Baseball, Life and The Law: Part 3

Posted by Michael HillerMar 02, 20200 Comments

In my first blog, I wrote about the Astros' “electronic sign stealing.” While I said that it was wrong of them to do this, I also said that perhaps their punishment was too much. There are many people, particularly players on other teams, who think the punishment wasn't enough. 

Bottom line? The Astros shouldn't have done it. But as far as their punishment goes, that is a lot more complicated. I think the main issue here is that baseball has a rule against this. I have read the players were granted immunity and avoided punishment because their union's rules prohibit players from being punished without prior notice.

The same isn't true for ownership and management – which is why the owner was fined $5 million and the general manager and manager were suspended from baseball for a year. The team also lost its top two draft choices for two years. 

Here's my honest viewpoint, as a lifelong fan of the Astros myself: It hurts. 

Like the many millions of fans around the nation, I'm feeling the pain when it comes to some seeing the World Series as tainted. After all, it took until 2017 for the Astros to win a World Series, although they started playing in 1962. The consequences the Astros are going through are the ultimate bummer. 

Notwithstanding my personal views and whether any of us think the punishment was too strong or too little, the integrity of the game is what counts. Baseball administration warned the teams that this was illegal and there would be consequences, but they also told the teams they would hold management responsible – not the players themselves.

Moving forward, Major League Baseball has announced there will be clear rules established so you will know what your punishment will be when you violate the rules. This goes all the way back to our Constitution. The Constitution prohibits ex post facto laws, which means we can't create laws to make a prior legal act a crime. 

What I want to take away from this are the extremely strong reactions coming from other baseball players who are on other teams. They are certainly understandable, but also inherently dangerous. And at the risk of drawing an obvious parallel, I'd venture to say this is what happens in high-conflict, complex family/parental alienation cases in family law.

In many of these cases, a person decides to leave their spouse and get a divorce. The person they've left has a difficult time accepting rejection. Instead of dealing with it properly like going to a therapist and either trying to win that spouse back or trying to cope with their leaving, they don't cope with it at all.

They might get through the divorce without any major conflict, but if they don't deal with it soon, they are likely to try to turn the kids against the other parent. That's what creates a high-conflict situation. 

Parental alienation is a technical term, and I don't want to get into it here. But I do want to analogize the baseball players' strong reactions to these parents. These angry players have threatened to have the Astros hitters thrown at by their pitchers and that can lead to serious injury or death.

While throwing the baseball at the other players had its time in our tradition, it has also become much less acceptable over the years because it can be deadly. The same thing goes with parents who are angry because of the other spouse leaving them. They align themselves too much with the kids, and then try to turn the kids against the other parent – alienating them, in a word. This behavior can be emotionally deadly.

When a parent's anger is so over-the-top, the dangers include not only physical injury, but emotional abuse toward their children or ex. If the anger gets bad enough in a divorce or after a divorce, they can emotionally destroy both the kids and the other parent. And that's something every parent going through a divorce needs to keep in mind. 

Whenever someone leaves their spouse – or “breaks the rules” – anger is too often the first resort. It's important to manage your emotions so that great physical danger or emotional pain does not become greater than the original act. In baseball, the act might be sign stealing or illegal capturing.

In divorce, it might mean leaving a spouse because you want something different or simply want to end a marriage. According to our country's laws, you can't force anyone to stay married. And above all else, you risk hurting your family when you're angry and try to take matters into your own hands.

The key in all these situations is to manage your emotions so you can have an appropriate response and not a dangerous one. In baseball, they have a sports psychologist for this. In family law, we have therapists. I strongly recommend that anyone who is reacting to the point of causing physical or emotional danger consult with one type of therapist or another.