One of the policy and medical ethics issues that is looming larger as the pandemic continues is the requirement that hospitals not be burdened by “non-essential surgery and medical procedures.”
I agree: it would have been better if Ethics Alarms has more precisely defined “essential surgery and medical procedures” in the previous post on the issue, when I examined the question of whether abortion can be ethically put in that category as Texas and Ohio have decreed. Abortion, as that post noted, is a particularly poor choice for such analysis, given that our society cannot agree on what it is, other than the Supreme Court’s ruling that whatever it is, a woman has a Constitutionally right to do it.
Incidentally: can we agree that there is also a constitutional right to have any surgery or medical procedure? It hasn’t been specifically stated by the Court, but I assume that the abortion precedent applies to everything else as well, from having a kidney transplant to getting a wart removed to acquiring breast implants. These would all fall under the right of privacy and inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Forbidding any surgery, non-essential or otherwise, is a big deal, and my guess is that a judicial challenge to the whole concept would stand a substantial chance of success. What is essential surgery to me might not be such to you, but frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn, and unlike an abortion, my procedure isn’t killing anyone. Continue reading →
1. So, so predictable. Yesterday was fun: I assumed that the post about the undeniable pettiness, incivility and hypocrisy at Senator McCain’s funeral service in D.C. would prompt multiple exclamations of “But…but…Trump deserves it!”, “He’s worse!” and “What about what Trump does?” I was not disappointed. Each one of these desperate efforts to avoid facing the issue discussed and admit reality is signature significance for having crippling flaws in one’s ethics analysis abilities, gaping holes in one’s basic understanding of right and wrong, and a victim of stupidity-inducing bias. Nothing in the post excused or referenced the President’s own conduct in any way.
2. Baseball ethics. No, it is not unethical for pitchers to carry crib sheets. During the top of the eighth inning in Saturday night’s Phillies game against the Cubs in Philadelphia, third base umpire Joe West noticed the Phillies pitcher looking at a card he had pulled from his pocket, and confiscated it. The card contained scouting reports on how to pitch a Cubs batter. The advanced analytics baseball teams now use to devise how to position fielders and pitch to batters are too detailed for the typical player to commit to memory. Lots of them carry little cheat sheets, sometimes in their hats. Although lots of old school players and tradition-loving fans hate the development, it’s here, and there are no rules against it.
Never mind: Joe West, who is one of the more arrogant and autocratic umpires, felt that the piece of paper constituted a “foreign substance” under the rules, and thus surmised that it was prohibited by the provision designed to stop pitchers from making the ball do tricks by surreptitiously applying K-Y Jelly or slippery elm. Yup, ol’ Joe thought the pitcher, Austin Davis, was going to use the card to doctor the baseball. Good thinking, Joe! MLB quickly set him straight the next day, announcing that West, as he often is, for he is an awful umpire, was mistaken.
The fact that West couldn’t figure that out himself, and that he is the longest tenured MLB ump, tells you why we will have robo-umps calling strikes within five years or less.
3. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Today’s nauseating example of mainstream media’s refusal to report and comment on the news objectively comes from the New York Times—Surprise!—which writes sympathetically about the Democratic Party’s dilemma as it tried to derail the Supreme Court nomination of Bret Kavanaugh. There’s no filibuster any more! Multiple Democrats tell the Times how unfair this is. Guess whose name is completely absent from the article? Why, former Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who resorted to the so-called nuclear option to pass Barack Obama’s judicial nominations over Republican opposition. “They are making a mockery of the process, and that is because the No. 1 goal …. is to stack the bench with ideologues, because they know they cannot achieve their goals through the elected branches,” said the Republican leadership at the…no, wait, that quote is from Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the current Democratic leader. He doesn’t mention that his predecessor is the reason the system is “broken.” At least the Times, in one brief sentence , acknowledge that “Democrats” eliminated the filibuster for federal judges below SCOTUS level. They do not make it clear that this shattered a long-standing Senate tradition, and that it made the GOP follow-up of killing the device for Supreme Court nominations both politically feasible and inevitable.
The Times also does not remind readers that its editorial board applauded Reid’s move at the time. Continue reading →
It’s freezing, and I’m sick, so naturally my thoughts travel to warm summer nights at Fenway Park. Daniel Bard just retired. It gives me something different, and inspiring, to think about.
If you’re not a Red Sox fan or a dedicated baseball follower, you have no idea who Bard is. He was a relief pitcher, a set-up man, who could throw nearly 100 mph in the days, not long ago, when almost no pitchers did. Through August of 2011, his third major league season with Boston, Bard had appeared in 181 games with a 2.42 ERA, and .186 batting average against him. The Red Sox went 123-58 in the games in which he pitched. In 186 innings, Bard struck out 202 of the batters he faced. A young man in his mid-20s, Daniel Bard could look forward to stardom, glory, celebrity, and millions and millions of dollars. Then, suddenly in September of that year, he lost it all.
Nobody took special note, even though his ineffectiveness down the stretch was major reason for the epic Red Sox collapse that shook the franchise and led to the exodus of the team’s popular manager Terry Francona (now the very successful manager of the Cleveland Indians) and its boy genius GM, Theo Epstein, now the architect of the suddenly championship caliber Chicago Cubs. Bard was just tired, everyone assumed. There was no apparent injury; nothing had changed. But the next season, Daniel Bard couldn’t throw as hard consistently as before, and more alarming still, he couldn’t get the ball over the plate. Suddenly, he wasn’t a good or even a barely acceptable major league pitcher any more; indeed, he was a dangerous one, hitting a batter or two almost every inning, along with lots of wild pitches and walks. By June, he was back in the minor leagues. Bard’s control got worse, and he sunk lower and lower into the low minors. Boston papers would report outings with unbelievable line scores: 2 innings, eight walks, four hit batters, five wild pitches, or worse. Bard tried surgery, meditation, mental coaches,, psychologists, changing his delivery. He was still young, so team after team gambled that they could get him back to his All-Star form–Texas, the Mets, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and the Cubs. Bard kept trying, and failing. Continue reading →
It is often said that baseball is a child’s game, but that doesn’t excuse professional baseball players holding on to childish traditions regarding the “right way to play the game” that are not right, frequently dangerous, and mind-numbingly stupid to boot.
Last week, beginning a weekend series in Baltimore, the Boston Red Sox were enmeshed in a close game., losing 2-0, with time running out. With the Orioles batting and Manny Machado (Non-baseball fans: he is the very young, very large, very talented O’s third-baseman, a joy to watch and already a super-star) on first, Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts fielded a slowly bouncing ground ball and flipped a weak throw to Dustin Pedroia (Non-baseball fans: he is the small, cocky, excellent Sox second baseman, the best fielder at his position in 2016, a former MVP, and the acknowledged leader of the team now that David Ortiz has retired). Pedroia caught the ball in a first baseman’s stretch, awkwardly, just in time to force out Machado: a double play was out of the question. Machado, however, came into the base hard, sliding late, and barreling right over the bag with his spikes raised. (It looks on the tape as if one foot was elevated when it hit the base.) Machado’s momentum took him into Pedroia, knocking him down and spiking him, as well as injuring his knee and ankle. Machado appeared to try to catch the Sox player after he passed over the base.
There was no question that Machado was out, but the Red Sox manager argued that the slide was illegal: since last year, runners are not allowed to try to break up double plays by intentionally sliding at opposing fielders. Late slides, slides not intended to allow the runner to get to second base, and sliding past teh base to upend the second baseman or shortstop will be called as obstruction, and the batter is then called out to complete the double play. The umpires disagreed with Farrell, and that is still being debated; it’s not relevant here. Pedroia, meanwhile, was led off the field, obviously injured.
After the game, Red Sox TV analysts and former players Jim Rice (Sox Hall of Fame Sox slugger) and Steve Lyons (an opinionated jackass) chuckled about what was coming. Ancient baseball tradition required, they explained, that the Red Sox “protect their player” who was injured by a careless, inept, or intentionally illegal slide. This meant, they explained, that a Red Sox pitcher in the next game was obligated to hit Machado with a pitch in retaliation. “He knows it!” said Rice. “He’ll be expecting it.” Lyons nodded and laughed. (Full disclosure: I hated Steve Lyons as a player, and I loathe him as an analyst.)
This is indeed an “unwritten law” of baseball, and one of the most unethical. I have seen it countless times, and the result is often fights and injuries, as well as suspensions for the pitcher’s involved and outright beanball wars. The theory is that you can’t let a team “intimidate” you, so a message must be sent. The message is “tit for tat” or “Mob Ethics”: you hurt one of ours, we hurt one of yours. Sometimes the situation requires a pitch directed at other team’s star player, when that team’s scrub injures the pitcher’s team’s star. In this case, the target was an easy call, for Machado was both the miscreant and is also the Orioles best player. Continue reading →
As I wrote last year about this time, the baseball play-offs make us unethical. Managers make decisions that either work or back-fire, and feed the toxic human tendency toward consequentialism thusly: when they work, the decisions werecorrect; when they don’t, the manager was an idiot, and the choicee were obviously wrong. As with judging the ethics of an act, what happens after a baseball decision is made is irrelevant to whether it was a good decision when it was made. This is almost impossible to keep firmly in mind. Our logic rebels at the idea that an ethical act can have horrendous consequences, or that the right tactical decision can result in defeat. But that’s life, as my father was fond of saying.
Hindsight bias further pushes us to confuse the making of a decision with its consequences. It is, not surprisingly, much easier to make a strong case that a decision was the wrong one after all the results are in. This, of course, is unfair to the decision-maker, who didn’t have the data the critics do when he or she acted. On the other hand, sometimes the reason the decision was the wrong one is that it was wrong, and the fact that the results were bad just support that verdict.
This morning, indeed since last night, Washington D.C. baseball fans and sportswriters have been wrestling this conundrum. The Washington Nationals, widely believed to be the strongest National League team in the post season, and quite possibly the favorites to win the World Series, find themselves down 0-2 in the best of five National League Division Series after a grueling, 18 inning loss to the San Francisco Giants, who didn’t even win their own division. The way the game went into extra innings will be debated for months if the Nats fail to rally and win the series. Nats starting pitcher Justin Zimmermann, who had pitched a no-hitter in his last outing, had been almost as good this time, pitching his team within one out of a 1-0 win that would have evened the series. He had dominated Giants hitters in every way, and had not shown any signs of weakening or, as they say in the game, “losing his stuff.” In the old days, that is, as recently as 20 years ago, a pitcher on a run like this would finish the game unless he had a stroke on the mound. Now, MLB managers are trained to be ready to go to their ninth inning specialist, the so-called closer, at any hint of trouble or even without it, and they almost always do.
As a reflex action, it makes no sense a lot of the time, other than “everybody does it.” A pitcher whom you know is pitching well is a known quantity, while a pitcher newly arrived to the game, whatever his skills, is not. If the choice is between a starter who is not just doing OK but rather mowing down batters like Samson jaw-boning the Philistines, and bringing in a new arm, logic would dictate that the latter is the greater risk.
Nats manager Matt Williams acknowledged that Zimmerman was “in the zone” by not lifting him to begin the ninth, and was rewarded with two quick outs. When he walked his first batter of the game, however, on his magic 100th pitch (they count pitches now, and 100 is the number at which pitchers supposedly turn into pumpkins), and Williams lifted him, calling on closer Drew Storen. Continue reading →
This is the final day of the regular baseball season, and an appropriate time to salute a major league player who placed principle over cash….even if I disagree with him
Phil Hughes was a bargain pick-up during the off-season for the Twins, a failed pitching phenom for the Yankees widely viewed to be on a fast slope to oblivion. He surprised everyone with a wonderful season for the otherwise woeful Minnesota team this season, potentially setting the all-time strikeout-to-walk ratio record, and began his final start of the campaign needing to throw eight and a third innings to reach 210 and trigger a $500,000 bonus in his contract.He would have made it, too, pitching eight dominant innings against the Diamondbacks and allowing just one run. Then there was a downpour, with Hughes needing one more out to get the extra $500,000.
After more than an hour’s rain delay, the game was resumed, but as is the practice in baseball, Hughes did not return to pitch: too long a delay, his arm too cold, too much risk of injury, especially after throwing so many pitches. Hughes accepted the bad luck without complaint or rancor, saying that “some things aren’t meant to be.” Continue reading →
Texas Ranger ace Yu Darvish, in addition to being the only Japanese-Iranian major league baseball player and an Abbot and Costello routine come to life (“Who won the game?” “Yu did!” “Who did? “Not Who, Yu!” “Me?” “Not you…Yu!” ), is apparently something of a trickster. In Saturday’s crucial game between the Rangers and the Oakland A’s, Darvish was facing A’s slugger Josh Donaldson, who had earlier in the season accused Darvish, a true flame-thrower, of being afraid to throw him his fastball. Darvish took up the challenge and as he prepared to throw his pitch to the Oakland thirdbaseman, shouted, “Fastball!” This, in the tine-honored traditions of the game, means that a pitcher is telling a batter that he can’t hit his best pitch, even when he knows what’s coming. It means, literally, “OK, hot shot, see if you can hit this, ’cause I’m throwing it right past you!”
The ruse didn’t work, for Donaldson got a hit. Still, Oakland’s dugout erupted, as the A’s expressed their belief that this was “bush league,” meaning an act consisting of unprofessional and unsporting conduct not specifically prohibited by the rules but nonetheless unfair and not worthy of big league players. Continue reading →