The Ethics Incompleteness Dilemma and MLB’s Melky Cabrera “Solution”

Who cares what Melky wants?

[ When we last visited the messy Melky Cabrera situation, people were clamoring for baseball to rule Cabrera ineligible for the National League batting championship he seemed destined to win because the Giants outfielder had been suspended for the rest of the season for testing positive for steroids. The suspension froze his average, then as now leading the NL, and because he had already amassed sufficient at bats to qualify for the title, this meant that 1) he would benefit from what was supposed to be a punishment and 2) the most prestigious of all baseball season titles would be won by a proven cheater. I explained why taking the title away from Melky would be unethical as well as unwise:

“…There is a very good reason why the Constitution bans ex post facto laws—laws that make something illegal retroactively, so someone can become a criminal for something they did that was legal when they did it. Allowing such rules is an invitation to an abuse of power, culminating, in the worst case scenario, with the modern day equivalents of the Russian or French Revolutions, where people are executed for “crimes” that were not crimes at all. Even cheaters have rights, and one of them is to know what their risks are when they cheat. Cabrera knew that he risked suspension, a loss of millions in income, and permanent harm to his reputation and career. He did not know that he risked not winning a batting championship if he qualified for it, or being put in the stocks, being exiled to Portugal, or having his children subjected to human medical experiments. Should a player suspended for performing enhancing drug use after testing positive be disqualified from winning a batting championship that season? That seems fair and reasonable, but because Major League Baseball didn’t think of it when they were making the rules, it would be unfair for Cabrera to be subjected to such a penalty, which would embody the inherently unfair principle of an ex post facto law. Some people just can’t process this. People just shouldn’t get away with intentional bad conduct, they say. …Such people are unwittingly willing to dismember the bedrock principle of due process, which requires that we know by what rules and laws our conduct society will use to judge our conduct, and that we know what the penalties for violating them will be, or at least have a the opportunity to find these things out. No, of course it’s not fair for Melky Cabrera to win a batting championship by cheating, but a society that allows him to be penalized in ways he could not have anticipated using a rule imposed after the fact is an unfair society, and ethics is ultimately about building a more ethical society.”

Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball who is always as likely to make a terrible decision as a good one, said that he would not take any action on the matter. But that was not the end of the story…]

Yesterday, Major League Baseball announced that Melky Cabrera would not be eligible for the batting title after all. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Suspended Giants Outfielder Melky Cabrera (And Not For The Reason You Think)

Who is “Melky Cabrera” really?

Melky Cabrera shocked Major League Baseball by getting caught mid-season using banned metabolic steroids, it’s true. It is also true that this marks him for all time as a cheater, and something of an idiot, since the penalties for PED (performance enhancing drug) use are devastating to a baseball player’s reputation and wallet, and because, unlike when Barry Bonds was breaking records and racking up MVP trophies while being juiced, the game has belatedly decided that it isn’t going to let games, championships and records be distorted by chemical means.

Melky, however, is special among baseball’s cheaters. Only he, as far as we know, decided to attempt an elaborate internet deception to try to duck responsibility after he had been caught.

From today’s New York Daily News: Continue reading

The Melky Cabrera Affair: When Fair Isn’t Fair

A useful tool, when the government decides that what you did should have been illegal.

Let me bring the non-baseball fans among you up to date, reminding you that while the immediate subject is baseball, the ethical implications of this story are far broader.

Melky Cabrera, until last season, was a standard issue major league outfielder of substantial but undistinguished abilities and accomplishments. Last season, playing with the frequent destination of such players, the Kansas City Royals, Cabrera suddenly and unexpectedly emerged as a star, surpassing all expectations and his previous levels of performance. The Royals traded him, like an over-priced stock, to the San Francisco Giants in the off-season, getting a package of players in exchange for one they probably thought was as valuable as he would ever be.

This season, however, he was even better.  Not only was he selected to the All-Star team for the first time, he was also on the way to leading the Giants to the play-offs and possibly a World Series appearance. Then, this week, a drug test came in positive for testosterone: steroids. By MLB’s rules, Cabrera was suspended from play for 50 games, effectively eliminating him from the Giants season and post season and, not incidentally, marking him as a cheat and an idiot.

And maybe a batting champion. When he was suspended, Cabrera was second in the National League in batting average, and had already amassed the necessary at bats to qualify for the championship (actually, there are some complications with that, but for all intents and purposes, that’s true). He’s only 13 points behind the leader, and averages tend to come down as the season drags on. Not only is Cabrera’s high average a likely product of pharmaceutically-aided cheating, but his suspension for getting caught at cheating may actually help him win the prestigious batting crown, by freezing his average at a lofty .346. Is this fair? Certainly not. Continue reading