FIRE JOE MORGAN: Ethics 217: Codes of Behavior


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Sunday, March 11, 2007


Ethics 217: Codes of Behavior

An examination of the ethical life, as it pertains to professional baseball; specifically, how can players best help each other cheat in order to avoid punishment for breaking rules? Sever Hall, M/W/F 10:00. Professor Joe Cowley.

Some excerpts from the main source text:

Toby Hall lives by the code. And it's not just cheap talk from the White Sox' new backup catcher.

There are plenty in baseball who talk a good game, but when it comes time to carry out the codes that have been intact for decades, they freeze.

Good for him. Most people don't have the self-possession and ethical fortitude to help people cheat or cover up scandals. Some say they do, but don't. Toby Hall is different.

''From generation to generation, there is a certain way the game has been played,'' Hall explained. ''You have to respect the game and respect how they played it then and how we play it now. The last thing you want is people that played 30 years ago saying, 'What are these guys doing now?'

''Maybe the uniforms have changed, but when it comes down to it, you have to respect the groundwork that those other players have laid down for you.''

Tradition, people. It's about tradition. It's about not thinking about what is "right" and what is "wrong," but rather blindly and blithely following the traditions that other people have laid out for you, no matter how odious. That, my friends, is what is truly important.

That's why there was no hesitation by Hall on June 3, 2003.

As he related last week on WSCR-AM (670), Hall was behind the plate for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays against the Cubs when slugger Sammy Sosa's infamous corked bat shattered all over the infield of Wrigley Field.

I know this isn't about statistical analysis. I know there has been a lot of stuff on our site recently -- and I am to blame for much of it -- that is not about statistical analysis. But I want everyone to realize what is happening in this article. Joe Cowley is about to praise Toby Hall, using language and syntactical patterns similar to those used when discussing an act of wartime bravery, for trying to cover up Sammy Sosa's corked bat. He is reframing what amounts to baseball's version of aiding and abetting a criminal (or perhaps post-facto conspiracy) as a positive thing.

The handle of the bat was near Hall, and he instantly saw the illegal substance. His mind raced as he tried to digest what was going on. One of the greatest home-run hitters of his time was being exposed as a fraud.

So what did Hall do? He picked up the piece closest to him and tried getting rid of it as quickly as possible by throwing it to a batboy.

Wow. That is not cool.

He tried to protect the game.

Oh. My mistake. You think it is cool.

''The bat just shattered everywhere,'' Hall recalled. ''I remember [then-Cubs catcher] Paul Bako was the first person that said the next day that I picked the bat up and threw it to the batboy, like it had SARS on it. If it was any other person, I think I would have been like, 'Look at that.' You don't know what goes through your mind at that time, but being younger and knowing, 'Wow, it's Sammy Sosa,' I was like, 'What just happened?'

The quote that follows reads like the witness-stand testimony of a guy who shot his wife's lover and is trying to act like he "just went blank" and thus should not be held legally accountable.

''You try and get rid of it. Not so much to protect him, but the game doesn't need a black eye. The umpire grabbed it, and it was like, 'What happened?' The whole game was blurry after that. I tried to do the right thing. I've looked back and asked myself, 'What else could I have done? Should I have pointed it out?' But, to be honest, I didn't think otherwise. I just wanted to get rid of it.''

So, you managed to both kind of black out and not think about what you were doing, and also realize that "the game" was about to get a black eye, and you tried to do something about it. You tried to help the man cheat. That is honorable. And for that, I salute you, Toby Hall. And you too, Joe Cowley, for supporting his honorable decision.

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