Ethics In Baseball Can Reach Disturbing Levels

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Ethics in baseball is always closely scrutinized.

For instance, is it ethical to teach batters to purposely get hit by pitches?

Or what about batters purposely faking a hit by pitch?

Is it ethical to doctor playing fields so the home team has an unfair advantage? Or is this part of the game tolerated?

There also is the question of whether stealing signs is proper or not. Some coaches feel it is perfectly acceptable as long as one is not using binoculars to “spy” on the enemy or use television cameras posted beyond the centerfield fence to focus in on signs given by opposing catchers and relayed to batters so they know what is coming.

Almost everyone in the game looks down on coaches who order pitchers to purposely throw at batters. But what about the coach who directs his pitcher to throw at the home plate umpire and have the catcher duck in an effort to physically hurt the umpire?

The game of baseball has been full of controversial ethics questions through the years and rarely discussed in an open forum.

Some coaches relish the game when inventive characters dream up new ways to win games. Others in the game call these coaches cheaters who make a travesty out of the grand old sport of baseball.

The late John Scolinos, former Hall of Fame head baseball coach at Cal Poly Pomona and winner of over 1,000 games, saw it all in his illustrious career.

“Regardless of the score, you must keep your poise,” said Scolinos.

“When you lose your poise, some coaches revert to cheating to win. And this jeopardizes the team. It makes college baseball look bad. College baseball should be kept at a high level.

“But to be honest, baseball coaches as far as I’m concerned are an outstanding bunch of men. Baseball coaches are superior men, for crying out loud. But when I hear about unethical conduct by coaches who instruct their pitchers to throw at the home plate umpire while the catcher ducks or things of this nature, it upsets me. I don’t give a kick how much anyone hates an umpire. That’s premeditated murder. All coaches should establish a proper ethical conduct.”

Several years ago in Southern California, an ethics question was brought to the forefront when an unusual form of the “Double Squeeze” play was performed against Chapman College.

Here is how the play works, which has been handed down through the years from the coaching ranks.

With runners on second and third and less than two outs, the batter bunts the ball toward the first baseman as the runner on third breaks for home. If the bunt is successful, the only option is to throw the batter out at first base as the second baseman covers.

With the normal two man umpire crew which works the vast majority of college baseball games throughout the USA, the home plate umpire positions himself for the potential play at home while the other umpire, initially positioned on the third base or first base side of second base behind the pitching rubber, runs toward first base for the potential play there.

Neither umpire is watching the second base runner.

While all this is going on, the runner on second, who has a sizable lead, breaks initially for third base and then takes shortcut in front of third base and scores easily. He doesn’t come within 10 feet of touching third base.

If you are former Long Beach St. Head Coach Mike Weathers, a victim of this play when he coached at Chapman, you are calling the play “unethical and sad.”

Umpires In Tough Spot
Weathers said the play puts a 2-man umpire crew in an extremely vulnerable situation.

“It’s extremely tough to stop this play from being successfully executed from the perspective of the umpires if they have never seen it before,” said Weathers.

Veteran college umpire Bud Grainger, who was an arbiter for many a moon and umpired at numerous NCAA Division I regionals and College World Series, said if the play was taught by a coach, it is definitely unethical.

“But there is a simple solution to stopping it,” said Grainger.

“The home plate umpire must pay attention to the runners.”

The coach who ordered the play against Chapman, had this to say.

“Baseball is a game of unethical situations. We have taught this play in practice, but we will never use it again.

“What is considered unethical, and what is ethical in baseball? Is it ethical to doctor fields?

“Is it ethical to purposely get hit by pitches? Is it ethical to steal signs? Is it ethical to throw at batters?

“All these things are done in baseball to win. But my team did something I consider harmless, and we are considered to have crossed the line.”

Wild, Unethical Play
Another diabolical play took place in Southern California years ago which caused many heads to turn.

With the score tied 4-4 going  into the bottom of the ninth, the win at all cost coach flashed the sign to his runner at second base and batter (who had been in a terrible slump) with two outs.

As the opposing pitcher went into his windup, the runner at second base bolted for third.

When the pitch came off the pitcher’s fingers, the batter wound up with a powerful swing.

The bat sailed out of his hands directly toward the third base bag.

The catcher, who caught the offering from the pitcher, gunned the ball to third base in an attempt to throw the base runner out.

What was the third baseman to do?

He not only had a runner and ball coming at him, but a flying projectile in the form of an aluminum bat.

He did the only logical thing.

He got out of the way of the aluminum bat as the ball sailed into left field and the runner rounding third scored easily.

Believe it or not, this was a designed play.

To read more of this story, purchase the Oct. 1, 2022 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. The rest of the story delves into a number of trick plays that have taken place over the years.