Tag Archives: Major League Baseball

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/27/18: On Bullies, Dogs, Signs, Cheats, And The Worst WWII Movie Ever

Good morning.

1. BOY, is that a lazy and inaccurate movie! As usual, they are playing every war movie they can dig up on Memorial Day weekend. I just watched the tail end of  “The Battle of the Bulge,” the 1965 Cinerama Hollywood portrayal of the decisive 1944 WWII battle in the Ardennes that reminds me of my dad, buried in Arlington National Cemetery, more than any other war film, and not because it was in that battle that my father earned his Silver Star. No, the film reminds me of Dad because he hated it so much. He regarded it as an insult to the veterans who fought the battle, and  a cretinous distortion of history in every way. His name for the movie was “How Henry Fonda Won the Second World War.”

The most striking of the endless misrepresentations in the movie is the absence of snow. The battle’s major feature was that it was fought in freezing, winter conditions, on snow covered terrain sometimes up to two feet deep. Some battle scenes are shown being fought on flat and bare plain, about as distinct from the mountainous, thickly forested territory where the actual battle took place as one could imagine. My father also started complaining during the film, loudly, about the use of modern American tanks to portray the German Tiger tanks.

Former President (and, of course, former Allied Commander) Eisenhower came out of retirement to hold a press conference to denouncing “The Battle of the Bulge” for  its gross  inaccuracies. THAT made my father happy.

2. Funny! But…no, it’s just funny. Scott Campbell, the owner of the Pell City Fitness gym in Pell City, Alabama,  put up a sign that says “tired of being fat and ugly? Just be ugly!” City officials told him to take down the sign or be fined, saying it is too big and needs a permit, but other business owners told the local news media that they have never heard of the ordinance the city is citing being enforced. The suspicion is that Campbell is being singled out because some have complained that the sign is “insensitive.” No, it’s just funny…

This is the ethical problem with excessively restrictive laws, rules and regulations that are not consistently enforced. Prosecution can be used for ideological and partisan discrimination. Not only is the sign benign, it is not even original: that same language is on fitness company ads all over the country. So far, it looks like the community is supporting Pell and that the city will back down, but this is Alabama. Call me pessimistic, but I doubt the sign would be allowed to stand for long in Washington State or California if an ordinance could be found to justify pulling it down.

The First Amendment dies in increments. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, War and the Military, Workplace

Baseball Brawl Ethics [UPDATED]

I noted in the Morning Warm-Up that last night’s Red Sox-Yankee rumble put me in a good mood. I should elaborate: it’s not because I like seeing a New York Yankee player get a fat lip, although I do. It is because such episodes are usually rife with ethics good and bad, and this one was no exception. Here it is again…

It began with an earlier play. Yankee rookie DH Tyler Austin employed an illegal slide when he was forced at second base. A few years ago, the Dodgers’ Chase Utley broke a shortstop’s leg while sliding into him hard to break up a double play. The ugly injury was on national TV, because it was in the play-offs, and Major League Baseball enacted a major rule change.

From the beginning of professional baseball, runners had been allowed to plow into infielders trying to make the pivot at second base and complete a double play like linebackers blitzing a quarterback. The resulting collisions often wrecked knees, ankles and careers, and a ridiculous tradition developed. Umpires allowed infielders to come off the bag before they actually received the ball for the force-out, as long as they were close to the base. The out was called anyway: it was known as the “neighborhood play,” because the infielder’s foot was in the neighborhood of second. After Utley’s slide, baseball made the attempt to interfere with the double play by slamming into the fielder illegal, with the consequence being that the double play was called complete whether the relay throw to first was completed or not.

Ethically, I applauded the rule change. For one thing, the take-out slide was already illegal: runners aren’t allowed to interfere with fielders according to the original rules, but take-out slides were tolerated, indeed encouraged anyway. As often happens when rules are ignored, integrity suffered, resulting in that absurd “neighborhood” convention. The so-called baseball purists complained, and still are complaining, but trading illegal-but-allowed hard slides that required calling imaginary outs and needlessly injured players for some gratuitous violence in a non-violent sport was always an unwise exchange.

So now a baserunner bearing down on second base when a double-play may be in progress has to slide  at the base, not at the fielder. But last night, Austin had his leg high as he slid, and spiked second baseman Brock Holt, Holt, who never threw to first, had words with the Yankee, and both dugouts emptied, though no punches were thrown. It was an illegal slide, no question about it, but because Holt wasn’t interfered with, the umpires did nothing. No penalty out was called. Austin wasn’t thrown out of the game.

This is when the ancient baseball code kicked in. A Yankee had tried to hurt a Red Sox player with an illegal slide, and had gotten away scot-free. If the Sox did nothing to retaliate, they would be showing weakness. I have literally  seen this plot a thousand times. I said to my wife, watching the game with me, “The Red Sox are going to throw at Austin, and there will be a fight.”

Sure enough, Sox reliever Joe Kelly, who throws pitches between 96 and 100 mph, threw a fastball into Austin’s back  later in the game. Austin charged the mound, as you can see, and all heck broke loose.

Ethics notes: Continue reading

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Baseball’s Intrusive Domestic Abuse Policy

Last year I wrote about Major League Baseball’s domestic abuse policy, which is, pardon the pun, bats. Here is another example.

Red Sox knckcle-baller Steven Wright has been suspended for 15 games under the MLB-MLBPA Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy. Fifteen games is a lot: that’s three starts for a starting pitcher like Wright, and almost 10% of a player’s salary. Wright’s salary is about a million dollars for the upcoming season, and unlike an established star, he isn’t a multi-millionaire. Losing about a hundred grand will hurt, and not just him, but his whole family.

The suspension relates to a mid-December incident in Tennessee in which Wright was arrested and charged with domestic assault and prevention of a 911 call.  Wright was not charged with physical abuse to his wife or any other household members; this was apparently “verbal abuse”—the pitcher’s conduct was so emotional and threatening that his wife was frightened. A plea deal has the charges on the road to being discharged if Wright does not commit any infractions in the next year. He has told reporters that he and his wife are being counseled.

Never mind: Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended him anyway, under this policy: Continue reading

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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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Filed under Business & Commercial, History, Humor and Satire, Sports, U.S. Society

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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