Darek Jeter, Rob Neyer, and Baseball’s Traditional Deceptions

ESPN blogger Rob Neyer has once again called for baseball to punish “cheaters” which he defines as, among other things, “lying to an umpire” and faking an injury, though there are no rules against either. His impetus was an incident in last night’s Rays-Yankee showdown, in which Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter convinced the home plate umpire that he had been hit by a pitch, when replays showed that the ball actually hit his bat. The subterfuge led to two runs for the Yankees and the ejection of Rays manager Joe Maddon, who argued the call to no avail.  Jeter later admitted that he had fooled the umpire, and seemed to be rather pleased with himself.

This has Neyer rather confused. He writes that Jeter ought to be punished for his dishonesty, because ” it wasn’t fair that Jeter was awarded first base. It wasn’t fair to pitcher Chad Qualls, or to Qualls’ teammates or his manager or to the thousands of Rays fans watching and listening to the evening’s dramatic events.” Yet then Neyer immediately points out that Jeter did “nothing wrong.” So Jeter should be punished because he did nothing wrong? If what Jeter did is in fact dishonest and unfair, of course it is wrong.

But it’s not, any more than bluffing in poker is unfair and dishonest. Continue reading

A. J. Pierzynski, Baseball Cheating and Moral Gray Zones

The baseball season is certainly off to an unethical start.

In Tuesday’s game between the Blue Jays and White Sox, Toronto pitcher Ricky Romero’s gestating no-hitter was aborted in the 8th inning in part because of some deceptive play-acting by ChiSox catcher A. J. Pierzynski. Every era  has one player who acquires a reputation for being tricky, a.k.a. “dirty,” and Pierzynski is the current title holder. When he came to bat against Romero, the catcher with the unspellable name took advantage of a pitch that bounced in the dirt near him to hop up and down as if his widdle toe had a ball-induced boo-boo. Incredibly (for even the White Sox announcers were chatting about how obvious it was that the ball hadn’t touched A. J., noting that he wasn’t even hopping on the most plausibly injured foot), home umpire Tim McClelland stood by silently as Pierzynski trotted to first base. Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston protested to no avail, and, not for the first time, A. J. Pierzynski had stolen first base. Now Romero had to pitch from the stretch rather than a wind-up, and the no-hitter (and the shut-out) was no-history seconds later, as Toronto’s Alex Rios hit a home run.

Did A. J. Pierzynski cheat? Should he be fined or punished for feigning an injury,  as some have suggested? Continue reading