Ethics in baseball

Derek Jeter, captain of the New York Yankees and generally considered a “clean” player, has unwittingly thrust an ethics discussion into the often seedy world of Major League Baseball.

It all comes back to this play in last night’s game:

Ouch. That must’ve hurt. Except the pitch actually didn’t hit Jeter. It hit his bat, thus making it a foul ball.

But Jeter acted — in the real world we would call this “lying” — as if he was hit by the pitch.

“He (the umpire) told me to go to first base. I’m not going to tell him I’m not going to first, you know,” Jeter said.

“It’s part of the game. My job is to get on base. Fortunately for us it paid off at the time, but I’m sure it would have been a bigger story if we would have won that game.”

Cheater? Or savvy sports hero?

  • Mike

    Please don’t tell me that you would consider Jeeter to be savvy in any capacity!

  • kevin watterson

    Consider this the obligatory comment about how golf is the only sport in which players call penalties on themselves in which I mention Dustin Johnson.

  • Chad Jennings take (LoHud Yankees Blog):

    “[Jeter] squared to bunt. A first-pitch fastball came in so close to his hands that it hit the very bat Jeter was holding. Spinning out of the way and reaching for his left arm wasn’t so much acting as it was reacting. Joe Girardi and Gene Monahan came running out of the Yankees dugout, not as the second act of a well-planned performance, but to make sure their shortstop wasn’t hurt. By the time player, manager and trainer converged, the call was made and it was time for the hard sell.”

    I know, I know: it’s that time of year when all the fans whose teams can’t beat the Yankees find other ways to beat on the Yankees.

    As a lifelong Yankees fan (I’m considerably older than the Twins), I’ve wanted MLB to clean up the money angle for decades. Winning because you spent more money isn’t good for sports, but oddly none of the other owners seem to complain much.

    Until sports fans go on strike and DEMAND that ALL pro franchises be turned over to the communities they play in, this crap will just get worse.

    As for Jeter, any Twin who would have corrected that ump would have enjoyed the next few games from the comfort of the dugout. I really don’t get what your point is on this one Bob.

  • Mark Myers


    If you’ve ever swung a bat before, especially in cold weather, you don’t grab your wrists when a foul ball rings off the bat. Your hands sometimes hurt, but most professional baseball players rarely show any signs of pain because they are professionals who have this happen to them all the time. He clearly was trying to sell the HBP from the second the ball came inside.

    As far as “any Twin who would have corrected that ump would have enjoyed the next few games from the comfort of the dugout” is concerned, on what are you basing this? I’ve never once seen a player get benched for not taking a fall. Maybe someone in the dugout would have mentioned it, but no way they get benched.

    What Jeter did was dishonest, but I wouldn’t say it was wrong. The ump should’ve known that human arms don’t sound like wood, and whether or not Jeter fessed up afterwards is a moot point.

    There, I sided with Jeter without lumping a bunch of that oh-so-common AL East bias in with my opinion.

  • Ben Chorn

    If he moved away like he possibly got hit and the umpire told him to go to first, that would be one thing. When you act like you got hit so bad the trainers come out to see if youre okay is a completely other thing

  • I despise the Yankees and Jeter, however, this is completely within the ethical bounds of the game. A players job is take every advantage possible without disrespecting the other team or the game, and this fits neither description. It’s “part of the game” and would be recognized by such by both sides in the game.

  • Matthew Hauck

    This link goes over the history of such actions well:

  • IMO Jeter and the HP Ump should both be suspended. But that’s just me. I don’t like the Yankees on principal, and the umpire should sit out a series for tossing Maddon. Every umpire should be forced to sit out a series for tossing a coach based on a wrong call.

  • suestuben

    I cannot imagine how cheating and lying has became an acceptable standard in sports. When did it begin? Who was the first one to go back to the dugout after scoring and say “You know, I really didn’t touch 3rd base, I’m glad the ump didn’t see it! (chuckle)” Or the first football player to ‘trap’ a ball and go along with the ref who said he caught it? At some point, the players and teams noticed that the umps and refs couldn’t be everywhere and see everything so they began to actively use this weakness to cheat. I’m sure they all knew that the teams who did it could steal a few games a year so the honest teams felt the pressure to also cheat. So today these pros say ‘everyone does it so it is the ethical standard for my sport.’

    Do these same pros go home and encourage their children to steal from stores, or to hit other children and lie to the teacher about it? Maybe they smoke but tell their children it’s wrong, or speed and yell at the cop who writes them a ticket, telling the kids that police are [explitives].

    We all know, and it’s been proved, that children practice what they see, not what they’re told. So high school kids are taught to cheat and lie by their coaches, but more likely than not those children began emulating their heroes in grade school; they probably can cheat quite well by high school.

    From the 30’s to the 70’s sports heroes were used on cigarette and liquor ads; how many people died because they took up bad habits at their heroes’ bidding? Then there was the chewing tobacco habit so many young boys picked up. And then the steroid use that took 2 decades for pro baseball to even begin to admit to. How many young men ruined their health, their sports prospects, and their ability to father a child by following pro sports examples.

    Obviously, young children follow the examples set by people they admire. What if they saw examples of fairplay and truth throughout their lives, and they grew to be people who practiced ethical behaviour without even a second thought? And what if they learned that behaviour and sense of morality from their sports heroes? What kind of country would this be then?

  • Al

    This isn’t even in the same league as the unethical behavior of the billionaires of baseball begging to state and local govemrnments for money to build their stadium while we can’t find money for health care for the poor.

  • Jim Shaarda

    @suestuben: Cheating in baseball has going on almost since the game was invented. In the 19th century, when games had only one umpire, players routinely cut across the infield going from first to third without coming near second base if the umpire wasn’t looking. Third base coaches would grab the belts of opposing runners coming around third and trying to score. If they could get away with something, they’d try it. Scuffing the baseball, corking bats, you name it.

  • JackU

    Should he have “called it on himself”, no. That’s not the way the game is played. It has nothing to do with Jeter being a “good guy” or not. If the same thing had happened to hometown hero Joe Mauer, we would have the same reaction as the LoHud blogger. The umpire is there to arbitrate the rules. He called what he thought happened. In a case like this it may be that the sound of the ball off the knob of the bat was to him more the sound of it hitting the player. He’s not going to “see” it he has to rely on other senses. Watch the full speed clip and remember that your view from the center field camera is less obstructed then the home plate umpire’s view of this play. (And probably the First Base umpire as well.)

  • John P

    The fact that it is common practice doesn’t make it ethical. Don”t we tell children “Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it right!”

  • Batters have to wear a helmet to protect them from a pitched ball that reaches top speeds of 70-80 mph for most 13-14 year olds.

  • Chris

    I think this is just part of baseball, though Jeter went a little overboard in trying to sell it. And if you compare this to the entire steroids era, it’s really not that big a deal. But if Alex Rodriguez did the same thing, he’d be getting hammered right now.

  • MNReader

    Maybe I missed it, but not one mention of soccer? So soon after the World Cup? Weren’t we all just talking about how no other sport has so much fake-injury acting, enough that the FIFA leadership has been pressured to do somethign about it? Guess I’m just saying that this lying isn’t anything new…