Tag Archives: Major League Baseball

The Other Alleged Collusion Scandal: Baseball’s Unemployed Free Agents

Major management-labor troubles are brewing below the surface in Major League Baseball. With the 2018 Spring Training camps opening in a few days, over a hundred free agents remain unsigned, including many of the best players on the market. The Players Association is preparing to open a special training camp just for all the unsigned players, and shouting foul. They are alleging illegal collusion among the team owners to keep salaries down.

A lack of signings on this scale has never happened before, and agents and their player clients are increasingly hinting that dark forces are afoot. Fanning the flames are sportswriters and commentators, whose left-wing sympathies are only slightly less dominant than in the rest of the journalism field. The content on MLB’s own radio station on satellite radio has become an almost unbroken rant about how unfair it is that the players aren’t getting “what they have worked so hard for.” The theory appears to be that employees decide how much they are worth, and their self-serving assessments shouldn’t be challenged.

It is not that many of the free agents haven’t offers for their services on the table. It’s not that they don’t have multiple year contracts that will pay them millions of dollars on the table. They do, and thus  many of the unsigned players can substantially fix the bitter impasse by saying “yes.” Oddly, they are finding that public opinion is not substantially in their corner as they choose to bitch instead.

The poster boy for this controversy is, as luck would have it, a player who is sought by my very own Boston Red Sox. He is J.D. Martinez, a slugging outfielder just entering his thirties who had the best year of his life in 2017. Naturally, he wants a large, multi-year contract that will leave him set for life; this is his big and probably only shot. He also has the most aggressive, successful and, in my view, unethical of sports agents,  Scott Boras, who began the free agent auction season by announcing that J.D. would be seeking a contract worth 250 million dollars or more.

The problem is that not a lot of teams can afford such a contract, and those that can are, finally, wising up. Multiple year contracts have a way of blowing up in a team’s face. Analytics are now widely used to allow teams to make intelligent projections regarding just how much a player will add in value and wins. This year, most of the richest clubs are not hurting for home run hitters or outfielders, which leaves the Red Sox, who despite winning their division last year for the second year in a row didn’t hit as many homers in doing so as the spoiled Boston fans are used to, as the most obvious landing place for Martinez. Sure enough,  the team offered Martinez a five year deal reputed to be worth 125 million bucks. No other team has offered anything close, and it is unlikely that any team will. Boras and J.D. still say it’s not enough. They want a sixth year, and more cash. The Red Sox see no reason to bid against themselves, and have said, in essence., ‘There’s our offer. Take it or leave it.’  Somehow the baseball writers and the player see Boston as the villain in all this.

As George Will likes to say, “Well.” Continue reading

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The End Of Chief Wahoo

The Cleveland Indians will yield to political correctness and ditch the team’s 70 year-old logo, Chief Wahoo. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred pressured Indians chair Paul Dolan into making the change, which had been demanded by Native American activists for decades. A version of the red-skinned, hook-nosed caricature of a Native American first appeared on the Indians’ uniforms in 1948, when the team won its first American League pennant after many frustrating years. The logo caught on in part because the team’s fans had good associations with the image—the cognitive dissonance scale strikes again!—and then grinning indian became part of team tradition.The various groups that bullied other teams to change or eliminate names or logos with any hint of ethnicity on spurious grounds made banning Wahoo a priority, along with the Atlanta Braves “tomahawk chop” and especially the Washington Redskins nickname.

Apparently Manfred used the 2019 MLB All-Star Game as leverage, telling the club that either Chief Wahoo goes or the All-Star Game would end up somewhere else.

I have no affection for the logo, which is grotesque and anachronistic, but as with the Redskins, the protests were part of a power play by the Left and not the result of genuine, widespread offense affecting Native Americans. Nobody was made into a racist or caused to hate Native Americans because of Chief Wahoo, and sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon. There was no racist intent: people do not associate names and images that represent what they hate with teams they love. (The cognitive dissonance scale again. Is there anything it can’t explain?) As with the Redskins name, I feel as if the Cleveland Indians logo needed to stay as a matter of principle. Again, the attack on team names and symbols is about power, and bending others to their will.  Polls and surveys showed that most Native Americans didn’t care. But this is just another brick in the wall, and the censors of art, history, tradition, thought and language will never stop. Continue reading

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Baseball Hall Of Fame Ethics Bulletin

The results of the voting for the Major league Baseball Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown are in. The Baseball Writers Association of America elected Braves third-base great  Chipper Jones, slugger Jim Thome , relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman and Montreal Expo legend Vladimir Guerrero, excellent ad deserving choices all.

Joe Morgan is happy tonight. The writers did not elect Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa or Gary Sheffield, steroid cheats all. Nor did any of them come particularly close to the 75% of ballots cast (a voter can select up to ten) necessary for enshrinement.

Good.

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Why Marvin Miller Doesn’t Belong In The MLB Hall Of Fame In Cooperstown [Updated and RETRACTED!]

UDDATE! With apologies to all, I’m retracting this post. I had bad information: the entire thesis of the post is based on the false belief, which I acquired literally decades ago, that baseball union chief Marvin Miller was a lawyer. I know that a lawyer should not be celebrated for achieving the goals of his client; I’m not at all sure about my conclusions if the individual is a non-lawyer labor leader. I haven’t considered Miller in that context. I have to think about it.

I apologize to Ethics Alarms readers and also the admirers of Mr. Miller, and I hope he won’t be visiting me on Christmas Eve. One thing the web doesn’t need is more bad information, and I regret adding to it, even for a couple of hours.

My sincere thanks to reader LoSonnambulo for the slap in the face…

Last week,  Major League Baseball’s 6-member Modern Baseball Era committee considered ten Hall of Fame candidates, previously passed over in the regular voting process, whose biggest contributions to the game came between 1970 to 1987. It elected former Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Jack Morris and his Tiger team mate Alan Trammell, one of the very best shortstops of the era. Both were borderline choices, but Trammel was certainly deserving. Morris got over the hump because of a single memorable game, his Game 7, 10-inning, 1-0 shutout that won the 1971 World Series for Minnesota over Atlanta in of the 1991 World Series. Now that starting pitchers in the Series seldom go even 5 innings, much less ten, Morris’s performance seems especially god-like, but the fact remains that single achievements are not supposed to put players in the Cooperstown, New York Museum. Among the candidates who were rejected was my beloved Luis Tiant, the spinning, whirling, Cuban ace of the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox, one of the most unique pitchers in the history of the game, and while he was active, universally considered a great player, which he was. “Looie” deserves to be in the Hall, and is in his eighties now. He should have been voted in over Morris.

But the rejected candidate that sportswriters have long been rooting for wasn’t even a player. He’s Marvin Miller, who died in 2012 and who headed the players’ union from 1966 to 1982. Under Miller’s direction, the MLB players’ union became one of the strongest unions in the United States. He is credited with leading the efforts to eliminate the Reserve Clause, which once bound players to teams until they were traded, released, or retired. When he took over the union, the top baseball salary was about $100,000 a year. Today it is about 30 million a year, and the minimum salary is over $500,000. Legendary broadcaster Red Barber once said that  Miller, “along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, is one of the two or three most important men in baseball history.”

Well, Arnold Rothstein, Barry Bonds and the inventor of anabolic steroids had immense impact on baseball too. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Baseball Great Joe Morgan

The baseball writers are filling out their Hall of Fame ballots, and Hall of Fame member Joe Morgan authored a much-needed letter on behalf of his fellow honorees to urge voters to keep steroid cheats out of the Hall. He wrote—on Hall of Fame stationary, so it is clear that this was both personal and official:

The Hall of Fame is Special – A Letter from Joe Morgan

Over the years, I have been approached by many Hall of Fame members telling me we needed to do  something to speak out about the possibility of steroid users entering the Hall of Fame. This issue  has been bubbling below the surface for quite a while. 

I hope you don’t mind if I bring to your attention what I’m hearing. 

Please keep in mind I don’t speak for every single member of the Hall of Fame. I don’t know how  everyone feels, but I do know how many of the Hall of Famers feel. 

I, along with other Hall of Fame Baseball players, have the deepest respect for you and all the writers who vote to decide who enters Baseball’s most hallowed shrine, the National Baseball Hall of Fame. For some 80 years, the men and women of the BBWAA have cast ballots that have made the Hall into the wonderful place it is. 

I think the Hall of Fame is special. There is a sanctity to being elected to the Hall. It is revered. It is  the hardest Hall of Fame to enter, of any sport in America. 

But times change, and a day we all knew was coming has now arrived. Players who played during  the steroid era have become eligible for entry into the Hall of Fame. 

The more we Hall of Famers talk about this – and we talk about it a lot – we realize we can no longer  sit silent. Many of us have come to think that silence will be considered complicity. Or that fans  might think we are ok if the standards of election to the Hall of Fame are relaxed, at least relaxed  enough for steroid users to enter and become members of the most sacred place in Baseball. We don’t want fans ever to think that. 

We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They  cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here. 

Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League  Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in. Those  are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right. 

Now, I recognize there are players identified as users on the Mitchell Report who deny they were  users. That’s why this is a tricky issue. Not everything is black and white – there are shades of gray  here. It’s why your job as a voter is and has always been a difficult and important job. I have faith in  your judgment and know that ultimately, this is your call. 

But it still occurs to me that anyone who took body-altering chemicals in a deliberate effort to cheat  the game we love, not to mention they cheated current and former players, and fans too, doesn’t  belong in the Hall of Fame. By cheating, they put up huge numbers, and they made great players  who didn’t cheat look smaller by comparison, taking away from their achievements and consideration for the Hall of Fame. That’s not right. 

And that’s why I, and other Hall of Famers, feel so strongly about this.  

It’s gotten to the point where Hall of Famers are saying that if steroid users get in, they’ll no longer  come to Cooperstown for Induction Ceremonies or other events. Some feel they can’t share a stage  with players who did steroids. The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame  too. The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will  divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear. 

Section 5 of the Rules for Election states, “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing  ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player  played.” 

I care about how good a player was or what kind of numbers he put up; but if a player did steroids,  his integrity is suspect; he lacks sportsmanship; his character is flawed; and, whatever contribution  he made to his team is now dwarfed by his selfishness. 

Steroid use put Baseball through a tainted era where records were shattered. “It was a steroidal farce,” wrote Michael Powell in the New York Times. It is no accident that those records held up for decades until the steroid era began, and they haven’t been broken since the steroid era ended.  Sadly, steroids worked. 

Dan Naulty was a journeyman pitcher in the late 1990s who admitted he took steroids, noting that his fastball went from 87 to 96. He told Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci in 2012, “I was a full-blown  cheater, and I knew it. You didn’t need a written rule. I was violating clear principles that were laid down within the rules. I understood I was violating implicit principles.” 

The Hall of Fame has always had its share of colorful characters, some of whom broke or bent society’s rules in their era. By today’s standards, some might not have gotten in. Times change and  society improves. What once was accepted no longer is. 

But steroid users don’t belong here. What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change  for the worse. 

Steroid users knew they were taking a drug that physically improved how they played. Taking  steroids is a decision. It’s the deliberate act of using chemistry to change how hard you hit and throw by changing what your body is made of. 

I and other Hall of Famers played hard all our lives to achieve what we did. I love this game and am  proud of it. I hope the Hall of Fame’s standards won’t be lowered with the passage of time.  For over eighty years, the Hall of Fame has been a place to look up to, where the hallowed halls  honor those who played the game hard and right. I hope it will always remain that way. 

Sincerely, 

Joe Morgan

Good.

I agree in every respect. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/3/17: A Troubling MLB Suspension, Anti-Trump Mania Update, And Announcing “US Race Relations Have Finally Reached The Point Where They Make No Sense Whatsoever” Sunday

Good Morning!

1.I dread this, but it is looking like it is going to be “US Race Relations Have Finally Reached The Point Where They Make No Sense Whatsoever” Sunday. I have accumulated three stories that fit under that heading, because each one of them is simultaneously annoying, sensitive,  under-reported, and difficult to process. Procrastination isn’t ethical, however, so today is the day. Ugh.

2. Today’s New York Times Sunday Review is again light on President Trump Hate, after last week’s orgy. I was discussing yesterday’s post about the draft letter excitement with my sister, a not-quite-resistance member who is a better lawyer than I am and intermittently reasonable despite hating and fearing the President worse than she does that Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. She agreed that the news media’s elevation of the draft letter to front page status was biased journalism and self-evidently silly. “The news media believes that Trump is so incompetent that it is their job to try to help the country get rid of him as quickly as possible,” she said. She also confirmed that this is the attitude of the “resistance,” Democrats and progressives as well, and she hangs out with all of them.

Her candor was welcome. It’s also an admission, in my view, and I told her this, of an anti-democratic and unethical attempt to undermine our institutions. We remove Presidents by elections, not manufactured impeachments or 25th Amendment removals on contrived grounds. What my sister calls fear of dangerous  incompetence is really objections to style, rhetoric and policy, none of which are justifiable reasons to remove a President before an election.

I also pointed out to my sibling that it is not the news media’s job to conspire with partisan opponents to remove a President. In fact, it is unforgivable.

3. What’s the difference between the National Football League and Major League Baseball? Well, one difference is that when a star NFL player is caught on a video cold-cocking his wife-to-be  in a hotel elevator, the NFL’s first response is to do nothing, and when a second string catcher’s ex-fiance says she was abused on social media and then deletes the post, that’s enough for MLB to suspend the player under its domestic abuse policy. Ethically, I’m not sure which is worse. Continue reading

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When “Ick!” Strikes Out Ethics: The Intensifying Robo-Umpire Controversy

[I see that I last wrote about this issue in April, and before that, in June of 2016, and in 2012 before that.Well, it’s worth writing about again, and again, until ethics and common sense prevails.]

This weekend Major League Umpires held a silent protest, wearing armbands in support of colleague Angel Hernandez, whose competence was publicly questioned by Detroit Tiger player Ian Kinsler. In fact, Angel Hernandez is a terrible umpire, and terrible, indeed, even mildly fallible umpires have a problem now that they never had to worry about in the good old days: their mistakes are obvious and recorded for all to see.

Yesterday Red Sox color man and former player Jerry Remy was reminiscing during the Red Sox -Yankee game broadcast about one of his few home runs. He said he had struck out, missing with his third swing by almost a foot, and was walking back to the dugout when the umpire called him back, saying he had foul-tipped the ball. “I know that was wrong, but I’m not going to argue I’m out when the ump says I’m not.” Remy said. He went back to the plate, and on the next pitch hit a home run. “Of course, they didn’t have replay them,” Jerry added.

Before every game was televised and before technology could show wear each pitch crossed the plate, balls and strikes were called definitively by umpires, many of whom proudly had their own strike zones. “As long as they are consistent with it ” was the rationalization you heard from players and managers. It was, however, a travesty. The strike zone isn’t a judgment call; it is defined, very specifically, in the rules. A pitch is either within the legal zone or it is not. A strike that is called a ball when it is not, or vice-versa, is simply a wrong call, and any time it happens can affect the outcome of the at-bat and the game. If you watch a lot of baseball, you know that we are not just talking about strikeouts and walks.  The on-base average when a batter is facing a 2 balls, one strike count as opposed to a 1-2 count is significantly higher. The wrongly called third pitch can change the result of the at bat dramatically.

Since the technology is available to call strikes correctly 100% of the time, why isn’t the technology being used? Actually it is being used, in TV broadcasts. The fan can see exactly when the umpire misses a call, and the broadcasters talk about it all the time. “Where was that?” “That was a gift!”  “Wow, the pitcher was squeezed on that one.” Once, a missed call in a game was virtually undetectable, because one could assume that the umpire had a better and closer view than any fan or broadcaster could have. Now, there is no doubt.

Yet the players, sportswriters and broadcasters still overwhelmingly argue against the use of computer technology to call balls and strikes. It’s amazing. They know, and admit, that  mistaken  ball and strike calls warp game results; they complain about it when it happens, point it out, run the graphics repeatedly to show how badly a crucial call was botched, and yet argue that a completely fixable problem with massive implications to the players, the games and the seasons, should be allowed to persist.

These are the rationalizations and desperate  arguments they advance: Continue reading

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