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The Ethics of Nomar Garciaparra's one-day contract

Mar 15, 2010, 3:15 PM EDT

Nomar Garciaparra Sox.jpgFriend of the blog and professional ethicist Jack Marshall has put some thought to Nomar Garciaparra’s one-day contract/retirement with the Red Sox. After registering his surprise and displeasure with Dan Shaughnessy’s highly negative reaction, Jack throws an interesting idea out for consideration, that applies to sports and beyond:

When an organization has parted ways with any individual who has
been unusually important in its development, it has an ethical
obligation to make certain there is genuine closure and reconciliation
some day, some way. Unless the individual actually harmed the
organization or institution so grievously that it erases any benefit he
and she conferred, not to acknowledge a debt of gratitude and
recognition estranges the organization from its past, and whiffs on the
important values of respect, fairness, gratitude, and kindness. And
rare is the former organization super-star who is so bitter about his
exit that he won’t accept this important gesture.
You can identify dysfunctional organizations by their refusal to do this.

I was in the Sox press box last Wednesday for the announcement and, later, Nomar’s
press conference. When the news started to spread, several people scoffed and sneered.
Nomar? The guy who moped his way out of town in 2004 and whose departure paved the way for the 2004 championship? He’s got a lot of nerve.  Shaughnessy peddling that stuff was predictable, but I was surprised at how negative the reaction was overall. I was even more surprised that some of that negative reaction was directed at the Sox themselves for entertaining the notion of honoring Garciaparra in the way they did (and, presumably will continue to do).  Say what you want about Garciaparra’s tenure in Boston, but personally, I agree with Jack’s take on how healthy organizations
should handle this stuff.

But it went even further that morning. The second question asked to Nomar during the
press conference was who-approached-who first. Nomar admitted that he
made the overture to Theo. You could tell by how quickly everyone
started writing that the press smelled a “desperate Nomar asks to be
let back in the family” angle that reflected their own biases.

Theo,
however, sitting right next to Nomar, almost immediately jumped in to say
(not in so many words, but in effect) that it doesn’t matter who approached who, the organization thought it was
a wonderful idea, that they embraced it and other words along those lines. This suggested to me organizational health in both the way Jack described it in his post — that they’re willing to let bygones be bygones — and in its manifest desire to protect their
own from attacks from outsiders who may mean to do harm (i.e. Theo’s save).

I think anyone
would want that from their employer, and it certainly made an
impression on me. The fact that anyone is mining negativity out of it all says more about those doing the mining than the principals involved.

  1. ecp - Mar 15, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    Somehow I don’t find this surprising in light of how long it took for Bill Buckner to get forgiveness from the Sox faithful. Actually, I think fans of all teams hold grudges.

  2. IdahoMariner - Mar 15, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    …but it’s not the fans who responded this way — they showered him with an ovation when he returned to Fenway as a player. It was awesome. He cried.
    In fact, it’s usually things like that — a long-delayed return,w ith the prodgial son not knowing what to expect, and the fans showing that they get it, that they apprecitate what the player meant even if the exit was less than smooth, that makes the closure possible. In Seattle alone, Ken Griffey Jr. knew he wanted to come back to end his career in Seattle after returning as a Red and being surprised by the love. So too, Randy Johnson has always received great responses when he comes to town, and he will throw out the first pitch this year. Both of them left the team with no small amount of controversy.
    It does speak volumes about the organization and its fans to be able to acknowledge the contributions of its players, no matter what the circumstances of the separation.
    And Shaughnessy revealed, again, that he’s just a cranky, bitter tool.

  3. onesweetworld - Mar 15, 2010 at 3:55 PM

    Dan Shaughnessy is a pig

  4. Matt - Mar 15, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    Reminds me of Patrick Roy demanding (and getting) a trade out of Montreal after being left to give up eight goals in a game.
    He still had his number retired by the team and was a part of the Montreal 100th anniversary celebration. If Patrick Roy can get along with anyone, Nomar can too.

  5. d - Mar 15, 2010 at 4:05 PM

    consider the source(s)… Boston Media – the same ones who have tried (successfully in some areas) to turn the fans agains JD Drew even before he played a single inning (Bob Ryan in particular). I refuse to read anyone from the Herald, Shank, Mazz, and others. It’s to bad Kilgore is gone. Benjamin is good. Pete Abe – not sure.
    Craig is the best though! (Love the spring training reporting)

  6. JBerardi - Mar 15, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    .but it’s not the fans who responded this way — they showered him with an ovation when he returned to Fenway as a player. It was awesome. He cried.

    This is a really important point. The fans wanted him back. The organization wanted him back. He wanted to come back. So… who can really argue with that? And why? Writers like Shaughnessy are essentially scolding fans for being too forgiving. Apparently, they consider holding grudges to be a moral imperative. When following the Red Sox, it’s important to remember that the Boston press is far more angry, bitter and vindictive than the average Sox fan.

  7. Wooden U. Lykteneau - Mar 15, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    That’s not fair… to pigs.

  8. Jonny5 - Mar 15, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    Ethics and baseball in the same thought? I’m confused. Since the roid issue, and all the comparison to “the HOF greats” who “cheated” as well, how does that even come together? Ethics? I don’t understand. I can’t wait until the season begins. This crap is getting old.

  9. Joey B - Mar 15, 2010 at 4:44 PM

    I haven’t much, if anything, negative about Nomar on the RS sites I visit. I agreed with most of the RS fans when they finally said good riddance. Like with so many other players, the almost unending greed and cheapness gets really old after a while.
    But it was Nomar that paid the price, and a huge price it was. No $60M contract, no WS rings, nothing.
    Not that it matters. When a member of the family comes home, you hold the door open. Trying to re-hash ancient history is like nails on a chalkboard. You shake hands and life moves on. Trying to hold onto the animosity is like trying to surgically remove a body part you don’t like.
    I’m hoping the RS have him throw out the OD first pitch.

  10. YankeesfanLen - Mar 15, 2010 at 4:49 PM

    Awww, cmon. Yogi came back and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, even AND especially George’s. Who’s running this Old Timers Game anyway?

  11. jwb - Mar 15, 2010 at 4:51 PM

    It seems to me that when a player leaves the Red Sox, there is a lot of bad feeling in the press. This is also true of the Cubs. I have wondered if the stories were planted by the organization or if the fourth estate did this on their own. This gesture makes me think the latter is true. “Idity Scratch”

  12. Jack Marshall - Mar 15, 2010 at 4:52 PM

    Thanks for the mention, Craig. It isn’t about grudges at all—everyone in the Sox executive suites probably still are annoyed with Nomar. But the organization itself has made peace with itself by embracing Nomar now, as it did with Fisk and Tiant, who also left under bitter circumstances. The Yankees are also smart about this kind of thing. It is the mark of an organization that recognizes the importance of staying connected to the past while moving forward, and I can’t think of any industry where this is more critical than baseball.

  13. Moses Green - Mar 15, 2010 at 5:50 PM

    Add in the Nation’s embrace of Ronan Tynan, and the defensive, insecure-appearing “Universe” reaction to the Nation, and the Nation is feeling quite healthy. Tip-top.

  14. Ron - Mar 15, 2010 at 6:41 PM

    Does this mean when I turn 65, or 70, or 75, or whatever it will be then, that before I collect my first social security check, the Army will re-sign me to a 1-day contract and let me put on the uniform one last time.
    I mean, my adult life and career, and everything I do, has been defined by my 20 years serving. Fair is fair.
    Or is the closure something for the fan, and not really for an organization that cycles more peope through it’s payroll each year than the average person can really imagine?

  15. caseace - Mar 15, 2010 at 7:54 PM

    Yes, Ron, I think it is “something for the fan,” and also for the player. It is the fact that an “organization” recognizes/embraces the importance of that closure and, when needed, reconciliation that is impressive.
    Especially with the Red Sox, because CHB, Borges, and company will always be there to tell us “No.” And for their own selfish, hurt feelings. As much as I want to discount the aura of “character guys” and other cliches, there’s a reason it took a team with Millar, Manny, and Damon to end the drought. They were too drunk, stoned, or stupid to give a shit what Shank said.

  16. Michael - Mar 15, 2010 at 10:47 PM

    I’m going to float an idea for you:
    Who the eff cares about Dan Shaughnessy?
    Just an idea…

  17. Old Gator - Mar 16, 2010 at 10:18 AM

    Yeah, but you know, Seattle is a pretty special place. It gave us Gary Larson, Cow Chip Cookies, Skid Row, the original Crapper flush toilet, Windows Vista (mentioning which in connection with the Crapper toilet was unplanned free-association), the first barrel-roll of a jet airliner, Ivar’s chowder and a yuppie real estate boom in Fremont set off by the installation of a statue of Lenin.
    .
    And if I’m not mistaken the Beanbag fans gave Bill Buckner a pretty friendly reception too.
    .
    But on the other hand, how do you think the Wrigley Faithful would welcome back Steve Bartman? I understand he’s still walking around with Salman Rushdie’s old wig and falsies.

  18. Jack Marshall - Mar 16, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    No, because whatever the army may have meant to you, you were not a transformative, important figure in the history of the U.S. Army. Douglas MacArthur, yes…you, no. Got that?

  19. michael standish - Mar 16, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    Mentioning Windows Vista in connection with flush toilets may be unplanned free association; on the other hand (viz. the left), they go together like ham and eggs.
    And speaking of “That’s the hand to use…well, nevermind,” few people know that Bill Buckner was so despondent over his fielding glitch that he actually attempted suicide on his way to the Red Sox Fan Appreciation Parade that followed the ’86 World Series.
    He leapt in front of a bus, but fortunately it went between his legs.

  20. michael standish - Mar 16, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    I forgot to mention to Old Gator that Steve Bartman is most assuredly not walking around wearing Salman Rushdie’s old wig and falsies; that would be Buster “Because I say so” Olney.

  21. Rays fan - Mar 16, 2010 at 2:55 PM

    and @ Jack Marshall:
    The answer actually depends upon whether you were a career officer or enlisted. A retired military officer keeps his commission and rank even as a retiree. Therefore, the retired officer has every right to put his/her uniform on for any occasion. The retired enlisted man does not retain his/her rank really, but often do show up on Veterans Day and Memorial Day and are quite rightly honored by a grateful nation. If you are a retired enlisted person, you are more than entitled to do so. There is one other point, enlisted or officer, as a military retiree you are also still being paid by the US gov’t and thus do not need a one-day contract to put that uniform on again.
    Mr Marshall–please note that it’s not just for luminaries such as General MacArthur.

  22. Mike - Mar 16, 2010 at 3:18 PM

    Eh, Nomar didn’t leave on perfectly excellent terms but he didn’t leave on a particularly bad note. It really only could have taken the Sox actually winning a series to let Buckner back, and that was more about the fans than anything else (right or wrong).
    Now Manny, that’s a return no one wants to see…

  23. Old Gator - Mar 16, 2010 at 7:01 PM

    “He leapt in front of a bus, but fortunately it went between his legs.”
    Oo-o-o-o-oh, that’s cold.

  24. Ralph Kramden - Mar 17, 2010 at 8:31 AM

    “The fact that anyone is mining negativity out of it all says more about those doing the mining than the principals involved.”
    The fact that anyone finds negativity surprising doesn’t know the Boston press corps (or the fans). Not for nothing are we known as “the fellowship of the miserable”.

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