Ethics Heroes: The Baseball Hall of Fame Era Committee

A new 16-member committee was charged with voting on the Hall of Fame membership cases of eight select players who had failed to acquire the necessary number of votes in their years on the main Hall ballots, which are cast by, ugh, baseball’s sportswriters. The results of their deliberations were announced yesterday: of the seven, only one, former Blue Jays first baseman Fred McGriff received the required twelve votes. He is deserving beyond a doubt, but the bigger story and even better news from an ethics perspective is that Barry Bonds, the King of the Steroid Cheats, the game’s career and single season record-holder in home runs, was rejected again. Also seeing their otherwise Hall-worthy career achievements rejected were Bond’s fellow PED-tarnished colleagues Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro, both of whom, like Bonds, received few votes from the committee members.

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A Non-Election Day Ethics Special! An Ethics Test For Baseball Hall Of Fame Voters

The major League Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown released its eight-player Contemporary Baseball Era ballot yesterday, as part of its revamped enshrinement process. A 16-person committee including of Hall of Fame players, baseball executives and veteran sportswriters will vote on the candidates at baseball’s winter meetings in December. A player must receive 12 votes to be elected.

All of the eight players failed to get enough votes through the regular voting process. The players on the list, limited to distinguished players who made their greatest contributions from 1980 to the present era, include…

  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • Curt Schilling
  • Albert Belle
  • Don Mattingly
  • Fred McGriff
  • Dale Murphy, and
  • Rafael Palmeiro.

A clearer ethics test for the voters would be hard to imagine. The threshold question is whether last year’s admission to the Hall of Red Six icon David Ortiz, who once tested positive for an unidentified performance enhancing drug according to test results that were illegally leaked, will be regarded as sufficient precedent to admit Bonds, Clemens, and or Palmeiro. That Bonds was a long-time steroid cheat who did great damage to the game is undeniable. The evidence against Clemens is weaker, but still damning. Palmeiro had the distinction of going before Congress and proclaiming that steroids were the bane of the game and he would never sully himself by using them, and quickly thereafter testing positive himself. None of those three should be admitted to the Hall, and the presence of current Hall of Fame members, I hope, may ensure that they are not. Continue reading

A “Bias Makes You Stupid” Case Study: Gil Hodges And The Hall Of Fame

Hodges

Let’s get the easy part out of the way right off the bat: Gil Hodges, elected this week to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, was not a Hall of Fame caliber player, and it was as a player that he was selected. He was also not qualified to be voted into the Hall as a manager, though there is no question that Hodge’s single famous achievement as a manager, the upset World Series Championship attained by the 1969 Mets, played a large part in burnishing his reputation.

And yet the group of old ex-players and others that make up what used to be called the Hall of Fame’s Veteran’s Committee put Hodges, who died suddenly 50 years ago at the age of 48, voted to place a plaque honoring him among those of Lou Gehrig, George Sisler, Harmon Killebrew, Jeff Bagwell and other far superior first basemen in the game’s long history. (To be fair, Hodges isn’t the least qualified HOF member at that position; that distinction goes to Tony Perez.) The reason for Hodges’ ascension was bias, the positive variety for a change, and lots of it.

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How Sloppy (Or Dishonest) Historical Research Can Deceive For Decades: The Daniel “Doc” Adams Affair

AdamsDoc

While we’re on the topic of “disinformation”….

Let’s have a show of hands, shall we? How many of you think that Civil War General Abner Doubleday invented baseball? Let’s see, one…two...thirty four…wow, that’s still a lot, especially since Doubleday’s connection to the game was thoroughly debunked almost a century ago and there is no evidence that he ever claimed any credit for the development of the game. Nevertheless, a commission appointed in 1905 to determine the origin of baseball announced in1907 that “the first scheme for playing baseball, according to the best evidence obtainable to date, was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, New York, in 1839.”

We now know—well, some of us know—that the “best evidence” was, to put it technically, crap. Abner wasn’t much of a general either.

OK, now those who have heard of “Doc” Adams ( 1814 – 1899) and know he was one of the major contributors to the invention of baseball as it is played today raise your hands. One..one? That’s all? Documents show that all Adams did—he was an early baseball player and later a league executive who oversaw writing “The Laws of Baseball”—was to establish the distance between bases at 90 feet apart, settle the length of a game at 9 innings and define a baseball team as nine players rather than eight, ten or eleven. He also invented the position of “shortstop.”

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Once Again, Hall Of Fame Ethics (Or The Lack Of Them)

Schilling

The MLB Hall of Fame vote, at least since the Steroid Era, gives us a window into the ethics of baseball writers, and the view is pretty grim. Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballots, many of which are made public before the election results are revealed, annually show dead ethics alarms and an absence of critical thinking, but as someone who has been reading these guys (they are almost all guys) since I was 12, this is no surprise. The smart and thoughtful ones like Joe Posnanski, Roger Angell, Bill James and Peter Gammons, are exceptions. I wouldn’t trust most of the rest to take out the trash.

A player who has been retired for at least five years has to be on 75% of the writers’ ballots (ten players can be listed on a ballot) needed to be “enshrined,” as they like to say in the Cooperstown museum, and a player has ten tries to make it. This year, nobody was selected.

The result was a slap in the face to former Orioles, Philadelphia, Arizona and Red Sox starting pitcher Curt Schilling, and was intended to be. He just missed the 75% level last year, and usually that means that a player gets in the Hall the next time, especially in a year like this one, where there were no major additions to the candidates. Schilling, by prior standards, by statistical analysis, and by the simple reality that he was famous while playing and had a single iconic moment that will keep him in baseball lore forever—the “bloody sock” game, should be an easy call. Yet ESPN and other sources refer to him as “controversial.” Why is he controversial? He’s controversial because he is religious, conservative, Republican, and an outspoken Trump supporter, none of which has a thing to do with baseball. Schilling also, to his credit, refuses to submit to his critics and the social media mobs. He is independent and comfortable with who he is, he is articulate in expressing his opinions (at least by typical athlete standards), and can and will defend his points of view. He shouldn’t have to, however, to be admitted to the Hall of Fame.

His sportsmanship and professional comportment while playing was never less than impeccable. Curt Schilling has a deep respect for the game (one opinion that has been held against him is his insistence that steroid users are cheaters), and he has done nothing since leaving baseball that was sufficiently vile to harm it in any way. To the contrary, he and his wife (now battling cancer) have been active in charity work and community projects. That satisfies the Hall’s so-called “character clause.”

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/17/2020: Sir Paul, Fauxahontas, #MeToo, The Flying Ace, And The 2016 Ethics Villain Of The Year

good morning.

my college freshman dorm room was where e.e. cummings spent his freshman year too. never liked ol’ e.e.’s poetry much, but admired his clever stunt to avoid having to worry about upper case letters, presenting laziness as style.

i wonder if i could do the same thing with basic spelling?

1. You don’t necessarily have to blame the victim, but you shouldn’t give him gifts for being irresponsible either. Pitching ace Roy Halladay had only been retired for three years when he died in the crash of a private plane he was flying. After his death, he was elected by baseball writers to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame ahead of the mandatory five -year waiting period, an honor that was given posthumously to Roberto Clemente, the Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder who died in a plane crash in 1972 while trying to deliver relief supplies from Puerto Rico to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua. Clemente was a no-arguments Hall of Famer; Halladay was not, though he was certainly a valid candidate. He was elected by sympathy and emotion as much as by careful evaluation; this is one reason the Hall makes players wait at least five years. Now the  National Transportation Safety Board’s report on the investigation of his death is coming out.

This week it reported that Halladay had a  mix of amphetamine, morphine and other prescription drugs in his system while he was doing aerial acrobatics and stunt flying. It was a miracle that he didn’t kill anyone else, as he was flying dangerously close to boats before his amphibious sport plane  plunged into the Gulf of Mexico  on Nov. 7, 2017.

The 13-page report says Halladay had 10 times the recommended level of amphetamine in his system, as well as an antidepressant, a muscle relaxant, a sleep aid and morphine. Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms “Butt Out!” Files: Now Members Of Congress Are Telling The Hall Of Fame Who To Enshrine

Yesterday,  U.S. Rep. David Trone Trone (D-Md.) and  Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) held a news conference calling  on the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame’s Golden Era Committee to nominate and elect former centerfielder Curt Flood when the committee meets in December. Trone said he was looking for something that both parties could agree on, and hit on this, which is, coincidentally, something neither party has any expertise about whatsoever.

“This really resonates across both sides of the aisle,” Trone said.  “Everybody in America, whether you’re Republican, Democrat, independent, white, black or brown, believes in the American dream and fairness and decency. Decency and fairness and justice. And we all believe in that at our core, in all parties, in all colors.’’

Trone says he polled colleagues in each party about supporting Flood “because Washington is such a broken community, nobody is doing stuff together. We ought to try where we can actually do something together to honor somebody who really paid a price. Curt Flood paid a pretty horrible price. He put everything on the line — his whole career, his whole life, he put it all out there on the line. It’s been really easy for people to come together and say, ‘You know what? We have to do something about this. Let’s do something decent for a change and speak to who America really is.”

Grandstanding. Race-pandering. Virtue -signaling. Abuse of position.

Also ignorant and stupid. Continue reading

Six Ethics Lessons As Bill James Falls Into His Own Research Trap

Baseball philosopher, iconoclast and analyst Bill James is one of my heroes for his amazing ability to look past conventional wisdom with an open mind. Beginning as essentially a self-published pamphleteer writing out of his basement, James’ counter-traditional explorations of baseball statistics eventually changed how baseball was watched, assessed, scouted and played, simply on the strength of Bill’s  ideas and his facility in explaining them.

His talents could be used in many other fields–James has recently branched out into examining famous unsolved murders—but it is also true that many of the ideas he has developed in relation to baseball have wider applications. For example, James was the source of the concept of “signature significance,” which is a staple here at Ethics Alarms.

His writing also taught me that bias makes us stupid, and about the insidious power of rationalizations.  Many of James’s observations seemed intrinsically obvious once he made and explained them, and the fact that  baseball executives, writers and players could have been so wrong about their own game for so long seemed incomprehensible. But the reasons were what they always are, in all fields. People are biased toward what they have always believed —confirmation bias–and the “It’s always been this way” variation on the most powerful rationalization of them all, “Everybody does it”  breeds blindness and  intellectual laziness. Continue reading

Late Morning Warm-Up, 1/22/2020, Because I Wasted Two Hours Arguing With Trump Deranged Lawyers On Facebook, And Yes, I’m An Idiot

That’s me. The bee is Facebook…

Bah!

A really low blow (among the other low blows, like the jerk who accused me of getting all of my ideas from Drudge) came from a former commenter here, who accused Ethics Alarms of being an “echo chamber.” That truly ticks me off. If the Trump Deranged don’t have the wits or open minds to test their biases where intelligent, informed, articulate adversaries are likely to  respond, that’s not my fault, and it’s exactly what the left side of the blog’s commentariat did. They didn’t rebut the position here, proven correct, that the Justice Department’s handling of The FISA warrants were part of a dangerous effort to undermine the Trump campaign and his election: they just accused me of “drinking the KoolAid” and quit, or were insulting. They never tried to argue away the smoking gun evidence of the soft coup plans A through S that I have meticulously documents since 2016, they just act as if the current impeachment excuse is justified and offered in good faith, when it is so clearly not. It’s all denial, spin, dishonesty and mob mentality. I ended up in today’s piranha tank by pointing out to a lawyer that the the fact that Trump was intemperate at a meeting of generals was not sufficient to trigger the 25th Amendment, and that lawyers, like her, shouldn’t be misleading the public by making such lame arguments. I posted the amendment, and said that “Unable” to perform the duties of the office doesn’t mean, as she and others are arguing, “Unable to perform the duties that way she and other would prefer them to be performed” and stating that approval polls do not reflect the degree to which the impeachment charade is helping to re-elect Trump.

These are the smart Deranged. Imagine what the others are like.

1. Resistance porn. “A Very Stable Genius” is the latest “tales out of school” anti-Trump book. In this it is no different from those that have gone before, from Omarosa’s tell-all on up the ethics evolutionary scale. This one was authored by Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, so naturally the news media is celebrating it as if it is somehow different. What it is a collection of mostly anonymous accounts of people who have axes to grind and scores to settle against Donald Trump, and are violating basic professional ethics to do it. Are all of the stories true? I’m sure some are, maybe most—they don’t sound out of line with what we knew about this President before he was elected. Yet they are by very nature distorted by the theme of the book and the presumed anti-Trump bias of the book’s audience. What is so alarming about Trump’s eagerness to have a meeting with Putin?  So what if he questions why U.S. businesses shouldn’t be allowed to engage in bribery abroad, when it is the accepted norm in many countries? There’s an answer to the question, but it’s not a dumb question; in fact, its one international ethicists still debate. And do you really think Trump saying to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi,  “It’s not like you’ve got China on your border” wasn’t a joke?  Taking it as otherwise is classic conformation bias and disrespect. It sure sounds like a typical Trump joke to me. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/10/2020: Clean Up On Aisle Ethics!

Good morning.

1. Poll report! In the “just what is Pete Buttigieg?” poll, “panderer” and my personal favorite, “asshole,” are running neck and neck:

The previous poll on fat-shaming isn’t close, with about 90% siding with fitness guru Jillian Michaels

The poll asking which idiotic statement about the U.S. blowing up the Iranian terror chief produced a landslide for Rep. Omar:

2. Baseball Hall of Fame Ethics. MLB’s sportswriters who made public their votes for the Hall of Fame (the results of the election will be announced Jan. 21) all voted for #1 steroid cheat Barry Bonds and almost certain cheat Roger Clemens. This depressing revelation reflects the fact that they are young, and also that they have the ethical analysis skills of marmots. Chris Haft, for example, wrote, “I initially refused to vote for Bonds or Clemens, but they are guilty for their alleged wrongdoings only in the court of public opinion. That’s not damning enough not to vote for a guy.” I don’t even know what he thinks that means. That there wasn’t a trial? Former Washington Post writer Richard Justice wrote, “I weigh the ethical questions of the so-called “Steroid Era” every year. My essential position has not changed. Unless a player has been suspended by MLB for PED use, I give him full consideration.” In other words, if he wasn’t caught he should continue to get away with it all the way into the Hall. There is absolutely no question that Bonds played the last half of his career so loaded with PED that they were coming out of his ears. This is like saying that you are convinced that O.J was innocent because he got away with it.

3. One “Arrgh! World War III!’ note...Stephen Kruiser, a conservative blogger, commented on the Democrats apparent disappointment that the President de-escalated after Iran’s symbolic attack on U.S. facilities, saying,

If you’re wondering whether I am implying that Democrats wouldn’t care if American troops were in harm’s way if it would help them defeat Trump in November, I am not. I’m saying it outright.

Then there was this telling piece in The Root, which was somehow posted with approval by an African American Facebook friend, proving State 4 Trump Derangement. The headline: The President of the United States Just Publicly Went Out Like a Bitch. And That’s Fine by Us.

Got that? If the President is bellicose, he’s a dangerous madman. If he is diplomatic and works to defuse the situation, he  (quoting here): “completely bitched out. In fact, before the president stepped to the podium, Managing Editor Genetta Adams called it, noting that the president ain’t about that life. “He’s going to pussy out like he did with [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi and the [government] shutdown. He’s really a chicken when someone punches back.”

It literally doesn’t matter what the President does to the Deranged. It must be wrong. Continue reading