Ethics Hero: Former Cleveland Indians Star Kenny Lofton

[My apologies to Kenny: This is a month late.]

Lofton, a great baseball player for many years, had the guts to articulate nicely my nausea every time I am forced to watch the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcast team of Alex Rodriguez, Jennifer Mendoza, and Matt Vasgersian. It’s a horrible trio, even if you don’t know that Rodriguez is such a loathsome individual and a blight on the game he played. For much of each  broadcast, they sit around joking and blathering while barely paying attention to what’s happening on the field. This would be annoying if they were members of the Algonquin Roundtable, but none of the three are especially clever, insightful or witty. It is obvious that the producers hand them the game’s alleged “narrative,” and they flog it for three hours, as if anyone who understands baseball watches a typical game that way.

But I digress. The issue at hand, flagged by Lofton, is Rodriquez, soon to be Mr. Jennifer Lopez, and there goes another performer I will never watch again. Lofton  told the New York Post last month, beginning with the issue of known and suspected steroid and PED cheats being eligible for election to the Hall of Fame:

“I just don’t like it. It pisses me off when they still talk about the guys who did PEDs still have the opportunity to get in. You cheated the game. Look at somebody like Pete Rose not in the Hall of Fame. I’m not saying what Pete Rose did was right, but his numbers that he put up were real numbers. If it’s all about numbers, guys who cheated the game shouldn’t be in. PED guys piss me off. I just get irked every time I hear people talk about it. You’ve got… a guy [Rodriguez] who got caught with PEDs doing the World Series. I can’t even watch the World Series now. That’s sad, you have a game that I love, I played 17 years in it, and you have Major League Baseball allowing a guy that knowingly cheated the game twice, and he’s the face of baseball, doing the World Series. That is not cool. To see somebody who cheated the game blatantly is doing the World Series? Come on, people. You’re basically telling kids nowadays that it’s OK to cheat the game of baseball. It’s OK to cheat. You will still get a job being a commentator, being the face of baseball. I don’t see how that flies with anyone.”

Neither do I.

 

 

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

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/16/ 2018: The Fake Moussaka Edition

Gooood morning Pyongyang!

…and everyone else too, of course.

1. ” Winning.” How many in “the resistance” and the news media are rooting, secretly or openly, for the North Korean talks to fail? Based on the tone of some premature gloating on social media and news reports after North Korea threatened to pull out of talks, I think “many” is the fair answer. Other recent headlines and news stories also point in this direction, like “Improving Economy A Problem For Democrats.” (No, an improving economy is not a problem for any Americans, unless they care about their own power more than their country.)

This is especially revolting ( and hypocritical) from the same people who 1)  falsely attributed Rush Limbaugh’s indefensible statement in 2008 that he wanted Obama to fail to the entire Republican Party (I condemned Limbaugh’s statement at the time) and 2) used it to feed the narrative that conservatives who opposed that Presidents left-ward policies were doing so out of personal and racial antipathy.

A President’s success–as in “being proved correct” or “getting lucky,” it doesn’t matter which— makes it more likely that policies you don’t like will be continued? Suck it up and cheer like the good citizen you are. His accomplishments make it less likely that your favorite politician will get elected? Cry me a river: your duty is to care about your nation and fellow citizens first. That you are on record that—okay, still think that—this Presdent has crap for brains and you wouldn’t shake his hand without gloves makes you look less wise and prescient than you would have if he fell flat on his face? Cue the world’s smallest violin, have some integrity, and grow the hell up.

2. Ken Burns ethics, and FDR. In this post earlier this year, I scored documentary whiz Ken Burns for the hagiography of Franklin Roosevelt that marred his otherwise superb “The Roosevelts.”  “The smoking gun for me,” I wrote, “is that despite ten and half hours, Burns somehow never found time to highlight FDR’s internment of American citizens solely because they were of Japanese ancestry. The civil rights outrage is only alluded to in passing, as part of a list from a biographer preceding the nostrum, ‘All great leaders make mistakes.’” That critique stands, but it is slightly unfair, I subsequently discovered. Burns covered the internment of Japanese Americans extensively in an earlier, also excellent, PBS series, 2007′ s “The War.”  Even that section, however, avoided laying proper accountability for the debacle at President Roosevelt’s feet.  I watched the documentary over the past two days, and the deceit is really extraordinary.  The narration keeps referring to Executive Order 9066, without specifically saying whose order it was, like the thing appeared on its own. Here, Ken, let me fix this for you:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the imprisonment of tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry and resident aliens from Japan in concentration camps (“internment” is a euphemism and a cover word, like “pro-choice”) with towers and guards with loaded rifles. Though some German-Americans and Italian-Americans were imprisoned as well, far fewer were taken. The risk they posed was not considered as great, because they were white.’

Executive Order 9066 wasn’t rescinded, incredibly, until February 19, 1976, by President Ford. The Supreme Court decision upholding the order, Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944),has never been overturned. In that case’s 6–3 decision approving the abrogation of American citizen rights with fear as the justification, six of FDR’s eight appointees—you know, the liberals—  sided with Roosevelt, and against the Bill of Rights. Continue reading

Red Sox Star Prospect Michael Chavis Tested Positive For Steroids. The Team Should Fire Him

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that third baseman Michael Chavis, who is the Red Sox’s No. 1 prospect has been suspended following their violations of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, and has received an 80-game suspension without pay after testing positive for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The suspension of Chavis is effective immediately. He was expected to be a candidate to come up to the big leagues and help the Red Sox in the stretch drive. His suspension hurts the entire organization.

Chavis tweeted a long and plaintive denial. And you know what the line is about that: “That’s what they all say.” Here is a sample…

“Over the past several months, I have been searching for an answer as to how a prohibited substance I have never heard of, DHMCT, was detected in my urine during the offseason. It is a question that unfortunately has not been answered, and I have run out of time for now to find an answer. As hopeless as this is for me, I am faced with the reality that maybe I never will. The only thing I do know is that I would never, and have never, purposely taken any prohibitive substance in my entire life.”

Continue reading

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.

Ethics Hero: Baseball Great Joe Morgan

The baseball writers are filling out their Hall of Fame ballots, and Hall of Fame member Joe Morgan authored a much-needed letter on behalf of his fellow honorees to urge voters to keep steroid cheats out of the Hall. He wrote—on Hall of Fame stationary, so it is clear that this was both personal and official:

The Hall of Fame is Special – A Letter from Joe Morgan

Over the years, I have been approached by many Hall of Fame members telling me we needed to do  something to speak out about the possibility of steroid users entering the Hall of Fame. This issue  has been bubbling below the surface for quite a while. 

I hope you don’t mind if I bring to your attention what I’m hearing. 

Please keep in mind I don’t speak for every single member of the Hall of Fame. I don’t know how  everyone feels, but I do know how many of the Hall of Famers feel. 

I, along with other Hall of Fame Baseball players, have the deepest respect for you and all the writers who vote to decide who enters Baseball’s most hallowed shrine, the National Baseball Hall of Fame. For some 80 years, the men and women of the BBWAA have cast ballots that have made the Hall into the wonderful place it is. 

I think the Hall of Fame is special. There is a sanctity to being elected to the Hall. It is revered. It is  the hardest Hall of Fame to enter, of any sport in America. 

But times change, and a day we all knew was coming has now arrived. Players who played during  the steroid era have become eligible for entry into the Hall of Fame. 

The more we Hall of Famers talk about this – and we talk about it a lot – we realize we can no longer  sit silent. Many of us have come to think that silence will be considered complicity. Or that fans  might think we are ok if the standards of election to the Hall of Fame are relaxed, at least relaxed  enough for steroid users to enter and become members of the most sacred place in Baseball. We don’t want fans ever to think that. 

We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They  cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here. 

Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League  Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in. Those  are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right. 

Now, I recognize there are players identified as users on the Mitchell Report who deny they were  users. That’s why this is a tricky issue. Not everything is black and white – there are shades of gray  here. It’s why your job as a voter is and has always been a difficult and important job. I have faith in  your judgment and know that ultimately, this is your call. 

But it still occurs to me that anyone who took body-altering chemicals in a deliberate effort to cheat  the game we love, not to mention they cheated current and former players, and fans too, doesn’t  belong in the Hall of Fame. By cheating, they put up huge numbers, and they made great players  who didn’t cheat look smaller by comparison, taking away from their achievements and consideration for the Hall of Fame. That’s not right. 

And that’s why I, and other Hall of Famers, feel so strongly about this.  

It’s gotten to the point where Hall of Famers are saying that if steroid users get in, they’ll no longer  come to Cooperstown for Induction Ceremonies or other events. Some feel they can’t share a stage  with players who did steroids. The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame  too. The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will  divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear. 

Section 5 of the Rules for Election states, “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing  ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player  played.” 

I care about how good a player was or what kind of numbers he put up; but if a player did steroids,  his integrity is suspect; he lacks sportsmanship; his character is flawed; and, whatever contribution  he made to his team is now dwarfed by his selfishness. 

Steroid use put Baseball through a tainted era where records were shattered. “It was a steroidal farce,” wrote Michael Powell in the New York Times. It is no accident that those records held up for decades until the steroid era began, and they haven’t been broken since the steroid era ended.  Sadly, steroids worked. 

Dan Naulty was a journeyman pitcher in the late 1990s who admitted he took steroids, noting that his fastball went from 87 to 96. He told Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci in 2012, “I was a full-blown  cheater, and I knew it. You didn’t need a written rule. I was violating clear principles that were laid down within the rules. I understood I was violating implicit principles.” 

The Hall of Fame has always had its share of colorful characters, some of whom broke or bent society’s rules in their era. By today’s standards, some might not have gotten in. Times change and  society improves. What once was accepted no longer is. 

But steroid users don’t belong here. What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change  for the worse. 

Steroid users knew they were taking a drug that physically improved how they played. Taking  steroids is a decision. It’s the deliberate act of using chemistry to change how hard you hit and throw by changing what your body is made of. 

I and other Hall of Famers played hard all our lives to achieve what we did. I love this game and am  proud of it. I hope the Hall of Fame’s standards won’t be lowered with the passage of time.  For over eighty years, the Hall of Fame has been a place to look up to, where the hallowed halls  honor those who played the game hard and right. I hope it will always remain that way. 

Sincerely, 

Joe Morgan

Good.

I agree in every respect. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/1/2017: Puerto Rico, Baseball Ethics, And Good Riddance To Hugh Hefner

Gooood Morning October!

1 And with October comes the wonderful post-season of that all-American sports that does not leave its athletes with brain disease, that requires some erudition and an attention span longer than a terrier puppy’s to appreciate, and that does not subject its fans to incoherent political theater as part of the price of watching a game. Yes, “it’s baseball, Ray.”

Yesterday the Boston Red Sox finally clinched the America League East title, the first time in over a century that this perverse team has won a championship in consecutive years. In other words, nothing can spoil my mood today.

There are a couple of baseball ethics notes, too:

  • In Miami, Giancarlo Stanton has one last game to hit his 60th home run, which would make him the sixth major league to reach that mark in baseball history. Two of the six, Babe Ruth, whose 60 homers in 1927 stood as the season record for 34 years, and Roger Maris, the Yankee who broke the record with 61 in something of a fluke season, reached the mark fairly. The other three, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds, were steroid cheats. Ever since Stanton caught fire after the All-Star break and looked for a while as if he would exceed 61, wags have been saying that he would become the “real” record holder, since the totals of Mark, Sammy and Barry ( 73, the current record, in 2001) shouldn’t count. Of course they should count. They have to count. The games were official, the runs counted, the homers are reflected in the statistics of the pitchers, the teams, and records of the sport. Bonds should have been suspended before he broke any records, but baseball blew it. Saying his homers (and Sosa’s, and McGwire’s) don’t count is like arguing that Samuel J. Tilden, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton were elected President.

Integrity exists in layers, and the ultimate integrity is accepting reality. The 1919 Reds won the World Series, fixed or not. O.J. is innocent in the eyes of the law, and Roger Maris no longer holds baseball single season home run record.

  • In Kansas City, manager Ned Yost did something gracious, generous, and strange. The Royals, a small market team that won two championships with a core of home grown, low-visibility stars, now face losing all or most of them to big free agent contracts that the team simply cannot afford. Fans are often bitter about such venal exits, and teams usually fan the flames of resentment: better that the market be angry at the players than the organization. After Red Sox fan favorite Johnny Damon, a popular symbol of the 2004 World Series winning club, left for greener pastures in the New York Yankees outfield, he was jeered every time he came to bat in Fenway Park for the rest of his career.

But Ned Yost, who will be left with a shell of his team and a new bunch of kids to manage in KC next year, was not going to let the players who made him a winner depart amidst anger and recriminations. During yesterday’s 4-3 victory in front of the home crowd at Kauffman Stadium, Yost engineered an emotional curtain call for all four of the players who were probably playing their last games as Royals.

He pulled them from the game, one by one, all while the team was in the field or the player on the bases, so each could get a long standing ovation: Eric Hosmer in the moments before the fifth inning; Mike Moustakas with one out in the sixth. Lorenzo Cain for a pinch runner. Alcides Escobar in the middle of the seventh.

Nice.

And none of them took a knee on the way out…

2. I have been researching to find any objective reports that support the claim that the federal government and FEMA are not doing their best to help Puerto Rico. There aren’t any. There are plenty of videos of the devastation, but even the New York Times, which is the head cheerleader for anti-Trump porn, has only been able to muster headlines about the relief effort being criticized. All of my Facebook friends writing—it’s really dumb, everybody—about how Trump is uncaring as they signal their virtue by telling us how their hearts go out to the residents of the island literally know nothing about the relief efforts. They don’t know anything about the planning, the logistics, the problems or what is feasible. Nonetheless, they think they have standing to say that it is incompetent, or slow (which means, slower than it has to be), or, and  anyone who says this better not say it to me, based on racism. Their assertions arise out of pure partisan bias, bolstered by convenient ignorance.

Vox’s Matt Yglesias, one of the knee-jerk doctrinaire leftists in the commentary world who does an especially poor job hiding his malady,  attempted to take a shot at the Trump administration by tweeting,

“The US government supplied Berlin for nearly a year by air despite a Soviet blockade using late-1940s technology.”

This is only a valid comparison for the willfully obtuse. You can’t airlift electricity and water, or a communication and transportation infrastructure that is necessary to distribute supplies. Berlin was surrounded, but it had all of these. Continue reading