What is due diligence? What is zero tolerance? How do these impact employee morale? How do these concepts link together? Richard Lummis and I explore these questions and more in considering the July Houston Astros trade for closer Roberto Osuna. The primary reason for these questions was that Osuna came off a 75-game suspension by Major League Baseball (MLB) for violation of its domestic abuse policy. It involved an incident for assault, for which Osuna pleaded not guilty to in a criminal case in Ontario. Some of the questions we consider are:

What is Zero Tolerance? Overlaid with Osuna and his suspension were the Astros, who have (or perhaps more appropriately had) a zero-tolerance policy for domestic abuse. David Barron, writing in the Houston Chronicle, said the club’s response was that the zero-tolerance policy did not apply to Osuna because the alleged assault occurred before he joined the Astros and that Osuna would benefit from “great examples of character in our existing clubhouse that we believe will help him and his family establish a fresh start.”

What is the purpose of employment sanctions?Should a person who commits a crime or unethical action be forever banned from practicing their craft? In his article Barron quoted Cindy Southworth, an executive vice president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, who posed the following question “How do you balance redemption and behavioral change with holding people accountable?” She then answered her own question with “It’s messy. It’s not straightforward. But you can do both.” I would only add (parenthetically) that if your right arm is a cannon, you will probably get such a chance.

What are red flags and are they a predicter of future events?One incident of unethical behavior would be seen as a red flag for similar behavior in the future. It might be enough to prevent such a person or entity from passing a due diligence background screening. On the other hand, a person convicted or found guilty of bribery and corruption might well serve their time, become rehabilitated and use those experiences to help others avoid the scourge of corruption going forward.

What is Due Diligence?Is it a formal record check to see if a person is on the despicable persons list, have committed criminal acts or are at least alleged to have violated laws. Is due diligence determining whether someone or some other organization meets the minimum standards you set for yourself or your organization (See: zero tolerance, above)? Gonzales said, the “Astros say they truly don’t know the details about what took place between Osuna and the alleged victim.”

What is employee morale? Osuna is under charges in the province of Ontario for his domestic assault, to which he has pled not guilty. What will be the effect on all of this be in the Astros clubhouse, given the stances by several players on domestic abuse? Barron noted in his article that Astros pitchers Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers had previously made statements “against players who commit domestic violence.” Verlander said after the trade was announced “Obviously I’ve said some pretty inflammatory things about stuff like this in the past and I stand by my words. But I think in an ongoing case as is this one, we’ll see what happens.” Gonzales reported that Collin McHugh, the team’s representative with the Major League Baseball Players Association, was a bit more direct saying, “I don’t think anybody’s comfortable with the situation,” McHugh later told the media. “I don’t think anybody in baseball is comfortable with this situation. There’s a lot of ongoing things; there’s things that are happening. Nobody in this clubhouse is going to condone anything that’s happened off the field.”

Moral bankruptcy or shrewd business move?As for the Astros, it is pretty clear that the right arm of Osuna is the only currency the club is concerned about as it mounts a defense of its 2017 World Series championship. Yet in the court of public opinion, the Astros have certainly dropped a few notches. ESPN’s Buster Olney said of the trade, “Surprising…disappointing…shocking….appalling.” Yahoo! Sports’ writer Jeff Passan was even more direct when he said the Astros had engaged in “moral bankruptcy by acquiring a player of tainted character, because, in this case, he can get outs in the ninth inning.”