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Faking = Cheating? The Curious Case of Derek Jeter

2010 September 16
by Brian Goff

As anyone other than the home plate umpire watching Wednesday night could easily determine, both from the loud “doink” of the ball hitting the bat as well as video replay, Chad Qualls did not hit Derek Jeter with a pitch in the 7th inning ‘s of the Rays-Yankees game.  Instead, Jeter faked (acted, simulated, …) pain from being hit, prompting the ump to award first base.  While Jeter has received a little bit of “Cheater” backlash, most media reflections on his actions have been very mild.  (Huffington Post hosts a vote on “is it cheating or not”.) Rays manager, Joe Madden, although thrown out of the game for arguing the play, applauded Jeter’s theatrics (maybe so much so as to really be putting him down — hard to tell):

“There’s several thespians throughout baseball,” Maddon said. “I thought Derek did a great job, and I applaud it, because I wish our guys would do the same thing.”

Yet, most American soccer fans view the playing up of real or phantom injuries or diving with little or no contact with utter contempt.  As Big League Stew and one of my colleagues mused, what if A-Rod had done the same thing?  He likely would not have been treated so kindly by fans and the media.  BLS discourages anyone from calling Jeter “Cheater” given that the ump really made the call.  (Of course, taking a base is one thing; playing up the theatrics to insure a call is something else.)

The soccer and A-Rod comparisons point to factors that influence how fans react to faking by players.   Possibly the frequency of occurrences in the sport matters, or reputation of a given player.  In addition, cultural influences on the fan seems to matter — maybe a person grows accustomed to seeing.  From the 1980s onward, there was a lot flopping in college basketball.  Many defend diving in soccer, including such “theatrics” as an integral and compelling part of the overall game (See Globe and Mail article by Paul Doyle as well as a reply to this way of thinking by Cesar Torres in the NY Times).  At some point, the theatrics-to-real ratio can grow so large as to leave one in the world of pro wrestling.  It isn’t just theatrics where these worlds meet.  The manipulation of outcomes by governing bodies can also turn fans on or off (See my TSE post on NASCAR, Wrestling, and Managing).

These and other possible influences behind different reactions sets up a very interesting field for experimentalists to plow.

7 Responses
  1. September 16, 2010

    Nice post Brian,

    It is difficult to compare cheating across various sports. As much as critics hate the diving in soccer (and I’m one of them), FIFA and other governing bodies perpetuate it by refusing to move into the 21st century by allowing controversial calls to be reviewed.

    In the Jeter/baseball case, the case of Adam Gilchrist the cricketer is useful example. Throughout his career, Gilchrist became well known for “walking,” or declaring himself out when the umpire could not determine if he had hit the ball. This occasionally drew the ire of teammates and others who deemed it was the umpire’s fault and that in “walking” Gilchrist was doing his team a disservice just by declaring himself out unnecessarily.

    I don’t think there is a right or a wrong answer here. I think it largely depends on the player’s reputation/history of fair play play. Jeter was recently named by Sports Business daily as the most marketable athlete in pro sports. I think its pretty obvious that A-Rod wouldn’t have been given the same leeway.

  2. Aaron permalink
    September 16, 2010

    One other thing to consider with soccer, which to me is a vital point, is the running clock. When a player dives in soccer, that is not the part I despise. To me, when he stays on the ground writhing in fake-pain to milk the clock and prevent the other team from winning, it is poor sportsmanship. The nature that he is limiting the time the other team has to equalize the game is the crux of the matter, not the theatrics to begin with. In baseball, Jeter’s theatrics didn’t put him on first. If you watch, the umpire signals very early on; he already made up his mind.

  3. Harmy G permalink
    September 17, 2010

    In soccer, the ref can penalize the diver with a card. There is no such penalty in baseball. You’re not going to see an umpire toss a player for “simulation.”

  4. Greg Pinelli permalink
    September 17, 2010

    Sports break down into 3 groups…
    1. Those in which there are NO cheating…not even the attempt. The answer is singular..Golf. The number of self inflicted losses and courageous acceptances of adverse decisions is remarkable. Golf..competitive golf..has ethic.

    2. Those in which cheating would take place if you could get away with it…Tennis. Instead it’s a whiners game…

    3. Those in which floppers and pretenders have incentives..in order
    a. Soccer.. a world class floppers game…inside and outside the 18 yd box. Couple that with exceptionally low level refs and viola! Garbage
    b. Basketball…flopping par excellance! With arms flying up and unending selling….
    c. Baseball and football…a close race where what Jeter did is part and parcel with diving away from strikes..pretending to touch second base on force plays..and scooping line drives off the ground and jumping into the air with “I’ve got it!!!” Right. The NFL is a fakers library of pretending to be hit from behind on punt and kickoff returns…and sideline coaches screaming at refs on EVERY possible call……

    Jeter did what any savvy baseballer does..get the most from Umps..so what???

  5. September 19, 2010

    I think Weber’s argument in the article about Jeter is pretty atrocious. See this blog post for why I think so: http://theconsternationofphilosophy.blogspot.com/2010/09/philosophy-in-nyt-vol-1.html.

  6. B-ball permalink
    September 21, 2010

    Often times in basketball players will draw a foul as necessary.

  7. September 21, 2010

    Are you kidding me? Soccer pplayers go down all the time and usually its fake. Other sports, injuries are taken for time out. Here is the real issue. Jeter is in the league 15 years, with 3 gold glovers, 5 world series rings, captain of the yanjkees and has broken the yankee hit record and wills oon be at 3000 hits himself. He has een in a terrible slump and wanted to contribute, and getting on base, in any fashion was called for. I will add if jeter had not been slumping he would not have felt the need to do what he did. However that was nopt the case and there is no issue here. The very next game, the pitcher did in fact hit jeter on the very first pitcher and no one is talking about how deliberate that was for faking it the day before. Leave this guy alone. Its not steroids, he is a legitatmit baseball legend. why is it in this country we twear down all of our heroes and legends. Can we have something or will everyone be happy when there is no more america, no legends, no heroes, just a bunch of foreigners.

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