Ethics Quote Of The Month: Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein

“That is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It’s baseball–a pastime involving a lot of chance. If [Ben] Zobrist’s ball is three inches farther off the line, I’m on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan.”

—-Theo Epstein, president of the Major League Baseball’s 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs, upon learning that Fortune Magazine had chosen him #1 among “The World’s Greatest Leaders” in a click-bait list released last week.

Thank-you, Theo, for explaining moral luck and the perils of consequentialism to the public. When it came down to the final innings of Game 7 in last year’s World Series, it looked for a while like Cubs manager Joe Maddon was about to blow the chance to win an elusive title after over a century of frustration by keeping his clearly gassed closer on the game. That his risky decision didn’t make Maddon a goat for the ages and Epstein one more name in the long list of Cubs saviors was pure moral luck—the element of chance that often distinguished heroes from villains. winners from losers and geniuses from fools in the public’s mind—and gross consequentialism, judging decisions by their uncontrollable results rather than their objectively judged wisdom and ethics at the time they were made.

If the Cleveland Indians had won that crucial game in extra-inning, no matter how, Epstein might have made Fortune’s list (I doubt it), but he would have been nowhere near the top. Continue reading

Workplace Dilemma: Do You Really Want To Know What Everyone Else Is Being Paid?

Miles Teller, who really showed THEM...

Non-La La Land star Miles Teller, who really showed THEM…

The male star of the buzzy movie musical “La La Land,” which opens next week, is Ryan Gosling. The role was originally offered to Miles Teller, who was a rising hot property and star on the threshold for acing the role of the abused drummer in “Whiplash,” like “La La Land” directed by Damien Chazelle.

But according to the people familiar wit negotiations, Teller was insulted by money he was offered,  a paltry $1 million, primarily because his putative co-star, Emma Stone,was being offered almost $3 million. After some back and forth, Chazelle replaced Teller with Gosling. Thus did Teller lose out on an a rare opportunity to make himself a major star in a film that is widely believed to be an Oscar magnet, and, of course, he won’t have that million dollars, either.

This a particularly vivid example of the ethics dilemma created by comparative salaries. I have not seen or heard of a satisfactory solution to it, from the management side or the labor side. Management would prefer that employees not know what other employees are making, and with good reason. The information can cause envy, bitterness, anger and lawsuits. Every employee has a tendency to believe they are more valuable, and indispensable, than they really are. Of course, some employers want to keep salaries secret because there are disparities that they cannot defend, or that may be illegal. While transparency is desirable to prevent unfair salary differences, however, it can make legitimate disparities untenable. Continue reading

Now THIS Is A Conflict of Interest!

The news is that negotiations between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs over what the Cubs will pay the Sox as compensation for nabbing their tarnished boy genius General Manager Theo Epstein are not going smoothly, and no wonder. The situation as it stands is a conflict of interest classic, with no obvious solution. You don’t have to know a thing about baseball to love it: this was designed by the Ethics Gods as an exam question.

Consider: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Ex-Washington Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman

Jim Riggleman is a major league baseball manager of modest accomplishments, one of the forty or so men in the rotating pool that teams will use to fill manager vacancies with low-risk options rather than try someone promising but with little experience. He had a one-year contract with the hapless Washington Nationals that included a team option for a second, which the manager felt the team should pick up now, rather than at the end of the season.

Riggleman believed that he had some leverage. The Nationals have been surging since star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has returned from an injury, and are, for the first time in the team’s  short time in Washington (they were once the Montreal Expos), flirting with a winning record more than half-way through the schedule. But as is often the case with players when a club option is involved, the Nationals saw no reason to make a decision on Riggleman’s contract until the season was over. A lot can happen in three months. General manager Mike Rizzo told Riggleman he would just have to wait. That’s what a team option is, after all. The team’s option. Continue reading

Easy Call: Wikileaks Is Naive, Unethical, and Dangerous

All one has to know is the degree to which nuclear war was averted through diplomatic back-channels and secret communications during the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962 in order to begin to understand how dangerous, stupid and wrong the entire concept of Wikileaks is. The latest dump of secret, near-secret and supposedly secure government messages on a wide range of topics has the  same general effect as a group of small, noisy children running amuck, screaming and banging pots and pans, while adults are trying to address urgent issues of war, commerce, human rights, and terrorism in the same small room. Continue reading

Mayhill Fowler and The Ethics of Quitting

The internet creates unfortunate opportunities for the fired, rejected, under-appreciated and disgruntled to do all sorts of harm to their previous employers and themselves. Former Huffington Post blogger Mayhill Fowler has considerately given us an object lesson in how not to leave a job, though at some personal sacrifice. Continue reading