November 2008 Ethics Dunces
Dodgers GM Nick Coletti
1919: Hitting great Joe
Jackson and seven other members of the Chicago White Sox sought a way
to get the money that they felt they deserved but were not receiving from
their exploitive and double-crossing employer, team owner Charles Comiskey.
So they intentionally gave less than their best efforts on the field in
the 1919 World Series, losing to the Cincinnati Reds as a result. The
money that sealed the deal came from professional gamblers, who intended
to derive riches from betting on the Reds.
2008: Hitting great Manny Ramirez sought a way to get out of his 20 million dollar a year contract with Boston Red Sox so he could get even more money on the open market.
So he intentionally performed
at less than his best during the stretch run of the 2008 pennant race,
jeopardizing the teams play-off chances and forcing it to trade him
while surrendering its option to bind him to the team in 2009 and 2010.
The party that likely influenced him to slack-off was agent Scott Boras,
who would only get his share of Ramirezs salary if the old contract,
including the club options, was ended and a new contract was signed.
Joe Jackson was banned from
Manny Ramirez was just offered
a new contract at more than 20 million a year by Los Angeles Dodgers
General Manager Nick Coletti.
Which result was most just?
It should be obvious. There is scant difference, ethically speaking,
between what Ramirez did at the urgings of Boras and what Joe
Jackson did with the inducements of gambler Arnold Rothstein. There
is a legal difference, to be sure. But in both cases, a star player
intentionally under-performed for monetary gain, with the participation
of a non-player who stood to benefit financially from the results of
the players lack of performance.
In Jacksons case, the beneficiary
was a gambler. But the pay-off to Scott Boras, Mannys agent, will
be much greater than Rothsteins wildest dreams. When Ramirez hired
Boras as his new agent last year, Boras knew that if the terms potentially
binding his client to the Red Sox for two more seasons attached, he
would receive no cut of the players huge salary: the previous agent,
who negotiated the deal, would get the agents percentage. But if
the old contract was dissolved, allowing Ramirez to go on the open market
and demand a new long-term contract, Boras would be the agent of record.
His potential cut: 15 million, more or less.
Nobody can prove that Boras
put his client up to faking injuries, giving obvious half-efforts and
generally betraying his team mates, employers and fans. But that is
what Ramirez did, and he made it clear in various ways that unless he
was released from his contract, he could not be trusted to do his best
for the team paying his salary. The Red Sox traded him to Los Angeles,
still paying his salary, whereupon Ramirez began hitting better,
running harder, and generally playing like the super-star, Hall of Fame
caliber hitter he is.
Mission accomplished. The General
Manager of the Dodgers, Coletti, has ensured that Borass and Ramirezs
scheme will pay off, unlike the perfidy of Jackson and his Black Sox
team mates. By offering Ramirez a long-term deal at more than he was
making under his previous one, he has validated conduct no less despicable
and unethical than what Jackson and his pals did. The details were different,
but the motivation (money), the offense (intentionally giving less than
full effort), and the victims (team mates, fans, employers and the game
itself) were the same.
Coletti and any other GM that
offers Manny Ramirez a huge contract, in addition to being stupid beyond
all explanation, will be endorsing and validating the unconscionable
tactic of not giving the full services promised under a valid agreement
(the Red Sox paying 20 million dollars a year was not enough, in the
players view, to ensure consistent effort). He and the others will
do this because, I suppose, Ramirez didnt double-cross them. It is
as if, instead of banning the Black Sox, Major League Baseball gave
the cheating players raises, so they wouldnt be tempted to accept
any more bribes.
The Scoreboard knows that the
player unions power makes such an action impossible, but yes, it
would support banning Manny Ramirez from playing baseball, in the interests
of the games integrity. That is not going to happen. But is it too
much to ask that Ramirez and his not be rewarded
for their unethical ways?
For Nick Coletti and, unfortunately,
other baseball Ethics Dunces who will reveal themselves so, the answer,
sadly, is yes.
And consider yourself warned.