Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 06/14/2021
Major League Baseball (MLB) has historically averaged three no-hitters per season (for my non-baseball readers, that means a pitcher gives up no hits over a nine-inning game). The most was nine. In 12 seasons, Sandy Koufax, for my money the greatest pitcher in history, threw a total of four, including a perfect game (no walks as well as no hits). Nolan Ryan threw seven in 27 years.
So far this year, there have been six, and the record looks like it will surely be broken soon.
MLB has collected baseballs this year and turned them over to laboratories to find out if the ball is different somehow. What they found out is that there is overwhelming evidence of a “foreign substance” on the ball (NYT, June 13).
In other words, the pitchers are “doctoring” the ball with some kind of greasy gunk which makes it bob and weave and duck better, all the tougher to hit. (A batter has less than a half-second to react to a fastball as it is.) Historically, pitchers have used the illegal “spitter” to try to liven the ball, and today it seems their subterfuge has become more sophisticated and harder to detect.
Baseball is a game of stealing signs, using steroids to enhance performance, and other “illegal” activity. It’s not alone. The football Patriots had their “deflategate” over the pressure inside the footballs. Soccer stars are often better actors than athletes, faking injuries and taking swan dives. Boxers have been known to “throw” fights. Even the horse which won the Kentucky Derby was disqualified because of its trainer’s drug administration.
You may say “it’s only a game” and you might be right. But most of these games include tens of millions in championship rewards and fans’ betting. More than that, the signal sent is quite clear: Win at any cost. It’s not about fair play, it’s about working the system.
Does that carry over? Ask investors and stakeholders at Volkswagen, Wells Fargo, Enron, Bernie Madoff Investment LLC, Theranos, Fyre Festival, College Admissions, Boeing 737 Max, ad infinitum. Winning at any cost has a very high cost.
No matter how small the dishonest deed is, at the end of the day, cheating is cheating. —Mohammad Amir
The more people rationalize cheating, the more it becomes a culture of dishonesty. And that can become a vicious, downward cycle. Because suddenly, if everyone else is cheating, you feel a need to cheat, too. —Stephen Covey