Yes, We Have Another New Rationalization! Welcome #20 A: “Everyone Deserves A Second Chance!”

Cora

No, in fact everyone doesn’t.

I encountered this inexplicably omitted rationalization—“inexplicably” because we all hear it so often, yet its obvious rationalization character had not occurred to me—today while reading a post by a friend, a Boston Red Sox sportswriter. My friend was answering a query about who the Sox, just off a terrible season, might tap to become the new manager, since the team had unceremoniously dumped poor Ron Roenicke, who literally never had a chance to do anything but fail. The inquirer wondered if Alex Cora, the Sox manager in 2018 and 2019, might return though he had been fired before the 2020 season since he was serving a year-long suspension for his part in the Houston Astros cheating scandal while he was a Houston coach in 2017. My friend, who has made this same argument to me in private conversations, wrote,

I’m not an oddsmaker, but if I was making the decision, I would bring Cora back in a heartbeat. Players responded well to Cora in his two-year stint managing the Red Sox, and it would obviously be well-received in the clubhouse if he comes back. Cora is also popular among Red Sox fans as many of them have been pining for his return. Bringing Cora back could help to rejuvenate a fan base that was discouraged by the 2020 season. As for the detractors who say he was part of a sign-stealing scandal with the Astros? Everyone deserves a second chance.

Ugh. This was not my friend’s finest hour—wait, that’s a rationalization too (19A The Insidious Confession, or “It wasn’t the best choice.”). Okay, the statement was awful:

Continue reading

Oh Joy! A Baseball Ethics Story! Alex Cora Finally Speaks Out!

While the players union and Major league Baseball bicker over the terms under which the American Pastime will have a limited season in 2020, the specter of the ugly ethics scandal that closed out the off-season came out to say “Boo!” Alex Cora, fingered in the Commissioner’s report as the mastermind behind the Houston Astros 2017 sign-stealing scheme, which apparently extended into the play-offs and World Series (which the cheating Astros won), finally talked about the episode, which promises to haunt the Astros, baseball and him for a long time. Cora was suspended for a year and lost his job as manager of the Boston Red Sox. Carlos Beltran, the Astros player who was found to be Cora’s partner in crime, was fired from his new position as manager of the New York Mets, and both the manager and the general manager of the Astros were suspended and fired.

Cora, to my surprise, was cleared in an investigation of the allegations that his Red Sox team in 2018 was also stealing signs. The MLB report faulted a single coach and determined that the sign-stealing was sporadic and relatively minor. I fully expected Cora to be found as the culprit in a second major cheating scandal, and to perhaps be banned from baseball entirely. Well, good: I’m relieved. he’s not the Bad Seed I feared he was.

Back when I was certain Cora was facing the end of his baseball career—and he still might be—I proposed a 12 Step Program for him to regain the trust of fans and his sport. The steps, which are described in detail here, were… Continue reading

What’s The Ethical Response When Your Life And Reputation Collapses, And It’s Your Fault? My 12 Step Program For Alex Cora

I have been thinking a  lot about what I would do if I were Alex Cora.

In the past, people who have had the kind of precipitous public fall from grace that Cora has had often committed suicide. That’s neither an ethical nor reasonable response for the former Boston manager, but what is an ethical and reasonable response?

If you don’t know: Alex Cora was, until recently, one of the most popular, secure and successful young managers in Major League Baseball. His present was bright—he had a contract that paid him $800,000 a year, he was one of the faces of the Boston Red Sox, a storied franchise with a fanatic following, he was seen as a role model and an an inspiring  figure who represented the game, his city and his team, as well as his Puerto Rico home. His future was if anything, brighter: more money, perhaps even greater success with a talented and wealthy club, endorsement contracts, upper management, books, broadcasting…and of course, adulation, celebrity and fame.

Then, in the span of days, it was all gone. Cora was named as the mastermind of a sign-stealing cheating scandal that devastated the Houston Astros, and as the likely one responsible for another cheating scandal in Boston. He was fired as Boston’s manager, and the fans, and sports media are furious. Cora is certain to be suspended without pay for two years, and to be pronounced persona non grata in baseball for the foreseeable future. No baseball team will want to be associated with Alex Cora even after his official punishment is over.

So far, Cora has not addressed all of this in public; presumably he is awaiting the MLB report after its investigation of Boston’s sign-stealing in 2018. He has not yet apologized nor acknowledged wrong-doing. What is the most ethical way for him to proceed?

If I were hired to give Cora professional guidance about the way to proceed in the most ethical manner possible, what would it be? Cora still has to earn a living. He has to go on living too: he has a family. He has responsibilities.

Here are the 12 steps—it just turned out that way, I swear. Okay, when I got to ten and realized I was near the end, I did think, “Surely this can be jiggered to have 12 steps..”—that I would urge Alex Cora to follow: Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week And Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Baltimore Mayor Jack Young

Sure, be happy and proud, Mr. Mayor! After all, you didn’t commit those murders, and better still, you weren’t the victim of any of them!

“I’m not committing the murders. And that’s what people need to understand. I’m not committing the murders. The police commissioner is not committing it. The council is not committing it. So how can you fault leadership? You know this has been five years of 300-plus murders, and I don’t see it as a lack of leadership.”

—Baltimore Mayor Jack Young, responding to criticism over another year of violent crime in the city, with the number of murders about to reach 300.

Any elected official foolish enough to make such a statement should just resign in disgrace. He is incapable of competent leadership, because he doesn’t understand what it is that leaders do. They are responsible for the welfare of those who follow them, depend on them, trust them. Because they have taken on this responsibility, they are accountable to everyone in the organization—in his case, a municipality—for a deterioration in conditions there. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Philadelphia Phillies Pitcher Vince Velasquez

I am now officially a Vince Velasquez fan.

Pitching in the second inning last night against my Washington Nationals (they will briefly cease being my team when they face the Red Sox in an inter-league series this week), Velasquez was nailed in his pitching shoulder by 97-mph line drive from the Nats’ Adam Eaton.  Rather than fall to the ground screaming—the ball easily could have broken the pitcher’s arm—Velasquez continued doing his job. He went after the deflected ball, throwing off his glove as he ran, picked it up with his left (non-pitching) hand, and threw hard and accurately to first base for the out.

THEN he fell to the ground in agony from the pain in his injured pitching arm. Velasquez was placed on the disabled list after the game, which he left immediately.

From a purely athletic standpoint, the play was remarkable. Velasquez is obviously ambidextrous, and I assume he has thrown a baseball left-handed before. Nonetheless, doing so in a game situation so accurately is astounding. Ethically, which is more important (here anyway), his play demonstrated exemplary character. His first thought was not of himself, though nobody would have thought less of him if the pitcher had fallen to his knees in pain immediately and taken himself out of the play. Velasquez’s immediate focus was on his job, and hid duty to his team. He not only completed the play, but reacted to the circumstances coolly and efficiently, exhibiting courage, diligence, sacrifice, responsibility, and competence.

Vince Velasquez is the baseball equivalent of the hero in a war movie who tosses the decisive hand-grenade into the nest of enemy soldiers after he has sustained a crippling wound.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/18/2018: Moral Luck, Non-Hypocrisy, Hypocrisy, Thomas Jefferson And WKRP

Good morning, Monticello, everyone…

1 The Inspector General’s Report and Tales of Moral Luck:  Stop me if you’ve heard this one: FBI staffer Peter Strzok, working on both the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the Russian collusion investigation, received a text from Lisa Page, Strzok’s co-worker and adulterous lover, that read, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok replied, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

 September of 2016, the FBI discovered that Clinton’s illicit emails had somehow ended up on the laptop of disgraced former Congressman. Anthony Weiner, who is married to Hillary’s top aide and confidante, Huma Abedin.  Strzok, we learn in Michael Horowitz’s report, was instrumental in  the decision not to pursue the lead, arguing that the Russia investigation was a “higher priority” at the time.”We found this explanation unpersuasive and concerning,” the report concluded. The laptop was available from September 29 until October 27, when “people outside the FBI” finally forced  the FBI to act on the evidence. “The FBI had all the information it needed on September 29 to obtain the search warrant that it did not seek until more than a month later,” the IG report stated. “The FBI’s neglect had potentially far-reaching consequences.”

“Comey told the OIG that, had he known about the laptop in the beginning of October and thought the email review could have been completed before the election, it may have affected his decision to notify Congress,” the IG report says, and also states,

“Under these circumstances, we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over follow up on the [Clinton] investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias.”

Got that? The IG believes that anti-Trump, pro-Hillary bias led Strzok to delay the Weiner laptop investigation, and it may have backfired, helping Trump and hurting Clinton rather than the reverse. But the fact that moral luck took a hand and foiled his intent doesn’t change the fact that this is strong evidence that partisan bias DID infect the Clinton investigation, and probably the Russian inquiry as well. This makes the media’s spin that the IG report dispels accusations of bias even more unconscionable.

That Strzok’s biased and unethical tactics to help Hillary intimately failed spectacularly doesn’t change or mitigate the fact that a prime FBI staff member was intentionally trying yo manipulate the investigation for partisan reasons.

2. The Web thinks you’re an awful person.  A tease from a “sponsored site” in the margins of my NBC Sports baseball feed  says, “Jan Smithers starred in hit sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati.” Try not to smile when you see what she looks like now!” Wait…what’s that’s supposed to mean? Is she a circus clown? No, these and similar come-ons apparently assume that normal people love mocking formerly beautiful young stars when they no longer look young. “Heh, heh..well, Jan Smithers, I guess you’re not so hot now, are you? What kind of person takes pleasure in the physical decay of others just because they were once gorgeous?

Actually, the photo of Jan Smithers did make me smile, because unlike, say, Jane Fonda,

…who at 80 has allowed plastic surgeons to make her look like one of the fragile immortal female ghouls who shatter into pieces at the end of “Death Becomes Her,” Smithers (who is younger than me and a decade and a half younger than Hanoi Jane) has allowed herself to age naturally, and by my admittedly biased lights, is lovely still: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/6/18: Yes, It’s Another “Trying To Get The Warm-Up Written While Rushing Around To Get Ready For An Early Morning Ethics Presentation” Edition…

good morning…

1 Responsible parties nominate responsible candidates 1. In Chicago, a permanently Democratic district has  no serious Republican candidates, so Holocaust-denier Arthur Jones, a whack-job who has run in this district seven times, is poised to get the nomination. “To me the Holocaust is what I said it is: It’s an international extortion racket,” Jones told the Chicago Sun-Times. Nice. Anticipating the attacks on the Republican Party if he is its representative in the election this fall, Ann Althouse writes, “Should this be used against the Republican Party? Sure, if you’re into taking whatever comes your way and incorporating it into ruthless propaganda for your party. Ironically, that would be Naziish.”

Wrong. I don’t know where the idea came from that a political party organization is obligated to act like a potted plant, but it isn’t. A party’s obligation is to the public, democracy, and the ideals the party and the nation represents. It does not and should not allow a candidate who doesn’t meet minimal standards of competence and responsibility to use the party to achieve political power. Let such people run on their own, or start a Holocaust Denial Party, or National Nut Ball Party, or the Green Party (Kidding!), or something. . A responsible party vets its candidates, and tells those who don’t stand for basic American values or who are unqualified that they don’t get to use the party for their ends by default.

If you check back, this was the Ethics Alarms position on Donald Trump. The Republicans shouldn’t have allowed him to run for the nomination, and even after he did, his conduct in the debates and elsewhere justified its refusing to nominate him at the convention. They don’t deserve to be called Nazis for nominating him, but they don’t deserve an ethics pass, either. The fact that he won is irrelevant. Continue reading

Yu Darvish And The Ethics Of Unnecessary Apologies

TMZ reported that Yu Darvish, the highly-regarded Dodger starting pitcher who may have delivered the worst World Series performance for a hurler ever, apologized to Dodger fans following his early exit from Game 7. Darvish didn’t make it out of the second inning in either of his two starts.

To begin with, I don’t think he apologized. Darvish said, “Dodger fans … they expect we won the World Series. I couldn’t do it. I still feel sorry,but I did my 100%, so…” Of course he’s sorry that he stunk during the Series, lost two games, and was a major reason his team was defeated by the Houston Astros. He regrets tat he didn’t play better. That, however, is not the same as apologizing, which is how TMZ and—yecch–Breitbart headlined the story.  It is a social balm to say that you  are sorry that your best efforts weren’t good enough, but one should not apologize for bad results unless your conduct was wrongful in some way. An athlete not being at his best on a given day is not wrongdoing. It’s moral luck. If he performed badly because he was drunk, or tried to lose, or didn’t prepare properly, then he owes his stakeholders an apology for breaching their trust and his duty of competence. If, as Yu says he did, the athlete gave “100%,’ then there is nothing to apologize for.

Acting as if there is something to apologize for helps confuse the easily confused public on an important aspect of accountability. We are accountable for bad events when our actions lead to those events, but we can only be blamed for those bad events if some negligence misconduct or other variation from competent and responsible standards causes the  undesirable results, when such results could have been anticipated. Continue reading

When “Ick!” Strikes Out Ethics: The Intensifying Robo-Umpire Controversy

[I see that I last wrote about this issue in April, and before that, in June of 2016, and in 2012 before that.Well, it’s worth writing about again, and again, until ethics and common sense prevails.]

This weekend Major League Umpires held a silent protest, wearing armbands in support of colleague Angel Hernandez, whose competence was publicly questioned by Detroit Tiger player Ian Kinsler. In fact, Angel Hernandez is a terrible umpire, and terrible, indeed, even mildly fallible umpires have a problem now that they never had to worry about in the good old days: their mistakes are obvious and recorded for all to see.

Yesterday Red Sox color man and former player Jerry Remy was reminiscing during the Red Sox -Yankee game broadcast about one of his few home runs. He said he had struck out, missing with his third swing by almost a foot, and was walking back to the dugout when the umpire called him back, saying he had foul-tipped the ball. “I know that was wrong, but I’m not going to argue I’m out when the ump says I’m not.” Remy said. He went back to the plate, and on the next pitch hit a home run. “Of course, they didn’t have replay them,” Jerry added.

Before every game was televised and before technology could show wear each pitch crossed the plate, balls and strikes were called definitively by umpires, many of whom proudly had their own strike zones. “As long as they are consistent with it ” was the rationalization you heard from players and managers. It was, however, a travesty. The strike zone isn’t a judgment call; it is defined, very specifically, in the rules. A pitch is either within the legal zone or it is not. A strike that is called a ball when it is not, or vice-versa, is simply a wrong call, and any time it happens can affect the outcome of the at-bat and the game. If you watch a lot of baseball, you know that we are not just talking about strikeouts and walks.  The on-base average when a batter is facing a 2 balls, one strike count as opposed to a 1-2 count is significantly higher. The wrongly called third pitch can change the result of the at bat dramatically.

Since the technology is available to call strikes correctly 100% of the time, why isn’t the technology being used? Actually it is being used, in TV broadcasts. The fan can see exactly when the umpire misses a call, and the broadcasters talk about it all the time. “Where was that?” “That was a gift!”  “Wow, the pitcher was squeezed on that one.” Once, a missed call in a game was virtually undetectable, because one could assume that the umpire had a better and closer view than any fan or broadcaster could have. Now, there is no doubt.

Yet the players, sportswriters and broadcasters still overwhelmingly argue against the use of computer technology to call balls and strikes. It’s amazing. They know, and admit, that  mistaken  ball and strike calls warp game results; they complain about it when it happens, point it out, run the graphics repeatedly to show how badly a crucial call was botched, and yet argue that a completely fixable problem with massive implications to the players, the games and the seasons, should be allowed to persist.

These are the rationalizations and desperate  arguments they advance: Continue reading

The Umpire’s Botched Call, Moral Luck, And When Using Technology Becomes Ethically Mandatory

The Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, but if they hadn’t, we might be seeing the beginning of tidal wave of public opinion demanding that available technology be employed to avoid catastrophic umpire incompetence.

Washington had a 3-0 lead entering the bottom of the ninth. The Braves mounted a rally,scoring one run and then loading the bases with only one out. At that point Nationals manager Dusty Baker  removed struggling closer Blake Treinen  for Shawn Kelley

Kelley got his first batter to foul out, and then appeared to strike out Chase d’Arnaud, swinging. The game was over: the Nationals came out to congratulate each other, and the ground crew moved onto the field. d’Arnaud, however, argued to home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor that he had foul-tipped the ball into the dirt before the Nat’s catcher caught it. Bucknor agreed, and everyone was called back onto the field.

Kelley struck out d’Arnaud again, so no harm was done. But  videos of the “foul tip”  showed that the batter hadn’t come close to hitting the ball on the pitch Bucknor ruled a foul tip. He missed it by a foot.

If d’Arnaud, given an unearned second chance, had cleared the bases with a ringing double, the baseball world would be going nuts right now; that he didn’t was just moral luck. It went kind of nuts anyway. Bucknor is a terrible umpire, as his awful calls showed throughout the game, which was a typical performance for him. If the botched foul tip call had occurred later in the season during a crucial game, or during the post-season,  it might finally prompt Major League Baseball to use available technology and have balls and strikes called electronically, or at least have a fail-safe review system where an umpire viewing pitched on a TV monitor could instantly overrule a terrible, obvious, game changing call by the home plate umpire.

At this point, it is irresponsible for MLB not to use the Bucknor botch as impetus to make these changes now, before a disaster, realizing that a lucky near-miss shouldn’t be treated any differently. It won’t, however. It will wait until the horse has not only escaped the barn, but escaped the barn and trampled some children, before putting a lock on the door.