Is honesty really the best policy?

I started thinking about this on my way home from Game 5 of the ALDS last week.  I am a huge Tampa Bay Rays baseball fan and I got into a discussion with a friend on the way home from the game.  He was saying that it was a shame that some of the best and most popular players were leaving the Rays.  My comment was “How do you know they are leaving since none of them have said “I’m leaving”?”  He said that this was what all the sports commentators and reporters have been saying based on comments made by the Rays owner, Stuart Sternberg.  A St. Petersburg Times article stated “No matter how far the Rays go this season, it won’t alter principal owner Stuart Sternberg’s plans to reduce the payroll — potentially significantly — from the record $72 million” (Marc Topkin September 22, 2010).  In the article, Sternberg was quoted as saying “No question. Nothing can change that,” Sternberg said Tuesday. “Unfortunately there’s nothing that can happen between now and April that can change that unless Joe Maddon hits the lottery and wants to donate it or I hit the lottery.” (Marc Topkin September 22, 2010). The article went on to say “Cutting the payroll — to the $50 million range or lower — will mean breaking up the team that the Rays worked to build given that top players such as Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano and Carlos Peña are pending free agents.” (Marc Topkin September 22, 2010).  Based on this article and others like it, there was a sense among the fans that the Rays fate for future years was doomed.  Not only were the Rays struggling with major low attendance issues during one of the their best seasons, but now it was definite (according to the press) that we would lose key members of a winning team and players that were well-known and beloved by their fans – two more factors that would lead to even lower attendance.

My question is, “In this situation, was honesty really the best policy?” 

  • Did Sternberg prematurely discourage fan attendance by implying that some of the team’s favorite players were gone before they had even finished the season and lead to a feeling of ambivalence among the fans? 
  • How do you balance transparency, honesty, and openness in business with smart business sense? 
  • Is it the information that was being revealed or the way it was revealed that was more detrimental? 
  • Should he have approached the community sooner with the situation to allow them the opportunity to assist? 
  • Would it have been better if Sternberg had pretended that everything was fine instead of coming forward about the Rays dire financial situation? 

What do you think?

I’m sorry that this blog does not contain words of wisdom or pearls of advice as you go out into the world, but I can offer you my opinion, I do believe that honesty IS the best policy. 

Topkin, Marc (2010, September 22).  Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg: Payroll will fall, no matter what.  St. Petersburg Times.  Retrieved from

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1 Response to Is honesty really the best policy?

  1. nickysgurl1098 says:

    Interesting Topic. I am also a semi- Rays fan having lived in Tampa 4 years and attending multiple spring training games against my number one team, the Yankees, as a child. I think that the Rays have multitude of problems with advertising and publicity which are major reasons they never sell out. Another problem with low sales is that it is hard to keep fan loyalty in Florida. People either are too old to care or only live here a couple of months out of the year. The true Floridians aren’t really into baseball like people from Boston or New York because there are so many things to do here.

    As for is honesty the best policy in this case, I think that the fans have a right to know that they are potentially loosing some of the best players due to budget cutbacks. Look at the economy now. Thousands have lost their jobs and are struggling to get by, it makes sense that a team which never sells would do the same as a company. I’ve been to multiple games at the Trop and it never sells out. In this case, telling the fans will maybe produce enough of an uproar that maybe they will find a way to keep the team’s all stars. Baseball teams change all the time. Why lie about it to the fans? What purpose would that serve having them not find out until the spring training? Also, remember that most of these guy only do what their publicist tell them to say. Do they have a moral obligation to the fans to tell the fans they are being signed somewhere else?

    My boy, Derek Jeter, contract is up this year after ten years with the Yankees. Jeter is a Yankee icon. He is a figure head for the Yankees. Wouldn’t it then be unethical NOT to resign him because of his past success and fame that he brings to the team?

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