Baseball, Life and The Law Part 1

“Baseball, Life & The Law” blog, volume 1, blog 1 – January 14, 2020 (Michael Hiller practices family and estate planning law in the Houston and Austin, Texas areas). When people ask me where I’d like to be when I die, I always answer the same way: at a baseball game, surrounded by family and friends.

For years I’ve been trying to enjoy my law practice, and I enjoy it; however, it has been mostly family law, which is certainly difficult to enjoy all the time. I have recently added estate planning to my practice, which I think will enhance joy in my practice; however, I think it’s important that I’m honest with myself and say that I really enjoy baseball more than I enjoy any of the above, except for my family and friends-LOL.

Why am I starting this blog now? I have thought about it many times; however I never thought I had the time and let’s just say that the Astros’ getting sanctioned by major league baseball has triggered my actually sitting down and writing. Now this blog may take the form of a video blog in the future but for now it’s going to be written.

I want to start out by writing about why I think the Astros’ punishment should not have been as severe. And then I’m going to compare it to life and my law practice. First of all, I’ve always valued and been concerned about honesty in the courtroom, which is one of the reasons I moved to Austin. It’s not that I condone the cheating (after all the electronic cheating was specifically against new rules that were established); however, “stealing signs” isn’t stealing at all because when a catcher gives the pitcher signs, the only stealing involved is whether the other team can somehow see what the catcher is signaling.

That has always been practice in baseball and to me, or to almost anyone else, it’s not cheating or stealing at all. It’s because baseball has not caught up with technology in general that led to this rule in the first place. The question is if it’s okay to try to figure out a catcher sign with your eyes, then why wouldn’t it be okay with a camera? On the other hand, rules were established against such technological “seeing”, and the commissioner warned teams that it would not be tolerated. So from that point of view, the Astros shouldn’t have done it, or at least they should have stopped it when warned. Then they should’ve lobbied to change the rules.

Today’s blog isn’t about technology, although the Astros have been way ahead of other teams in the use of technology to help their players perform better. It’s really about looking at the situation itself, and then trying to understand why people cheat in the first place. In baseball, unlike football and basketball (I don’t know too much about hockey), there is no hard salary cap. There is no revenue-sharing unlike football which allows each team to earn just about the same amount of money from all the TV contracts.

In Baseball, there is just a soft cap, And teams are fined if they go over the cap. The money is then shared with the other teams; however the other teams can’t necessarily afford to increase their payroll even with that additional money. So this leads to an advantage for the rich teams, such as the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Cubs, the Red Sox and even now, to some extent, the Astros. A perfect example is: the Astros had the two best pitchers in baseball last year and one of them has just signed with the Yankees, because the Astros couldn’t afford to sign him to a long-term contract.

When you have an unfair situation to begin with, it encourages people to cheat. That doesn’t make it right, but it doesn’t account for human behavior. A lawyer friend of mine even wrote a book called “why lawyers and other people lie”. In it, he talks about the basic reason for lying is that people are scared that if they tell the truth, then they won’t get a good outcome. I have always tried to practice a different way, and that I tell my clients that our goal is to tell the truth and provide evidence to support the truth. In the Houston area, there are lots of lawyers who give money to the judges, and therefore incur favor from them.

The same lawyers are often willing to have their clients lie and do everything possible to win. Fortunately, most of my clients are victims of this kind of behavior, and so therefore the truth is the only thing that we can use to combat the false accusations against our clients. We work hard to get this evidence and to point out the alienating behavior against our parent-clients, so it works out well, and I can sleep better at night.

The situation in family law, regardless of which county you’re in, is similar to baseball as follows: children are seen as a prize for one parent to win over the other. In fact, virtually all mental health professionals believe that this is a bad system and that parents should be allowed to share equally in the parenting of their children. There are studies that say this doesn’t work; however those studies were done before it became more popular to share equally in parenting.

It is my long-standing belief that the family code should have a default, or presumption, for equal parenting. If one parent doesn’t want to be equally responsible for parenting, then they can opt out. Further, if one parent is destructive in their equal parenting, then there parenting should be restricted. Regardless, I think that all parents and children should have access to therapy to help them share in parenting after a divorce.

To sum up, if our systems in baseball, life, and family law are fairer to begin with, then there should be a resulting decrease in cheating. Baseball should have revenue-sharing so that each team can spend the same amount on salaries, life should be more this way (I’m not advocating for socialism, I’m still working on this one!) and family law should have a presumption of equal access.

In my next blog, I will discuss more baseball, more life, and more family law, particularly in the area of parental alienation. I will also begin foreshadowing my estate planning practice.

About the Author

Michael Hiller is a Texas Board Certified family lawyer who has extensive legal experience in handling all kinds of family law cases and is specifically trained to handle high conflict divorce cases for high net worth individuals.

Hiller Law is an Austin & Houston family law firm that specializes in high-conflict child custody and divorce cases.