Ethics Dunces: The New York Yankees

Yankees

Ah, thaaat’s better: the old, values-free, win-at-any-price New York Yankees we’ve grown to know and hate.

The Yankees today announced the acquisition of left-hander Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for four minor league prospects of no great note. Chapman is arguably the most dominating late inning closer in baseball, as well as its hardest throwing pitcher: the left-hander averaged  99.5 mph on his fastball last season, and threw more balls in excess of 100 mph than all other major league pitchers combined. So why were the Yankees able to acquire him so cheaply?

Well, it’s because Chapman was regarded as virtually untradable due to his being investigated  by MLB for choking his girlfriend, and this was not the first instance where he was involved in alleged domestic violence.  The Dodgers had a trade for Chapman in place earlier this month, but pulled out when the team learned the details of the choking incident. (As usual, the girlfriend refused to press charges, and is gambling that she’ll end up rich rather than dead.) Most believe that Major League Baseball will suspend Chapman for up to 40 games under its new domestic violence policies.

Hey, but after that little hiccup, Yankee fans, the Pinstripes will have three beasts in the bullpen to close out games, with the three highest strikeout percentages in all of baseball from 2014-15 in Chapman (46.3 percent), Andrew Miller (41.6 percent) and Dellin Betances (39.5 percent)! What’s a little girlfriend choking when you can get talent like that? Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Washington Nationals Star Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper

The knock on Bryce Harper, the Nationals’ 22 year-old burgeoning superstar who will soon be named the 2015 NL MVP, is that he’s immature, cocky, and self-destructive. But he seems to have proven himself to be far less so than the same sportswriters who have so often leveled such doubts about his character. This is good news for the Nationals and their fans, and also for suckers like me, who believe that baseball stars have an obligation to be good role models.

I wrote here about the late September, mid-game dugout fight between Harper and Jonathan Papelbon, a late season acquisition by the Nats whose arrival as a new bullpen ace coincided with team’s collapse in the National League East race. Post hoc ergo propter hoc being as seductive a logical fallacy as it is, Nats fans and, less excusably, the D.C. sports press blamed much of the Nats failure on the ex-Phillies, ex-Red Sox closer, along with manager Matt Williams, who was fired immediately after the regular season. Papelbon was also blamed for the fight, which is fair: he started it.

I noted in a follow-up post: Continue reading

The Aftermath: Final Observations On The Papelbon-Harper Incident

Jonathan Papelbon in another career highlight...

Jonathan Papelbon in another career highlight…

More on the aftermath of the incident that has the baseball world talking and the sports ethics world cogitating…

1) The Nationals punished the right player, suspending reliever Papelbon for four games, which combined with the three games the league suspended him for intentionally throwing at a player in an earlier game, ends his season in embarrassing fashion. The four lost games will cost the closer about $280,000 in salary, and his total loss, with the additional three games, will be close to a half-million dollars.

2) The word out of the Nationals clubhouse is that many players agree that Harper was dogging it to first base (the impetus for the criticism that started the fight) and that Papelbon was within his rights to call Harper on his lack of hustle. This indicates that Papelbon was reacting to a perceived lack of leadership on the team. In fact, the team does lack leadership, as manager Matt Williams is neither respected nor listened to, and this was one of the reasons the heavily favored Nats collapsed down the pennant stretch. Thus it seems that Papelbon, a recent acquisition who was new to the Nats culture, may have been trying to fill a leadership vacuum and botched it. Still, he engaged in his unethical conduct for an ethical reason; that only places him in “the ends justify the means” territory, however.

Moreover, any team whose leader is Jonathan Papelbon is in big, big trouble.

3) Incredibly, manager Matt Williams, who left Papelbon in the game after the fight to pitch the ninth and get clobbered, claimed that he wouldn’t have done so if he was aware of what happened. Williams said that he was at the other end of the dugout, and didn’t understand the import of the commotion that had players shouting and separating two combatants, including his best player and his current pitcher. Wow.  The Nats dugout isn’t that long. He wasn’t curious? Didn’t he feel, as the man in charge, a need to investigate? Worse still, none of his coaches felt that he needed to be informed, even considering that this was happening in full view of the fans and TV cameras.  Continue reading

An Unethical Photo And Caption, And The Ethics Fog Of A Baseball Fight

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals is grabbed by Jonathan Papelbon #58 in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on September 27, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 538595765 ORIG FILE ID: 490330798

According to USA Today and many other reputable news sources, Washington Nationals pitcher Jonathan Papelbon “choked” team mate Bryce Harper in a dugout altercation in full view of fans and TV cameras during yesterday’s loss to the Phillidelphia Phillies. The photo above, freezing the moment in which Papelbon’s hand touched Harper’s neck, was presented full page width in the Nats’ home town paper, the Washington Post.

Now here’s the video:

Papelbon’s hand was on Harper’s throat for less than a second, as opposed to the impression given by the still, in which you can almost hear Harper gagging ACK! GAH! LLLLGGGGHHH!  The USA Today headline “Bryce Harper was choked by Jonathan Papelbon in Nationals’ dugout fight” is pure sensationalism and an intentional misrepresentation. I’m not even certain Papelbon was trying to choke Harper, but if he was, he failed immediately because Harper backed away.

This incident transcends its context for ethical interest, because it demonstrates how much context and biases influence public and media assessments of right and wrong.

First, some context: Continue reading

It Serves Me Right: I Don’t Watch The Super Bowl To Avoid Supporting The NFL As It Cripples Young Men, And Miss A Player Pretending To Poop A Football…

doug-baldwin

Did you and your kids miss the magic moment in the Super Bowl when Seattle’s Doug Baldwin celebrated a touchdown by miming the act of crapping out a football? You may have, because the broadcast’s director, undoubtedly primed for Seattle’s various crotch-grabbing antics—this is the biggest family TV event of the year, don’t you know—was on the alert for something ugly and snapped his cameras away.

But Baldwin still did it, and everyone in the stadium saw it. There was a penalty, and now Baldwin has been fined $11,000, the equivalent of a jay-walking ticket, the smallest fine for on-field misbehavior there is in the NFL. I tried to imagine, as a baseball fan, what would have happened in the World Series if, say, Pablo Sandoval had pretended to poop on home plate after scoring a key run. My guess is that he would have been thrown out of the game, suspended, fined, and instantly reduced his value as a free agent by 30% or more. Last season, Jonathan Papelbon, a moron, grabbed his crotch the way Seahawk Marshawn Lynch has been doing all season as he left a regular season game, was ejected, and suffered a wave of columns condemning him. How many columns have you read about Baldwin? See, the culture of football, and the standards of its fans, are so abysmal that a player embarrassing the league, the game, his team and the broadcast, not to mention parents watching the game with their children by pretending to poop out a football isn’t even a big deal now. After all, he didn’t cold-cock his girl-friend, beat a four-year old, murder someone, try to use doctored balls or deceive people into liquifying their brains: what’s the big deal? Continue reading

Crotch-Grabbing Ethics: A Pitcher And An Umpire Make A Dunce/Hero Pair, And Baseball Teaches The NFL About Values

Jonathan Papelbon

I don’t know about you, but I need a break, however brief, from the NBA’s political correctness self-immolation and the NFL proving that it really has no idea what’s right or wrong when its players are violent off the field. Fortunately, Major League Baseball has its own, rather less societally significant ethics scandal for this baseball fan to focus on.

Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon has been very good this year, unlike the rest of his team., but he was lousy Sunday, blowing a big lead for the last place Phillies in front of a home town crowd over the weekend. The Philly fans, as they are famous for doing, booed him lustily as he left the field, so classy Papelbon grabbed his cup and gave it a heave, as he stared down the mob. Translation: “Boo THIS!”

At this point, home plate umpire Joe West, a crummy umpire from a technical viewpoint but notable as an outspoken arbiter of the conduct of players, threw Papelbon out of the game. This was unusual, because Papelbon was almost certainly through for the day anyway. The ejection under such circumstances  didn’t mean the umpire’s usual, “You are unprofessionally challenging my authority regarding a call that does not favor your team and delaying the game, so you can’t play today any more,” but the more succinct and far more rare, “You’re really an asshole.”

Papelbon then took offense, and furiously confronted the umpire. Now Major League Baseball has suspended Papelbon for seven days, and is enjoying it, telling sports fans and the media, “See? The NFL suspends its players for a game or two when they punch women in the face and beat their kids with a log. We kick out our players for seven games just for being rude.” Continue reading