Do the Right Thing

Before game one of the 2015 World Series, Daniel Volquez, father of Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Edinson Volquez, passed away. Edinson’ s wife, Roandry, did not want to break the news to her husband until after his first World Series start, and Kansas City’s management staff complied with the family’s wishes. Volquez threw six strong innings and exited the game in the sixth inning with a one run deficit.

After he’d been taken out he walked into the Royal’s clubhouse, where his general manager, Dayton Moore, was waiting for him. Moore brought him into manager Ned Yost’s office where Roandry told her husband that his father succumbed to heart disease earlier that day in the Dominican Republic. Volquez let the news sink in in the clubhouse, then went home with Roandry and their two-year-old twin daughters.

The Royals went on to win the fourteen-inning battle against the Mets in dramatic fashion. Alex Gordon hit a heroic ninth inning homerun to push the game into extras, and five grueling innings later, Eric Hosmer redeemed himself for a costly error by hitting a game winning sacrifice fly. The Royals celebrated their walk-off victory into the clubhouse only to see that their starter was no longer there. Royals’ shortstop Alcides Escobar received a text message from Volquez that read, “Thank you guys, for winning that game for me.”

“It was a sad situation. There was no road map. You just do what the family asked you to do. It was real special to them that Eddie goes out and pitches that game,’’ said Ned Yost after the game.

Joe Buck and Fox’s broadcast team didn’t have a road map either. Buck and Fox decided to break the news of Daniel Volquez’s death during the game. Eerily, after Fox broke the news, their truck suffered a power outage and the game was delayed. In the age of the smart phone, the consequences of Fox’s decision to break the news could have gone awry. Broadcasting the news of Volquez’s death informed TV audiences and, in-turn, a stadium full of smart phone users, running the risk of the bereaved finding out prematurely.

Similarly, during the regular season, Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores was informed by a fan that he had been traded after reading the news on Twitter. Flores, who has been a member of the Mets organization since he was sixteen, was so distraught he began crying on the field. The trade was eventually void.

News outlets that knew about Volquez’s situation in advance sat on the story until Volquez was informed, fearing a Flores-type debacle. Fox’s decision to break the news became a topic of debate. Those on the side of journalistic integrity believe that in-game coverage has a commitment to tell the whole story to its viewers, while those on the other side of the fence say the ethical decision would be to uphold the family’s wishes and break the news once Volquez knew.

Buck and Fox believed that their journalistic integrity outweighed the possibility of Volquez finding out through an increasingly informed audience. Their calculated and tactless decision didn’t backfire, but was an unnecessary risk that could have run a lofty emotional toll. This situation manifests Fox’s overt avarice, valuing high ratings and ad dollars above human compassion.

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