March 2006 Ethics Dunces

The New York Yankees

The World Baseball Classic is a 16 team international tournament that Major League Baseball is launching in March, during the traditional heart of Spring Training. Over a hundred Major Leaguer stars are participating in the event on behalf of their native countries and the United States. The event is designed to expand interest in the sport and encourage international competition, particularly in the wake of the Olympics' decision to drop baseball and softball from the summer games. With teams from six continents and players like David Ortiz, Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Luis Pujols and Ken Griffey Jr. involved, the WBC should also be a lot of fun.

Alone among the Major League teams, the New York Yankee organization has publicly disapproved of the tournament (with the oldest squad in baseball, the Yankees fear injuries that might affect its pennant chances) and has attempted to undermine it by discouraging Yankee stars from playing. That's bad enough, but the team recently managed to violate the core ethical values of loyalty, responsibility and accountability with this sign, which it posted at its training facility in Tampa, Florida:

We are sorry that certain players will not be present for portions of spring training. These players have elected to participate in the World Baseball Classic. The World Baseball Classic is an event sanctioned by the commissioner of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. The New York Yankees did not vote to support this event. Any comments you have regarding the World Baseball Classic should be directed to the commissioner of Major League Baseball or the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Classy. The Yankees apologized to fans who might be disappointed that stars like Damon and Jeter won't be playing in some of the spring training exhibition games, which is appropriate. What's wrong is the team's whiny "don't blame us!" stance. It is especially disloyal to blame the players, who, after all, are representing their countries in a tournament sanctioned by their sport and approved by their Union. The Yankees have an obligation to support the players' decision, and not to focus ire on their own employees. And, as a member of Major League Baseball, the Yankees also have an obligation to support a policy decision made by the rest of the teams, even though the Yankees opposed it. It is an organization member's duty to keep its disagreements within the organization and not to accept benefits of membership while simultaneously claiming that it should not be held responsible for the group's actions. It is also an employer's duty to be accountable for the actions of its employees.

New York Yankees, Inc. has been in existence for over a century. If it has not absorbed these basic tenets of organization ethics in all that time, it is truly an Ethics Dunce. The Scoreboard has a strong suspicion, based on the team's conduct through the years, that the Yankees are very aware of these duties and that like many individuals and entities who have had great success with a "win at all costs" philosophy, the team believes that it has the privilege of violating them at will. But this is just a suspicion. We'll give the Yankees the benefit of the doubt, and the March Ethics Dunce cap that goes with it.




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