June 2006 "Easy Calls"
  • Joe Mikulik, the manager of the Asheville Tourists, a Class A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, thought he had seen an easy call that an umpire had botched. So he threw an epic on-field tantrum that reached astounding proportions after the unpire threw him out of the game. He dove into second base, where the disputed play had occurred, ripped up the bag and hurled it onto the infield. Next, Mikulik threw a resin bag into the bullpen. He covered home plate with dirt and then squirted it off with a water bottle, which he then hurled onto the plate. Then he went into his dugout and tossed bats onto the field. Mikulik is a Class A manager, which means that his job is to prepare young players in their early twenties for a career in professional baseball. He is a leader, a teacher and role model, and his conduct violated his duties as all three. Yes, it got him national publicity and lots of TV exposure, but he forgot that baseball in the low minors is less about winning than it is about training players to play the game right. Earl Weaver, Billy Martin, Lou Pinella and other major league managers have had outrageous on-field meltdowns, but most of those were calculated to stir up their teams, which were stocked with veteran players who understood the tactic. Mikulik's antics are more likely to teach young players to be on-field jerks who can't control themselves when the breaks of the game turn against them. That's too big a price to pay just so an undisciplined manager can blow off some steam.
  • The Ethics Scoreboard took no glee during the last election in having to take up space repeatedly to point out Senator John Kerry's constant displays of a pathological integrity deficit. Sick as we are of this exercise, the Wall Street Journal's blog found a recent example that is too blatant to ignore. Discussing with shockjock Don Imus Kerry's (defeated) proposal before the Senate to declare a specific timetable for the U.S. to pull out of Iraq, the Senator said, "'Stay the course' is not a plan. And what this administration wants is to have a fake debate, as usual. You hear the drumbeat on every television show from every commentator, "cut and run, cut and run, cut and run, cut and run." That's their phrase. They've found their three words, they love to do that, and they're gonna try to make the elections in November a choice between "cut and run" or "stay the course." That's not the choice. My plan is not 'cut and run.' Their plan is "lie and die." But James Taranto, the blog's author, uncovered this Kerry quote from a December 2003 speech before the Foreign Relations Committee: "I fear that in the run-up to the 2004 election, the administration is considering what is tantamount to a cut-and-run strategy. Their sudden embrace of accelerated Iraqification and American troop withdrawal dates, without adequate stability, is an invitation to failure. The hard work of rebuilding Iraq must not be dictated by the schedule of the next American election." Yes, the good Senator might have just changed his mind, as he frequently does. But in light of the substantial (and hardly all-inclusive) examples of Kerry's willingness to switch positions with the prevailing breezes of public opinion, it is impossible to reconcile these comments with any confidence. Once a public figure has displayed a lack of integrity, who knows what he believes? And who cares? [6/25/2006]

  • Barry Bonds' March lawsuit against Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, the authors of "Game of Shadows" which exposed Bond's use of banned substances in his pursuit of baseball immortality, appeared at the time to be a cynical and misleading public relations ploy. As the Scoreboard noted at the time, most fans assumed that the suit challenged the book's allegations, which paint Bonds as a cheater, a liar, and quite probably a perjurer and felon. It did not: the suit only (and dubiously) challenged the reporters' right to make money on the sale of a book that included illegally leaked jury testimony. Although Bonds' representatives announced the filing of the lawsuit immediately to encourage the misconception that the Giants' slugger was eager to clear his name in court, it took ten days for the news to get out that the suit had been dismissed at Bonds' request. Hmmmmm. So now a widely published best-selling book that Bonds and his supporters claim is full of character assassinating lies has strangely failed to spark a libel suit, though Bonds has the lawyer and resources to use the courts with abandon. Further, and I would say, near conclusive proof that Barry Bonds' continuing play on Major League baseball fields undermines the societal consensus that cheaters never prosper, and that crime doesn't pay. In the case of Barry Bonds, they have, and it did.

  • As Shel Silverstein related in his classic lyrics for the old Johnny Cash hit, "A Boy Named Sue," giving your child a bizarre or ridiculous name can be gratuitous cruelty, indulging a parent's sense of whimsy at the expense of a child's self-image and well-being. The late rock satirist Frank Zappa was a serial offender in this category, naming his children Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Rodan and Diva. Funny guy, that Frank. Although the father of the protagonist in Silverstein's epic had good intentions (he thought, correctly, that being named Sue would force his son to learn how to fight), it's hard to see any in the decision of British horror film fan Suzanne Cooper. When her son was born on June 6 (that's 6/6/06, the mark of the Anti-Christ, for those of you who aren't fans of the book of Revelations) at 6 AM (OK, it was 6:59, but there's still a six in there…what, you expect Satan to be perfect?) and weighed 6 pounds, 6 ounces, she decided to name him Damien, after the cinematic hell-spawn who engineers the death of his parents, relatives, school mates and random acquaintances on his way to ushering in the Apocalypse. This was a genuinely selfish and irresponsible thing to do to a helpless infant, and the betting here is that Damien changed his name to Fred or even Sue as soon as the Omen jokes start flying. Either that, or all of us, and especially Ms. Cooper, are in deep, deep trouble.

  • He doesn't deserve Ethics Hero status, but the apology by Alan Hevesi, New York's Democratic state comptroller, should at least get him back most of the ethics points he squandered when he implied that it would be just dandy if New York's Senator Chuck Shumer murdered President Bush. Speaking at the commencement of Queens College, he had saluted Sen. Schumer by describing him as the man who "will put a bullet between the president's eyes if he could get away with it. The toughest senator, the best representative. A great, great member of the Congress of the United States." Now, quite apart from the aspersions his words cast on Shumer, who has never given any signs of being homicidal, Hevesi's remarks feed the civility rot in public discourse that continues to be spread by conservative talk shows, liberal blogs, Ann Coulter, Howard Dean and others. The concept that anyone who disagrees with a particular political agenda forfeits their human rights is insidious, and is an unethical assertion that has no place at a college commencement, no matter whom the designated victim is. However, the fact that Hevesi was extolling the shooting of the President of the United States, the occupant of a job with an extraordinarily high attempted murder rate (Ten out of forty-three: Jackson, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, and Reagan) made the comment especially irresponsible. Unlike Dean, Coulter and others though, Hevesi not only regretted his rhetorical excess but quickly apologized for it in an unequivocal fashion that few public figures have the character and courage to produce: "I apologize to the president of the United States" and to the fellow state politician, Sen. Charles Schumer. I am not a person of violence. I am apologizing as abjectly as I can. There is no excuse for it. It was beyond dumb." Yes it was. But Hevesi is an ethical man for saying so. [6/4/2006]

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