Tag Archives: Major League Baseball

The Umpire’s Botched Call, Moral Luck, And When Using Technology Becomes Ethically Mandatory

The Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, but if they hadn’t, we might be seeing the beginning of tidal wave of public opinion demanding that available technology be employed to avoid catastrophic umpire incompetence.

Washington had a 3-0 lead entering the bottom of the ninth. The Braves mounted a rally,scoring one run and then loading the bases with only one out. At that point Nationals manager Dusty Baker  removed struggling closer Blake Treinen  for Shawn Kelley

Kelley got his first batter to foul out, and then appeared to strike out Chase d’Arnaud, swinging. The game was over: the Nationals came out to congratulate each other, and the ground crew moved onto the field. d’Arnaud, however, argued to home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor that he had foul-tipped the ball into the dirt before the Nat’s catcher caught it. Bucknor agreed, and everyone was called back onto the field.

Kelley struck out d’Arnaud again, so no harm was done. But  videos of the “foul tip”  showed that the batter hadn’t come close to hitting the ball on the pitch Bucknor ruled a foul tip. He missed it by a foot.

If d’Arnaud, given an unearned second chance, had cleared the bases with a ringing double, the baseball world would be going nuts right now; that he didn’t was just moral luck. It went kind of nuts anyway. Bucknor is a terrible umpire, as his awful calls showed throughout the game, which was a typical performance for him. If the botched foul tip call had occurred later in the season during a crucial game, or during the post-season,  it might finally prompt Major League Baseball to use available technology and have balls and strikes called electronically, or at least have a fail-safe review system where an umpire viewing pitched on a TV monitor could instantly overrule a terrible, obvious, game changing call by the home plate umpire.

At this point, it is irresponsible for MLB not to use the Bucknor botch as impetus to make these changes now, before a disaster, realizing that a lucky near-miss shouldn’t be treated any differently. It won’t, however. It will wait until the horse has not only escaped the barn, but escaped the barn and trampled some children, before putting a lock on the door.

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Next Up At Bat On “Controversial Tweet Friday,” The Reserve Catcher’s Tweets!

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Like Prof. Reynolds, Seattle Mariners second-string catcher  Steve Clevenger decided to express his unhappiness with the riots in Charlotte using his Twitter account, and also like the “Instapundit,” found himself in trouble as a result. Before posting the above tweet, Clevenger wrote this as his introduction:

cropped_steve_clevenger1Twitter didn’t suspend Clevenger’s account, but his employer, a baseball team located in a very liberal city and also a team that is embroiled in a desperate fight to make the play-offs, reacted initially with this, also on Twitter…

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Clevenger apparently didn’t expect that his tweets would suddenly result in his being labelled as a racist blight on humanity  by the many, many, people on social media who live for such incidents, and he quickly released a long and emotional apology:

First and foremost I would like to apologize to the Seattle Mariners, my teammates, my family and the fans of our great game for the distraction my tweets on my personal twitter page caused when they went public earlier today. I am sickened by the idea that anyone would think of me in racist terms. My tweets were reactionary to the events I saw on the news and were worded beyond poorly at best and I can see how and why someone could read into my tweets far more deeply than how I actually feel.

“I grew up on the streets of Baltimore, a city I love to this very day. I grew up in a very culturally diverse area of America and I am very proud to come from there. I am also proud that my inner circle of friends has never been defined by race but by the content of their character. Any former teammate or anyone who has met me can attest to this and I pride myself on not being a judgemental person. I just ask that the public not judge me because of an ill worded tweet.

“I do believe that supporting our First Amendment rights and supporting local law enforcement are not mutually exclusive. With everything going on in the world I really just want what is best for everyone regardless of who they are. I like many Americans are frustrated by a lot of things in the world and I would like to be a part of the dialogue moving forward to make this a better world for everyone.

” I once again apologize to anyone who was offended today and I just ask you not judge me off of a social media posting. Thank you and God bless everyone.”

Steve Clevenger

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Well, THAT Question’s Answered: No Parting Gifts For A-Rod

No-GiftI wrote in an earlier Ethics Quiz that the retirement of Yankee Cheat and Head Creep Alex Rodriguez tomorrow would put the Boston Red Sox in a difficult position tonight. Should they honor him, as the Yankees will honor Red Sox star David Ortiz in his final appearance in Yankees Stadium? Or should they  eschew any recognition, since the Boston fans hate Alex’s guts?

Apparently, as often is the case, the problem was not as difficult as my ethical alarms were telling me. The Sox won’t even give A-Rod a cupcake. There will be no recognition of his career, other than the symphony of boos that will rain down on him from the Fenway Faithful every single time he comes to bat.

Good.

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Ethics Quiz: Boston’s A-Rod Dilemma

newsday-AROD

This is a really, really hard one.

Over the weekend, as reported here, Yankee superstar/pariah/cheating jerk for the ages Alex Rodriguez announced that he would “retire” after next Friday night’s game. He’s not really retiring, of course. Like almost everything involving A-Rod, lies and cover-ups reign. Since the Yankees were going to have to pay the rest of his contract to the tune of 27 million bucks either way, they told Alex that they could release him, thus ending his career on a sour note, or allow him to pretend to make the decision to leave the game himself, which would be better PR for all concerned.

However, the announcement presents a problem for the Boston Red Sox. A-Rod’s next-to-last game is Thursday night in Fenway Park, and a player with Rodriguez’s astounding career on-field achievements would typically warrant an on-field salute, like the Sox gave Yankee icon Derek Jeter when he retired. The problem is that Red Sox fans don’t like or respect A-Rod, and they shouldn’t. No baseball fan should. He disgraced the game with his drug use and lies; was an unsportsmanlike presence for most of his career, and will not reach the Hall of Fame despite one of the best careers ever unless the Hall junks all of its character requirements.

Yet reciprocity raises its ethical head. David Ortiz, the beloved Red Sox slugger, is also retiring after this season, and the Yankees have planned to give him a big send-off when Big Papi plays his last game in Yankee stadium. How can the Red Sox snub A-Rod, and expect the Yankees to honor their hero? If the Red Sox do hold a ceremony for Rodriquez, will Sox fans use it as an opportunity to heap well-deserved abuse on Alex one last time? If Sox fans fill Fenway with boos, will Yankee fans reciprocate by ruining Ortiz’s moment in New York? (I would give my guess on this, but it might expose a long-held bias against Yankee fans.)

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

What is the most ethical way to handle this awful situation?

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Alex Rodriguez Announced That He’s Retiring As A Baseball Player. He Could Have Been Fair And Ethical About It. Nah!

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New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, a three time MVP, 14-time All-Star and one of the most talented and controversial players in baseball history—and the epic Ethics Corrupter  who has been criticized on Ethics Alarms more than any other sports figure!—  announced that he will play his final major league game next Friday. For his 20 million dollar  salary this year, “A-Rod” is hitting only .204 with nine home runs and 29 RBIs in 216 at-bats. He can’t play in the field anymore, and any normal player of his age (41) and diminished skills would have been released long ago. (Indeed, any normal player of  his age and diminished skills would have quit.) The team, however, is obligated to pay Rodriguez’s 20 million annual salary not only this year, but also the next. This makes him untradeable as well as too expensive to release.

Of course, if a player voluntarily ends his relationship with a team by retiring, he waives the rest of his contract. Many players have done that when they reached the point in their careers where they were no longer helping the team, taking the place of a better young player on the roster, and embarrassing themselves. None of those players, however, would be forfeiting 27 million dollars, the current tab the Yankees are contractually obligated to pay A-Rod as the final lap of a $275 million, 10-year contract that was baseball’s largest in 2007.

Nevertheless, forfeiting the money is what an ethical player should do. He’s not earning it. Rodriquez has made more than a half-billion dollars in his career, not counting various endorsement fees and bonuses. His two children are guaranteed to be tycoons many times over. He has lots of money, but very little accumulated good will or respect, as a confessed steroid cheat (he was suspended for the entire 2014 season for PED use and a cover-up) and is one of the most disliked players in any sport. Retiring as a straightforward admission that he is no longer able to play and has been hurting his team and team mates would have been the ethical course—a sacrifice, but not much of one.

Nah. Continue reading

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Calling Balls And Strikes

Robot Umpire

Calling balls and strikes in major league baseball has to be mechanized. This is obvious and beyond argument, and the only question is what will finally make the bitter-enders abandon their rationalizations and capitulate to reality.

I last wrote about this in 2012 in a post titled “Umpire Accountability, As the Day Of The Robot Approaches,” following a 1-0 game in which a batter in a position to tie the game was called out on strikes by an umpire named Larry Vanover, who rang him up with three balls out of the strike zone for the final 9th inning out. This particular contest was between two teams that had finished the previous season with one of them edging out the other for the play-offs by a single game, on the last day of the schedule. The pitches called strikes in this particular at bat weren’t even close to being over the plate. You could see that all three were wide with the naked eye as they arrived in the catcher’s mitt; you could see it in the computer graphic on the screen, and after the game, the pitches’ locations were charted to show that they were, in fact, balls. I wrote…

Baseball fans invest too much time and emotion into following the games and their teams to just shrug off results warped by obvious incompetence. The kind of atrocious umpiring demonstrated by Vanover…poses a direct challenge to baseball’s integrity. What will baseball’s leaders do about it?

They have only three choices:

1.They can, for the first time, take public and punitive action against umpires whose poor performance exceeds a missed call or a human mistake, and demonstrates inexcusable incompetence or a lack of professionalism. First time: a stiff fine. Second time: a suspension without pay. Third time: dismissal.I know that the umpires union in Major League Baseball protects its incompetents as zealously as the teachers unions, but baseball has its product to protect.

2. Baseball’s leaders can make a commitment to automated strike and out calling, and cut back on crews to one field umpire to keep order and one booth umpire to read the printouts, watch the TV screen, and study the replays.

3. Baseball can reject integrity and credibility, and continue to let the Vanovers on the field wreck the games and alienate fans.

So far, disgracefully, the sport has chosen #3, but the clock is ticking. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Boston Red Sox Pitcher Steven Wright

beaning

On Sunday, Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright hit Toronto first baseman Chris Colabello square in the helmet, and not with his usual floating trick pitch, but with an 87 mph fastball, making a frightening sound and causing  Colabello to collapse on the field.  After being checked out by the team trainer and allowing the replay of his life that flashed before his eyes to wind up, Wright’s beanee took first base and remained in the game.

Wright appeared visibly upset on the mound,and apologized to Colabello when he made his way to first.

The next morning, Colabello found an expensive bottle of liquor in his locker, a present from Wright. He was surprised. “He went above and beyond in my eyes,” the player with the sore head said. “It was pretty obvious there was no intent [to throw a beanball]. You could see by his reaction.” Continue reading

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