Baseball Ethics While Watching Baseball, Part 2: Revenge

The second baseball ethics story that imposed upon my consciousness last night (the first was posted on here), is more substantive than the first.

Some background is required. The Houston Astros are playing the Los Angeles Dodgers for the first time since it was revealed that the Astros had used an illegal (in baseball terms) scheme to assist the team’s hitters by stealing the opposition’s signs using outfield cameras during the entire 2017 season, including the World Series. The Dodgers were the Astros’ National League opponents in that Series, a very close one. They have not been shy about claiming that they were robbed of a World Championship.

The two teams meeting for the first time since the Astros management was punished by Major League Baseball sparked lots of speculation. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he didn’t expect his players to retaliate against the Astros, which shows what he knows.  In the sixth inning of the first game of the series with the Dodgers leading 5-2,  fire-balling L.A. reliever Joe Kelly threw a 3-0 fastball over Houston’s MVP Alex Bregman‘s head to the backstop. This is what as known as “a message.” Later in the same inning, with runners on first and second, Kelly threw a first-pitch fastball that nearly hit Astros shortstop Carlos Correa in the head. That ball also sailed to the backstop and allowed both runners to advance. Correa  ultimately struck out, and as Kelly retreated from the mound towards the dugout, he made a mocking frowny face, then shouted, “Nice swing, bitch!” at Correa. These are known in technical baseball lexicon as “fighting words.” Both benches emptied, but no punches were thrown. The Dodgers went on to win 5-2.

During the off-season, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a memorandum telling teams not to retaliate against the Astros. There is also a temporary rule for the shortened 60-game 2020 season prohibiting players and coaches from fighting with other teams or arguing with umpires—social distancing, don’t you know.

While I was watching last night’s Red Sox-Mets game, I learned that Joe Kelly had been suspended eight games. Continue reading

Baseball May Be Missing, But Baseball Ethics Marches On; The MLB Verdict On The Boston Red Sox Sign Stealing Allegations

If you are just joining us, the Houston Astros (if you don’t know that’s a baseball team, then none of this will make sense to you, and neither does the United States in all likelihood) were slammed by Major League Baseball after it was determined that the team, primarily through the efforts of then-coach Alex Cora and veteran player Carlos Beltran, systematically utilized cameras at home games to steal catchers’ signs to opposing pitchers and relay them to Astros batters during their at-bats. This, the investigation found, continued through the 2017 season, post-season and World Series, which the Astros won. (Ethics Alarms covered the cheating scandal from many aspects, here.) The punishment meted out to the Astros was substantial, though not as severe as some, including me, would have liked. I think the team should have been stripped of their 2017 World Championship.

Shortly after the Astros scandal was first revealed by the baseball news media, the next year’s World Champions, the Boston Red Sox, were accused of another sign stealing scheme during 2018, one that involved using the team’s video replay equipment, which is near the dugout during games, to study the opposing team’s signs and relay them to batters. This seemed especially ominous since the bench coach  who had been identified as the mastermind behind the Astros scheme in 2017 was the manager of the Red Sox in 2018, and had led them to a record-setting World Series run.

MLB interviewed Red Sox players and management in a mysteriously long investigation, and only yesterday revealed the results and the sanctions. Boston’s video replay system operator J.T. Watkins was suspended without pay for one year, and banned from holding that same position with any team. Boston was stripped of the  its second-round draft pick in the2020  amateur.  Alex Cora, who was fired by the Red Sox in January after the revelations from the Astros investigation,  was suspended for this year, but only for his Astros conduct in 2017. The investigation exonerated him of any role in the Sox matter, which MLB found to be confined to Watkins acting on his own intermittently, and a few players. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/21/2020: Our Cheating Hearts

I can’t sleep.

While I’m thinking about Hank, I recommend Ken Burns’ latest documentary, “Country Music,” and I’m not exactly a country music buff (though my father’s favorite song was “The Wabash Cannonball” . Burns has always had a fondness for ethics stories, and his latest work is full of them.

How did I not know that Williams died before he turned 30? Based on his amazing output of classic songs, I assumed he must have lived to be 90. He’s the Buddy Holly of Country, or perhaps the Mozart.

1. Before we get to the real cheating, stop making me defend Mike Bloomberg! From Yahoo, in a post headlined, Bloomberg Shares Doctored Debate Video To Hide Dismal Performance” by David Moye, who needs a head transplant:

  “On Thursday morning, the billionaire businessman released a deceptively edited video that falsely suggested he rendered the other candidates speechless at one point….The video begins at the moment when the former New York City mayor declared: “I’m the only one here I think that’s ever started a business.” During the actual exchange, his comment was greeted with about four seconds of silence, but the video below falsely implied it was more like 20….whoever edited Bloomberg’s video tweet took moments from other parts of the debate to make it look as if his declaration was so powerful candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former Vice President Joe Biden had no response.”

Garbage! The critics are doing the exact same thing they did to President Trump’s video that kept showing video of Nancy Pelosi ripping up his State of the Union speech interspersed with the President’s admirable guests, like the 100-year-old Tuskeegee Airman. Anyone who couldn’t tell that the video was edited to make a point rather than to deceive is too dumb to vote. Similarly, anyone who believes that a Democratic candidates debate stage would ever stay silent for 20 seconds doesn’t know what a debate is, and has been watching cartoons all his life. A satirically edited video isn’t deceptive just because some viewers are dumber than boxes of kitty litter. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/18/2020: ARRRGH!!!

Grrrr…

Well, that’s my reward for setting the all-time ethics Alarms record for posts yesterday (8): I wake up to find my desk top won’t connect to the internet, sending me into Verizon Customer Service Hell. Then the tech puts me in safe mode, where I can connect to WiFi, but my password stops working, and I can’t get out of safe mode. I’m doing this post on my laptop, or as it affectionately known on Ethics Alarms, the Typo Machine. Other asides:

  • The Get Well bouquet Other Bill sent my wounded wife on behalf of the blog’s commentariat after her fall finally withered after exactly three weeks. It brightened our home and her spirits, and we are very grateful.
  • We joke about Trump Derangement, but the phenomenon resembles an actual illness, unlike its predecessors, the Clinton, Bush and Obama Derangement Syndromes. What has changed is the news media, which feeds and magnifies the mob-mentality and blind hatred with its daily, sometimes hourly, click-bait outrage stories aimed at the President. The Deranged immediately post them to a throng of “likes,” spawning the usual insulting comments. Imagine, a daily game based on denigration of the President of the United States, played daily and gleefully by millions of Americans. It is not healthy, responsible, respectful, or fair.

1. Wow, the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal is  making people angrier as time goes on. MLB is taking measures to protect Astros players from retaliation from pitchers, as dark comments have been made about how the competition will inflict punishment on the cheating players even if Commissioner Rob Manfred has not. Yesterday, a poll participated in by thousands of baseball fans favored the Astros having to forfeit their 2017 World Championship by a three to one margin. (Please  recall that taking away the title was my recommendation when the scandal first broke.)

I also find it disturbing that while the Astros players and owner have been on an apology tour (though not a very effective one), deposed Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was identified by the MLB investigation as the mastermind behind the sign-stealing scheme, has said nothing–no confession, no apologies, no statements at all.

Another scandal related note: the MLB Network’s Brian Kenny expressed amazement at the difference between players angry reactions to the sign-stealing revelations and the way they closed ranks and largely refused to condemn the steroid cheats. “They say now that they weren’t playing on a level playing field with the Astros knowing what pitches were coming,” Kenny said. “Level playing field! What did they think was the situation when the batters were juicing?” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/17/2020: The Presidents Day Edition

Good morning, guys!

Thank-you for your service!

In honor of our Presidents, Ethics Alarms is  posting some of the best and most important Presidential speeches during the day. We’ll see how many I get up; there are a lot of excellent ones to choose from.

In all of these cases, whichever I post, a President was acting in one of the non-partisan functions of the office, when the President’s job is to represent all of our nation’s citizens. It is a disturbing fact that the current President has been virtually blocked from discharging these duties, as part off the long, relentless effort by the A.U.C.—the Axis Of Unethical Conduct: Democrats, the “resistance,” and the mainstream media—to deny his Presidency’s legitimacy and to reduce his support among the public to the point where it becomes politically feasible to remove him without an election.

The nation needs those non-partisan Presidential moments, because they symbolize unity and strengthen, rather than weaken, our bonds: throwing out the first pitch of the baseball season, attending the funerals of distinguished Americans, hosting the Kennedy Center Honors. It is not this President’s fault that he had been prevented from doing his job.

1. Why look! Here’s another example! Yesterday President Trump, having been invited to serve as grand marshal for the Daytona 500, uttered the traditional “Gentlemen, start your engines!” and boarded  his official limousine, nicknamed “The Beast”, and, with a U.S. and Presidential flag on the front fenders flapping in the wind, headed out onto the track, pacing the full field of cars.

The Horror. Tweeted Maggie Halberman, the usual co-author of New York Times front page features—inevitably negative– on the Trump administration,

Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Obama and Bush throwing out the baseball season’s ceremonial first pitches, Obama using his limo for a Jerry Seinfeld comedy bit, and prominently attending an NCAA basketball tournament game–all good! President Trump serving as grand marshal at a NASCAR event? Unacceptably political.

This is smoking gun bias from the journalist the Times uses to inform its readers about what this President does.

2. Now Trump’s stupid tweets, however, are another matter entirely.  Politico reports on what District Judge Reggie Walton, a Reagan appointee,  had  to say about President Trump’s gratuitous social media commentary on the McCabe investigation: Continue reading

The Astros Sign-Stealing Scandal, Continued And Continuing

Rather than abating, the fallout from the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal is getting more intense.

On Valentine’s Day, Los Angeles Dodger star Cody Bellinger, the reigning National League MVP, told reporters , “I thought [Baseball Commissioner Rob] Manfred’s punishment was weak, giving [the Astros players}  immunity. I mean these guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don’t realize is [Astros second baseman José ] Altuve stole an MVP from [Yankee rightfielder Aaron] Judge in ’17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.”

The Astros defeated the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series, stealing their signs while doing so, according to MLB’s investigation.

Astros star shortstop Carlos Correa returned fire: Continue reading

Evening Ethics Reflections, 2/11/2020, While Waiting For Joe Biden To Go Down

Hi!

It looks like Joe Biden will end up fourth or worse in the New Hampshire primary, and if he does, it will all be over but for the shouting, or in Joe’s case, the blathering. This was pre-ordained from the second Joe entered the race: how anyone knowledgeable and paying minimal attention could see Joe was a shell of his former self, and his former self was never anything to get excited about in the first place. I have never believed that President Trump thought Biden was a threat to defeat him; if his determination to unravel the Biden’s influence peddling in the Ukraine had a personal component, it was that he just wanted to stick it to Joe and expose his hypocrisy. We will never know, I guess. But I assume trump knew he didn’t need to “cheat” to beat Biden.

It’s amusing and somehow fitting that Joe’s inexplicable “Lying dogfaced pony soldier” outburst is serving as a tipping point, with a lot of people suddenly smacking their heads “I could have had a V-8!” style and thinking, “Hey! This guy really is an idiot!” Yes, he really is. The fact that the bland Amy Klobuchar is surging as the new moderate (relatively) savior of the party shows just how bad Biden has been, and also just how unforgivably incompetent and unattractive a field the Democrats have offered America in 2020. On the hopeful side, at least Democratic voters have recognized Senator Warrren as the manipulative, untrustworthy demagogue she is. If a Massachusetts leftist Senator can’t beat Buttigieg and Sanders in New Hampshire, she’s not going to win anywhere.

All of this couldn’t happen to a more deserving party.

1. The President thinks Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. Of course he does. Our President has an unhealthy tolerance for liars and rogues. There has been a depressing outbreak of renewed sympathy for Rose, the game’s all-time hits leader who was banned from baseball for life after being proved guilty of betting on baseball games while a manager, betting on games his own team, the Reds, was playing, and lying about both over many years. The reason is the recent sign-stealing scandal, because, of course, one cheating scandal mitigates a completely different offense that didn’t have anything to do with cheating.

Naturally, there’s a tweet… Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/26/2020: A Legal Ethics Lesson From Ted Cruz, A Ridiculous Apology From Dallas Keuchel, Res Ipsa Loquitur From George Stephanopoulos, And The AUC’s Character Con

I need a little blood-stirring today, and my father’s favorite hymn always does the trick…

You know, character is my business, and my record is visible, public extensive and undeniable regarding the position that leaders, and especially U.S. Presidents, should have exemplary character—not just average character, but outstanding. It is exceedingly dangerous to our culture in the short and long term to have a leader whose ethical values are obviously lacking. I say obviously, because leadership is substantially symbolic as well as substantive: a President who has a seriously flawed character does minimal harm if he 1) knows how the govern and lead and 2) is skilled at playing a leader of exemplary character, despite sociopathic tendencies, or worse.

However, as importunate as character is, the evident lack of it is not justification for impeachment or removing a President between elections. The false, opposite claim is essentially the basis of the entire three year coup attempt by the Axis of Unethical Conduct (Democrats, the “resistance” and the news media). That is why so much of the “case for impeachment” are really ad hominem attacks on the President’s presumed motives, personality and alleged beliefs, none of which are remotely relevant to impeachment. It is the duty of educated experts not driven by bias, as well as the news media (which is now incapable of doing it’s job, which is informing rather than confusing the public) to explain that impeaching a President for having an objectionable character (according to his critics) is an incompetent, illegal and destructive act. Yet this—he’s a liar, he’s a racist, he’s an idiot, he’s a sexist, he’s corrupt, etc., etc, and so on-–is the guarantee default retort when anyone correctly points out to the Trump-Deranged that the Democrats and the resistance have no evidence of impeachable offenses at all. This is also why the polling shows so many people want the impeachment to succeed; not because they have a clue about the limitations on the the act of impeachment, but because they interpret the question as, “Don’t you wish we had a President who wasn’t such an asshole?”

Maureen Dowd, the Times whatsit columnists who is half political commentator and half-Joan Rivers, thoroughly disgraced herself yesterday by writing,

“You don’t realize how important character is in the highest office in the land until you don’t have it,” Schiff said. But the more impressive the Democrats’ case is, the more depressing the reality becomes. They want to convince themselves that character matters. But many Americans knew they were voting for a thug. They wanted a thug who would bust up Washington, and they got one.

The Democrats are relying on facts, but the Republicans are relying on Fox.

No, Maureen (are you a dolt or a brazen liar?), the Democrats are relying on facts that have nothing to do with impeachment. Character matters (although during the entire two terms of Bill Clinton  the Democrats argued it didn’t), but it doesn’t matter in an impeachment trial. Acts matter in an impeachment trial. The Constitution matters. Precedent matters. Our institutions matter.

It is the mark of how incompetent and irresponsible the President’s critics are than the impeachment debate is being argued at this base level of civic and ethics ignorance.

1. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias… Continue reading

Was Mike Fiers Right To Blow The Whistle On The Astros’ Sign-Stealing Scheme? Pedro Martinez Has A Nuanced Ethics Answer

Martinez (L) and Fiers (R)

Last week I posted about ESPN baseball color commentator Jessica Mendoza earning her Ethics Dunce stripes for essentially calling Mike Fiers, the Oakland A’s pitcher who revealed to reporters that his former team, the 2017 Astros, had cheated their way to a  World Series title, a snitch. She said in part,

“When I first heard about it, it hits you like any teammate would. It’s something that you don’t do. I totally get telling your future teammates, helping them win, letting people know. But to go public with it and call them out and start all of this, it’s hard to swallow.”

Now Hall of Fame great Pedro Martinez , intrepid as ever, has weighed in with a verdict on Fiers that counters the accepted narrative that Fiers is a role model. Pedro also faults Fiers, but not for the reason Mendoza does. Pedro Martinez, fascinatingly enough, evaluates the problem by regarding a baseball team member as having similar relationship to his team mates as a lawyer does to a client.

That is not as much of a stretch as it might seem at first glance. Professions like that of lawyers is based on trust, and so is the relationship between team mates in sports (as well as partners in police cars, members of  military units, a manager and a personal assistant, and other close working relationships). The analogy is useful and apt.

Pedro opined (in an interview with radio WEEI in Boston, which broadcasts Red Sox games):

“If he was to do it when he was playing for the Houston Astros I would say Mike Fiers has guts. But to go and do it after you leave the Houston Astros because they don’t have you anymore, that doesn’t show me anything…You’re just a bad teammate. …

Now everybody knows you are going to have a whistle-blower in any other situation too [if Fiers is on your team.]. Whatever happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse and Fiers broke the rules. I agree with cleaning up the game. I agree that the fact that the Commissioner is taking a hard hand on this….

BUT!

“If you have integrity you find ways to tell everybody in the clubhouse, ‘Hey, we might get in trouble for this. I don’t want to be part of this.’ You call your GM. You tell him. Or you call anybody you can or MLB or someone and say, ‘I don’t want to be part of this.’ Or you tell the team, ‘Get me out of here, I don’t want to be part of this.’ Then you show me something. But if you leave Houston and most likely you didn’t agree with Houston when you left and then you go and drop the entire team under the bus I don’t trust you. I won’t trust you because did have that rule.”

Continue reading

Lunchtime Ethics Snack, 1/17/2020: Dirty Money, Dirty Baseball, And “Parasite”

Yum or Yecchh?

1. And the baseball cheating scandal is still roiling! I feel sorry for ethics enthusiasts who are missing out on this fascinating episode because they shut down when baseball is mentioned. One emerging issue that focuses on “woke” (and in some quadrants, sadly, female) leadership models has become evident. The two managers fired in the sign-stealing scandal were part of the “new wave” of “collaborative” baseball managers that teams embraced in recent years. They are sensitive to the players’ needs; they don’t give orders as much as set flexible boundaries; they are not confrontational, and they absorb and guide the culture of the clubhouse rather than dictate it. Then we learn, in MLB’s report on its investigation, that when Houston’s A.J. Hinch discovered (in 2017) that his bench coach and his players were operating an elaborate sign-stealing operation that he knew violated the rules , he made it known that he disapproved, but never ordered them to stop. Now baseball commentators are saying that the Astros need to hire an “old school” manager (like the ones who have been put out to pasture over the last five years) who will be leader, who will lay down the law, and who won’t shy away from confrontation for fear of not being “collaborative.”

Duh. How did anyone come to think effective leaders should do otherwise? Leaders need to lead. Leading doesn’t have to be autocratic, but a leader who acts like Hinch did in this matter is no leader at all.

In another revelation regarding the scandal, the report by Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred states that when Manfred put teams on notice in a Sept. 15, 2017 memo that using electronic means to steal and relay opposing teams’ signs during games would henceforth be  severely punished, Houston General Manager Jeff Luhnow “did not forward the memoranda and did not confirm that the players and field staff were in compliance … Had Luhnow taken those steps in September 2017 it is clear to me that the Astros would have ceased both sign-stealing schemes at the time.”

This is gross managerial negligence, and it puts Lahlow’s self-serving statement that he had no involvement in his team’s cheating in perspective. Continue reading