The Astros on Apologies: How Not to Do It

It was painful to read. The reports on the apology fest of the Astros leave you with one thought, “C’mon guys!”The report of the Commissioner, which you can find here ( reads a tad differently. The union got the players immunity for their roles, and it showed.

The Astros had developed a system for decoding their opposing teams’ sign sequences using live game feed. Over time, they then evolved their means for getting that information to the dugout. They went from runners being sent to the dugout, to text messages from the review room to a smart watch or cell phone in the dugout, to phone calls to the review room from the dugout. Then there was the hurdle of getting the info to the batters. They went from clapping, whistling, yelling, and eventually to banging on the garbage can with a bat, which proved to be the perfect low-tech finish to high-tech espionage.

The report concludes that most of the players received signals from the banging and added:

“Several players told my investigators that there was a sense of “panic” in the Astros’ dugout after White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar appeared to notice the trash can bangs. Before the game ended, a group of Astros players removed the monitor from the wall in the tunnel and hid it in an office. For the Postseason, a portable monitor was set up on a table to replace the monitor that had been affixed to the wall near the dugout.”

The report does not offer conclusions on whether the decoding and banging helped the Astros. However, here is some insight from the Barometer — ignorant in all matters related to sports — in post-season play, the Astros were 2-6 in their road games and 8-1 at home. Ah, the power of those Home-town cheers.

The stark reality of the report does not match the apologies, coupled with a large dose of, “Who knew?” and “It didn’t make a difference.” Okay, on that last one, with one question, “Then why did you do it?”

There was a lot of hedging, hemming, hawing, hesitation, and hubris in the apology campfire meeting. What was missing was full admission and sincere regret. Worse, the folks who worked in the video room are still there — that’s not immunity, that’s organizational culture. The overall message was not what the Commish hoped for in requiring the apologies. Here’s the meeting in a nutshell. “It was bad. We are done with this. We still won.”

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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