Is Jeter a Cheater?
02/18/11
Special to the Jewish Week
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Q - With baseball’s spring training underway, I’m reminded of an incident from last season. Derek Jeter, one of the few superstars from the past decade not implicated in baseball’s steroid sample, was caught on video pretending to be hit by a pitch. He was awarded first base although the ball clearly hit his bat. Is Jeter a cheater?

A - Yes he is – or at least was in that case. It was a big game too, which the Yankees eventually lost to TampaBay. He fessed up later on, but added, "It's part of the game. My job is to get on base." OK, that’s bad. But what’s worse is that the opposing manager, Joe Maddon, agreed that cheating is part of the game. "If our guys had did it,” he said, “I would have applauded that. It's a great performance on his part."

What’s wrong with this picture? Full disclosure: I’m a Boston fan, but I know that my teams have also prospered from the framed strike or phantom tag in baseball, the defender’s flop in basketball and the phony pass interference call in football. Speaking of football, my Patriots and the Jets seem to always be one-upping each other when it comes to spying and bending the rules.

So the question is not so much whether cheating is accepted – it is – but at what point does bending the rules turn into breaking the rules? At what point is the integrity of the game compromised? But the more important question is: How does this culture of cheating impact the kids who look to these athletes as role models – and what are the implications for society when these kids grow up?

The integrity of the baseball suffered greatly during the steroids era because those who played by the rules were punished for it. Stats were skewed and the playing field unleveled. But Jeter’s seemingly innocent acting job, while having little impact on the game, has a corrosive impact on society that is cumulative and dangerous. The more that cheating is accepted on the field, the more it will be seen as acceptable off it. As tractate Avot states, “Avera Goreret Avera,” “one transgression leads to another.”

Cheating in baseball is not new. Gaylord Perry rode his doctored pitches all the way to Cooperstown. The 1951 New York Giants’ stolen pitching signs fueled the “Shot heard round the world.” But maybe it all seemed more innocent back then, in those halcyon days before Madoff met the Mets. Now, cheating is dead serious and an enormous challenge for our culture (see my current column on the topic, “We Still Haven’t Put Bernie Away.” )

Fortunately, in the sheltered world of sports, there is a remedy: instant replay. If TampaBay had been allowed to challenge the call, Jeter would have looked even more the fool, and all faking would soon stop. The Yankee shortstop might have hit the next pitch for a homer – he is Derek Jeter, after all – but on some level we would have been able to say, “Jeters never prosper.”

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman is spiritual leader of Temple Beth El in Stamford, CT. Read more Hammerman on Ethics here.  Read his blog here

 

 

Last Update:

02/22/2011 - 08:01

Comments

Are you serious? Your throwing around quite a few historical dates to be clueless about the game. Players learn in little league to react to a close pitch. Do you see pitchers arguing with umpires when a ball is called strike 3? AND when have the jets ever been accused of spying or caught doing it for that matter? "Your" patriots are the ones who have been caught red handed so you assume they both do it? No, that's how YOUR team "prepares". filming other teams practices. And you single out Jeter as playing up a close pitch? Why because you're a Boston fan. you better watch more games because it happens all the time. Have you ever heard of the NBA where every foul is played up big time by players, yes, even by your probably "beloved" Celtics.
I think you're really off base here. Whether you have instant replay or not, in baseball you have an ultimate authority -- the umpire. What the umpire says, goes. Let's take this example, which might or might not be resolved by replay: You're running from first to second on a ground ball. The second baseman picks it up and reaches out to tag you, then throws to first. You feel the tag just graze your arm. Do you stop running? Of course not. You keep on running to second and let the umpire determine whether you've been tagged. If the umpire calls you safe, do you complain? Of course not! Are you a cheater? Of course not. If you're the second baseman and you miss the tag, but the umpire calls the batter out, do you complain? Of course not. Are you a cheater? Of course not. Baseball rules are like income taxes. It is your obligation to do everything you can within the rules to minimize your tax. If you bend the rules too far, the IRS will penalize you. The umpire will do the same in baseball. If you hold yourself to a different moral standard from your opponent, you will be at a competitive disadvantage.
OMg let it go already. find something else to write about

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