Integrity Matters Broadcasts

June 5, 2003


Dear Friends:

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 headlines.

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?



(E-050) 06-04-03

Dear Jim:

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 are powerful.

The lawyers and the media are likely to have a field day asking a few of their favorite questions:

  1. What did he know?
  2. When did he know it?
  3. Can there be an explanation or a loophole that makes the whole thing go away?
  4. What is the definition of 'cork’?
  5. Who needs to take the blame for this so that nobody loses any money?

The fans have another set of questions:

  1. Why would a superstar need to cheat?
  2. 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?
  3. Why would Sammy jeopardize simply getting an illegal hit over his team’s success?
  4. 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 National Pastime.”

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 barker.

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 in leadership.

Oh, Sammy, say it isn’t so!

Home Page | About Us | Ask Bracher | Services | Resources | Contact Us

©Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership. All Rights Reserved.
1400 Munras Avenue ~ Monterey, California 93940