Integrity Matters Broadcasts
June 5, 2003
BRACHER CENTER UPDATE
Baseball is in the news. Sammy Sosa has
reminded us that integrity must be exhibited all the time,
no exceptions. Shortly after the Tuesday evening “corking
of the bat” event in Chicago, we received a “Dear
Jim” question about Sammy and the issue of integrity.
The question and response are enclosed.
More and more, with scandals cropping up seemingly everywhere,
it is difficult not to feel a little like a doctor in a
measles epidemic. When things get hectic here, it is more
like being a one-armed paper hanger with hives. Just about
the time one feels this “crisis of integrity” mess
has reached the peak, more garbage-like behavior hits the
Should we laugh or cry? Neither, we need to lead, by example,
as if there were ever any other way.
The big issue today is confidence. Until trust is restored
by our various leaders and we are confident enough to re-dedicate
ourselves to the individuals and the institutions that
guide our society, then free markets and the activities
they fuel will struggle to regain valuable momentum.
As you may recall, this is our Vision and to its achievement
we remain committed:
Restore integrity through insight.
A world in which people do what they say, are forthright in their communications,
and a handshake solidifies any promise.
Because integrity is a complex issue, we need your input:
What do you think would be the most useful tool to
help an organization or an individual restore integrity?
SAMMY SOSA AND THE CORKED BAT
Yesterday, June 3, 2003, in a major league baseball game
in Chicago, Illinois, with the Chicago Cubs playing against
the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, superstar Sammy Sosa of the Cubs
used an illegal corked bat, and the media is having a field
day. Why are corked bats illegal? And, if they are illegal
in regular competition, why do they exist at all? The alleged
purpose is to use them in exhibitions; but does that not
render exhibitions a fraud?
Finally, no matter what the explanation, since Sammy is a professional ball
player, wouldn’t he recognize immediately that the heft and feel of the
bat were different? Therefore, I believe that he has broken a trust with the
fans. Do you agree?
Dear Cub Fan (or non-Cub fan):
This is an embarrassing moment in the life of this columnist.
For more years that I care to remember, the Summer Slump
of the Cubs has rendered me helpless, distraught, sometimes
speechless and often broken hearted. They really know how
to grind away at the self-confidence of young and old fans
alike; and maybe that is what makes them the Cubs. Matters
become even worse when the Chicago Cubs blunder in September.
So, with that tidbit of bias on the table, let me respond.
First, it would be wonderful for baseball if Sammy Sosa
could come forward and say: “It just ain’t
so!” (He would need to communicate that the incident
was not of his making and the bat did not belong to him.)
Second, let us then hope that the “corked bat incident” was
truly a mistake and will never happen again.
In the meantime, let’s live in the real world. This
story is about market economics and individual greed. Your
questions about “corked bats” are unsettling
and your insights with reference to knowledge and accountability
The lawyers and the media are likely to have a field day
asking a few of their favorite questions:
- What did he know?
- When did he know it?
- Can there be an explanation or a loophole that makes
the whole thing go away?
- What is the definition of 'cork’?
- Who needs to take the blame for this so that nobody
loses any money?
The fans have another set of questions:
- Why would a superstar need to cheat?
- Why would a high-potential Hall-of-Famer ever risk
his reputation by even possessing an illegal piece of
equipment anywhere near the field of play?
- Why would Sammy jeopardize simply getting an illegal
hit over his team’s success?
- Is major-league baseball so desperate for money from
fans that it looks the other way when illegal bats are
used during exhibitions (home run competitions)?
Back to your question about Sammy Sosa: has he broken
a trust? We do not know, yet. What we do know is that major
league baseball officials are examining bats that they
believe belonged to Sammy. Should there be any compromised
bats then the legal system that governs major league baseball
will determine guilt.
The bigger issue is recognizing that what is natural (a
baseball bat and a baseball, neither of which has been
juiced up) seems no longer adequate for the entertainment
expectations of certain fans, owners and players. Baseball
appears to have turned toward the “carnival atmosphere” and
risks making a farce of what once was referred to as “our
Legitimate games, at whatever level, from amateurs on
the sandlot to the professionals in big league parks, are
designed to place every participant on the same fair playing
field. When greed displaces legitimate competition, then
cheating creeps in, and integrity has become little more
than a catch phrase punctuated by the wink of the carnival
If this recent Sammy Sosa “corking the bat” incident
is properly addressed, then baseball will be the stronger
and fans will not lose confidence in the sport, its players,
the owners or the agents. Do we really need a corked-bat
anywhere, anytime or for any reason? If not, get rid of
them, once and for all.
However, should all parties not be forthright in communicating
the circumstances that lead to the event; and should appropriate
evidence not be presented regarding the real problems (creating
false images of players hitting baseballs incredible distances,
with illegal bats) - then the ticket-purchasing public,
the fans, will have reason to assume that fraud and deceit
are alive and well – even with major league baseball.
Confidence in the integrity of baseball will suffer yet
another blow. Any actions short of full disclosure will
simply create another corporate scandal covered over with “cork” and
empty promises about truth, honest competition and integrity
Oh, Sammy, say it isn’t so!