Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/5/18: The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck STILL Keeps Rolling Along, But There’s Always Baseball, So Hope Survives

Good Morning!

1. Ethics Dunce, Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck Division: Retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who has already set a record for Supreme Court justices making post-career foolish statements that undermine their reputations, just violated a previously unbreached principle of professional ethics and protocol for ex-Justices. He told a private group that Kavanaugh doesn’t belong on the Court because of his “temperament.” I was thinking of ranking the rapidly proliferating bogus excuses for voting down Kavavaugh (I posted this instead). The temperament one is near the bottom of the barrel, in a layer or two above throwing ice and the comments in his yearbook. In his entire judicial career, there have been no incidents of unprofessional temperament or demeanor, and somehow I think that if any sitting judge was accused of being a rapist by a witness or a lawyer in his courtroom, an outburst of anger would be considered excusable. It’s a bad and unfair “gotcha!” argument by Democrats, but even it it was valid, Stevens is not supposed to be commenting on who belongs on the Court….just as Barack Obama should not be attacking his predecessor after George W. Bush was so exemplary in not attacking his successor.

2. Weird baseball ethics. I meant to include this one yesterday. In the Colorado-Cubs wild card play-off game, runners were on first and second with one out when a slow bouncer was hit to Rockies third-sacker Nolan Arrenado just as Cubs runner Javy Baez approached him on the way to third. Arenado tagged Baez out, and Baez wrapped his arms around him. Meanwhile, the runner on first went to second, and the batter reached first. Arenado smiled and disentangled himself, but he didn’t–couldn’t—throw to either base for another out.

It was absolutely interference. A runner can’t do that, but the umpires didn’t call it (the double play would have been called without a throw, and the inning ended), so the frame continued.  The game was close, and if the Cubs had scored (they didn’t) that inning, it would have been because Baez broke the rules and the umpires didn’t notice (or care). The announcers opined that Arenado didn’t “sell it,” that if he had violently pushed Baez away and tried to make a throw, interference might have been called. Instead, he smiled and treated Baez’s hug  like a sentimental show of affection.

Once upon a time, before player unions, huge contracts and routine fraternization, no player would have expressed friendly amusement as Arenado did. Nolan is the Rockies best player, and he stopped concentrating on the game. Only moral luck stopped it from being a disastrous lapse. Continue reading

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