Darek Jeter, Rob Neyer, and Baseball’s Traditional Deceptions

ESPN blogger Rob Neyer has once again called for baseball to punish “cheaters” which he defines as, among other things, “lying to an umpire” and faking an injury, though there are no rules against either. His impetus was an incident in last night’s Rays-Yankee showdown, in which Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter convinced the home plate umpire that he had been hit by a pitch, when replays showed that the ball actually hit his bat. The subterfuge led to two runs for the Yankees and the ejection of Rays manager Joe Maddon, who argued the call to no avail.  Jeter later admitted that he had fooled the umpire, and seemed to be rather pleased with himself.

This has Neyer rather confused. He writes that Jeter ought to be punished for his dishonesty, because ” it wasn’t fair that Jeter was awarded first base. It wasn’t fair to pitcher Chad Qualls, or to Qualls’ teammates or his manager or to the thousands of Rays fans watching and listening to the evening’s dramatic events.” Yet then Neyer immediately points out that Jeter did “nothing wrong.” So Jeter should be punished because he did nothing wrong? If what Jeter did is in fact dishonest and unfair, of course it is wrong.

But it’s not, any more than bluffing in poker is unfair and dishonest. Continue reading

How New Ethical Standards Get Made

Jim Joyce, the American league umpire who cost Armando Galaraga a perfect game by missing the what should have been the final out of the game, achieved immediate respect for admitting his mistake and apologizing to the pitcher and the public. Now another umpire, Gary Cederstrom, following Joyce’s lead, has admitted and apologized for a botched call, a wretched called strike on Johnny Damon that ended another Tigers game with a strikeout when it should have been a game-tying ball four (the bases were loaded at the time.)

ESPN commentator John Kruk and baseball blogger Rob Neyer have expressed dismay at the apparent trend, but it is a legitimate cultural shift in ethical standards.  Continue reading

Avocations, Conflicts of Interest, and Country Joe West

Some employers are troubled by the avocations and outside activities of employees, a concern that often deserves a  defiant “none of your business” in response. However, sometimes the concern is justified, such as when the avocation adversely reflects on the individual’s reputation to the extent that it harms his or her ability to perform, or when the avocation actually interferes with the job, such as a when a recreational rugby player keeps missing work because of injuries. Another problem is when the avocation creates a conflict of interest in which conduct that may be good for the avocation undermines the job.

The latter is exemplified by Major League Umpire Joe West, who fancies himself a country music singer and songwriter when he isn’t calling balls and strikes. As nicely narrated on the blog “It’s About the Money,” West has long been the most flamboyant and combative of umps, as proven by the fact that a lot of people know his name. Umpires aren’t supposed to be stars, celebrities or personalities: if you notice a particular umpire, it is almost always because he has made a mistake.  They are important, however. Their acuity of sight and judgment are called upon many times in every game, and can make a significant difference in scores, standings, championships and careers. Like judges, they have to be trusted, and their integrity above suspicion. “The Common Man,” who wrote the blog post, believes that West’s singing career, such as it is, creates a conflict of interest that undermines that trust, and worse, warps his judgment on the field. Continue reading