The Ethics of Nomar Garciaparra's one-day contract

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Nomar Garciaparra Sox.jpgFriend of the blog and professional ethicist Jack Marshall has put some thought to Nomar Garciaparra’s one-day contract/retirement with the Red Sox. After registering his surprise and displeasure with Dan Shaughnessy’s highly negative reaction, Jack throws an interesting idea out for consideration, that applies to sports and beyond:

When an organization has parted ways with any individual who has
been unusually important in its development, it has an ethical
obligation to make certain there is genuine closure and reconciliation
some day, some way. Unless the individual actually harmed the
organization or institution so grievously that it erases any benefit he
and she conferred, not to acknowledge a debt of gratitude and
recognition estranges the organization from its past, and whiffs on the
important values of respect, fairness, gratitude, and kindness. And
rare is the former organization super-star who is so bitter about his
exit that he won’t accept this important gesture.
You can identify dysfunctional organizations by their refusal to do this.

I was in the Sox press box last Wednesday for the announcement and, later, Nomar’s
press conference. When the news started to spread, several people scoffed and sneered.
Nomar? The guy who moped his way out of town in 2004 and whose departure paved the way for the 2004 championship? He’s got a lot of nerve.  Shaughnessy peddling that stuff was predictable, but I was surprised at how negative the reaction was overall. I was even more surprised that some of that negative reaction was directed at the Sox themselves for entertaining the notion of honoring Garciaparra in the way they did (and, presumably will continue to do).  Say what you want about Garciaparra’s tenure in Boston, but personally, I agree with Jack’s take on how healthy organizations
should handle this stuff.

But it went even further that morning. The second question asked to Nomar during the
press conference was who-approached-who first. Nomar admitted that he
made the overture to Theo. You could tell by how quickly everyone
started writing that the press smelled a “desperate Nomar asks to be
let back in the family” angle that reflected their own biases.

Theo,
however, sitting right next to Nomar, almost immediately jumped in to say
(not in so many words, but in effect) that it doesn’t matter who approached who, the organization thought it was
a wonderful idea, that they embraced it and other words along those lines. This suggested to me organizational health in both the way Jack described it in his post — that they’re willing to let bygones be bygones — and in its manifest desire to protect their
own from attacks from outsiders who may mean to do harm (i.e. Theo’s save).

I think anyone
would want that from their employer, and it certainly made an
impression on me. The fact that anyone is mining negativity out of it all says more about those doing the mining than the principals involved.

Former U.S. Senator and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning dies at age 85

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Jim Bunning, Hall of Fame right-handed pitcher and former U.S. Senator, died on Friday at age 85. He suffered a stroke in October 2016 and was in hospice care when he died, according to former Senate chief of staff Jon Deuser.

Bunning rose to prominence in Major League Baseball during his first full season with the Tigers in 1957, recording 14 complete games and a league-leading 20 wins. The following year, Bunning pitched his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox, just the fourth no-hitter in franchise history. During his first season with the Phillies in 1964, Bunning followed up his no-hitter with a perfect game against the Mets, marking the first National League perfecto in the 20th century. By the time he retired in 1971, he boasted seven All-Star nominations, 2,855 strikeouts (maintaining his second-place ranking on the all-time strikeout list from 1967-1971) and a 224-184 record over 17 seasons.

Following a storied major league career, Bunning entered politics at age 46, serving 12 years in the House and eventually getting elected to the Senate at age 67, where he served two terms. The Republican senator was famously outspoken for his opposition to steroids in baseball, illegal immigration and an extension of unemployment benefits, among other issues, and drew criticism within his party for his ornery nature and controversial statements. He declined to run for a third term in 2010, citing a lack of financial support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and choosing instead to throw his weight behind fellow candidate Rand Paul.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement following news of Bunning’s death on Saturday:

Jim Bunning led an extraordinary life in the National Pastime and in public service.  He was a consistent winner and workhorse pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Phillies.  Jim threw no-hitters in both leagues, pitched a perfect game on Father’s Day in 1964 and, at his retirement, had more strikeouts than any pitcher in history except Walter Johnson.

“In his baseball career, Jim was proud of always taking the ball.  The work ethic that made him a Hall of Famer led him to the House of Representatives and the United Stated Senate.  He served the state of Kentucky for more than two decades and became the only Hall of Famer ever to serve in Congress.

“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to Senator Bunning’s family, friends, constituents and the many fans who admired his career in our game.

Homer Simpson was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame

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Twenty-five years ago, “Homer at the Bat” became one of the most iconic Simpsons episodes of all time. Legendary talents like Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Ozzie Smith, Jose Canseco, Mike Scioscia, Steve Sax, Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey, Jr. lent their talents to the episode while their cartoon doppelgängers were put through the ringer, leaving only Homer Simpson and Darryl Strawberry to clinch the city softball championship for the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant squad. On Saturday, the show’s creators were recognized when Homer Simpson was awarded a long-overdue membership in the Hall of Fame.

The full text from Homer’s honorary plaque is below:

Inept safety inspector turned city-wide softball hero. Right fielder led Springfield nuclear plant to city championship game, then sacrificed his body to win it all. Nearly supplanted by lineup of all-world superstar ringers, came through in a pinch — and came to in time for the next episode. Girthy right-handed hitter powered many a mighty wallop during celebrated 1992 season with “Wonderbat” — his secret weapon. Lack of mobility in the field was no match for moves atop the dugout. Found fame as bush league mascot phenom, parlaying his “elephant walk” into a taste of the majors. Unacquainted with scientific concepts, only isotopes of which he was aware played at Duff Stadium, where uncanny knowledge of southwestern palate exposed team’s impending move to Albuquerque.

“Homer at the Bat” will be enshrined in Cooperstown with a special display, featuring the plaque alongside some of the more memorable moments of the episode.