, tends to be fly ball oriented. Jerry expounded on how teams that bunted a lot would sometimes have groundskeepers slant the dirt around the foul lines toward fair territory. “In 1975, when I played for the Angels,” he said, “our home baselines were like gutters. A bunted ball almost couldn’t roll foul.” Such customization is considered fair gamesmanship, because the rules don’t specify ground conditions in sufficient detail.

Then Remy revealed an example of  baseball cheating in the extreme. Also n 1975, Remy said, during his rookie year with the California Angels, manager Dick Williams realized that speed on the bases was one of his few assets on a weak roster. (The ’75 Angels would finish  last in the AL West with a 72-89 record) Remy, Tommy Harper, Mickey Rivers and Dave Collins were all accomplished base-stealers, so Williams had groundskeepers move second base six inches closer to first base, thus shortening the distance a base-runner attempting to steal second would have to cover.

“It was that way all year,” Remy said. “Nobody ever noticed.” Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Boston Red Sox Players

owens pole

Yesterday, while watching the Boston Red Sox game on NESN as I always do EVEN WHEN THE TEAM STINKS, like this year, because no summer soldier I, team broadcasters Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy pointed out that Sox rookie Henry Owens was watching the game while being taped to a pole, with his mouth taped shut as well.

This is old-fashioned baseball rookie hazing, as Remy explained (also opining that he thought it was stupid when he played and is stupid now). The theory is that this makes rookies part of the team, builds cohesion and spirit, and yada yada yada, all the same phony rationalizations that jerks have used to excuse hazing cruelty and sadism in fraternities, the military, cults and sports teams for eons. The Owens stunt was relatively mild (and mercifully short), but the practice of hazing is still institutionalized bullying, uncivilized, and, as Remy said, stupid.

Sports team players are home town heroes, and role models too. How many kids will be humiliated, tortured, injured or even killed because the Boston Red Sox thought it was funny to immobilize a 6’6″ rookie pitcher by taping him to a pole on live TV, thus teaching him that no matter how  good he may be at pitching (and Owens is going to be really good), he’s at the bottom of the pecking order until he “earns” decent treatment and respect. “In my experience, the guys who really liked hazing the rookies were the players who couldn’t play,” noted Jerry, a Sox regular in the Eighties.  They were sadistic bullies, in other words, making up for their own inadequacies by abusing others.

You can say that Owens consented, and that’s like arguing that Monica consented when the President of the United States wanted her to emulate a Bourbon Street hooker. Owens could refuse, and be regarded as a bad team mate, leading to a year or more of cut shoelaces, shredded uniforms, insulting messages on his locker and worse “jokes.” Or he could quit baseball and sell Slurpees rather than make a gazillion dollars. He had to submit, and had to smile about it.

So he did.

Even baseball players need to be better at ethics chess than this, and calculate the likely consequences of their conduct. Hazing is unethical, and glamorizing, modeling and trivializing it on TV is irresponsible.

And stupid.

Jerry and Jared Remy, Parental Accountability, Hindsight Bias, and The Bad Seed

This is a tragic local story with vast ethics significance.

Father and son.

Father and son.

Long-time Boston Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, a native Bostonian and former player who has been a vivid part of the Boston sports scene since 1977, was stunned by tragedy last summer when his oldest son, Jared, 35, allegedly murdered his girlfriend by stabbing her to death as their  ive-year-old daughter looked on. Prior to the incident, most New Englanders were unaware of Jared Remy’s problems, but his ugly past soon found its way into the newspapers.

A recent Boston Globe investigative report appeared to be the saga of a “bad seed” right out of a horror movie, for Jared Remy, son the popular, affable Jerry, had been arrested, and released, 19 times, for an assortment of alleged crimes, many of them violent. They included battering and threatening a high school girlfriend; pushing a pregnant girlfriend out of a moving car; texting death threats to her, and attempting to beat her up; threatening to kill yet another girlfriend;  terrorizing a fourth sufficiently that police were called to their apartment eight times; and involvement in steroid peddling and abuse. The Globe also obtained the testimony of a woman who alleges that Jared joined her in brutally beating a high school boy, causing him permanent brain injuries.

The Globe story (and others) raised the question of how and why the Massachusetts justice system kept releasing Jared. It is a valid question, not peculiar to his case, unfortunately. Many have speculated that Jared’s  status as the son of popular Boston sports figure played a part in getting him extraordinary leniency, but as Remy’s lawyer pointed out, several of the incidents also involved complainants and alleged victims who refused to testify or withdrew their complaints. In the realm of domestic abuse, evidently Jared Remy’s specialty, this is too common. The Globe writer, Eric Moskowitz, also insinuated that the Remys went too far in supporting their disturbed, violent and troubled son, who had learning disabilities and other clinical behavioral problems. They apparently paid for psychiatric treatment, counseling and legal fees, and helped with his rent and other expenses, though the extent of this has not been confirmed by the Remys, the only ones who could be authoritative on the topic. The rest is hearsay.

Jerry Remy, who has battled depression his whole adult life, withdrew from his role as color commentator after his son’s arrest, missing the Red Sox championship run. Outside of a brief statement condemning his son’s actions and expressing condolences to the parents of the victim, Jennifer Martel, Remy was silent until announcing this Spring that he would try returning to the broadcast booth for the upcoming season. Then, as Spring Training for the Red Sox ran down and Remy seemed, outwardly at least, capable as ever of being an affable presence with whom to watch the home team’s exploits,  the Globe story appeared. The revelations about Jared unleashed an unexpected (by me, at least) backlash against his father, and Bostonians in droves bombarded the sports radio talk shows, blogs and news media websites with the opinion that Remy should step down as Red Sox color man for cable broadcasts. How they reached this ethically indefensible position is instructive regarding how inept and unskilled most people are in day-to-day ethical analysis, how emotion becomes a substitute for objectivity and logic,  how hindsight bias makes experts and judges out of individuals with the credentials of neither, and also how ignorant most of the public is about the ethical obligations and duties of the legal profession.

Here are the reasons being cited for why Jerry Remy should give up his career:

Continue reading