Sotomayor and Baseball

An attempt will be made throughout the Sotomayor nomination process to connect her to the common man. This will undoubtably be done through her connection to her baseball ruling. In Obama’s introduction, he stated:

During her tenure on the District Court, she presided over roughly 450 cases. One case in particular involved a matter of enormous concern to many Americans, including me: the baseball strike of 1994-1995. (Laughter.) In a decision that reportedly took her just 15 minutes to announce, a swiftness much appreciated by baseball fans everywhere — (laughter) — she issued an injunction that helped end the strike. Some say that Judge Sotomayor saved baseball. (Applause.)

This will be repeated ad nauseam throughout the coming months, and many people will accept this as proof of her “common man touch”. Whereas this story is compelling, baseball also presents an opportunity to explain her judicial philosophy in a way that most can appreciate, and in a way that condems her nomination.

Baseball is a game of rules. But, it is a game that must be officiated, because the rules cannot be enforced through automatic methods (as can be done in a game like Blackjack). Officiating is also required in baseball, because it has no legacy of honor that compels its players to enforce the rules upon themselves, like in golf. In a nutshell, baseball is a microcosm of society, competitive in a way that the boundaries are constantly pushed, and filled with both scoundrels (Pete Rose) and saints (Cal Ripken).

So, I’d like to see at lease one line of questioning at the hearings go something like this:

Judge Sotomayer, you’ve been credited by President Obama with saving baseball, so, I’d like to take the opportunity to pursue a line of questioning using baseball to explain your judical philosophy and views. In baseball, the umpire is the judge, responsible for interpreting and enforcing the rules of baseball. The rules are just like laws.

Judge Sotomayer, President Obama has stated that one of his highest goals for seating a new judge in the Supreme Court is that the judge rule with empathy, and he has indicated that this is consistent with your judicial philosophy. Can you explain this in baseball terms? Would you, for instance, take into account the salary level of the two teams playing, and adjust your ruling to benefit the poorer team? Would you widen the strike zone for a pitcher who had came from a disadvantaged upbringing? Would you give more strikes per inning to the team with more minorities?

Judge Sotomayer, you have been captured on video stating that the Appeals Court is the place where policy is made. This is analogous to saying that the baseball rules are made by the group of umpires at each game, not by the rules organization in the league. Are you saying that, in effect, if the umpire feels that some of the rules are unfair, and that they disadvantage the poorer teams, that the umpire shoiuld be free to make up new rules? Would it be fair for the umpires, for instance, to make the richer teams play with less players than the poorer teams, if they felt that that would lead to a better outcome? If a batter had a strong tendancy to hit to left field, might you mandate that the left fielder must stand far away from the left field line to give the batter a better chance?

Judge, you made a controversial ruling regarding the New Haven Fire Department where you allowed test results for a job promotion for 19 firefighters to be invalidated because of the skin color of the firefighters that performed well on the test. In this case, the rules of promotion and the study material was well known by all the players before the test was administered. Again, in the baseball analogy where the rules are well known before the game, do you believe that skin color should, at times, invalidate various rules during the game? Should white players have some of their hits invalidated depending on the skin color of the pitcher?

Judge, you have stated that your rulings are better, because of your Latina heritage, and because you are a woman. In baseball terms, are you saying that, in general, white umpires are inferior to umpires with other skin color? Are you saying that the difficulty in a umpire’s background makes him a better umprire, and that an umpire that didn’t suffer a traumatic upbringing can’t be a good umpire? Are you saying that an umpire’s race gives him an advantage in calling balls and strikes? Are you saying that male umpires are generally inferior to female umpires?

Lastly, Judge Sotomayer, many of the liberal judges are stating that the Supreme Court needs to consider the laws in other countries in their rulings. The baseball analogy would be for an umpire at a game to consider the rules in Japanese baseball instead of exclusively following the rules in Major League Baseball. Do you share this view, and do you think that the laws in the United States are inadequate to form a ruling.

Judge, in baseball, there is no room for umpires who make up new rules on the fly to suit their own prejudices. There is no room for umpires who show favoritism for one interest group over another. Umpires who exhibit these tendencies are not hired, and if they are currently employed by the league, they are summarily fired. I would hope that the Congress follows through on its solomn duty and hires a judge who will be fair to all who come before him or her.