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Pitch or Walk?

A si.com article recounts an interesting moral dilemma. Here's why I think it's entirely misguided.

Here's the situation: championship game, one run lead in the bottom of the final inning, two outs, a runner on third. The star hitter of the team is coming up, and the next batter is their worst hitter Romney.

The twist is that Romney is about 10 years old, and is a cancer survivor who has to take human growth hormones, and has a shunt in his head. He apparently can barely swing.

The dilemma is, of course, whether to take advantage of Romney's relative weakness. In the end, they walked the star player and struck out Romney, who then sobbed himself to sleep that night. Writer Rick Reilly and many other people condemn the coaching decision, and think it should've been about fun more than strategy or winning.

Here's why I think he's wrong. First of all, the coaches have to make the decision in the span of a few minutes. They are responsible for a team that wants to win. It's rarely fair to criticize their decisions after having processed it all in your head and thought it through.

More importantly, if the game wasn't really important, why did Romney feel so bad about losing? Would another kid be sobbing if the coaches didn't try their best to win? What I'm trying to say is, if this is supposed to be just about fun, clearly something has gone quite wrong long before poor little Romney dressed up in his uniform that day. We send a lot of mixed messages to the kids, and this is one of them. You can't tell them to do their best out on the field (which doesn't include playing dirty, by the way) and then tell them winning is not important. In other words, the dilemma is misframed, and it's not about walking or pitching the star player at all. It has more to do with putting kids in teams called "Yankees" and "Red Sox", sending them to "championships", and then thinking it's still all about "fun". That's the elephant of a delusion.

But just for "fun", here's a poll. Naturally, reasonable people will disagree, so let's please keep it civil.

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