A few days ago, the story came out that Brewers pitcher, Yovani Gallardo was arrested late at night after driving slow and erratic. When asked to take a breathalyzer test, Gallardo failed with a 0.22 result, well over the Wisconsin legal limit of .08. Gallardo’s penalty for the incident? Since it was a first time offense, a mere $778 fine will suffice. NO jail time. NO loss of license, and from an MLB standpoint, NO suspension or discipline of any kind.
Unfortunately, this is a growing trend in Major League Baseball and one that very much needs to be addressed. In just a quick search of my paltry memory, I can come up with three other major incidents that have happened related to alcohol in just MLB alone.
In 1993, two Cleveland Indians players were killed and another player badly injured in an alcohol related incident involving a boat. Steve Olin, 27, and Tim Crews, 31, were killed on Little Lake Nellie in Clermont, Florida and Bobby Ojeda, suffered serious scalp injuries but survived. Crews, who was driving the boat, had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit in the state of Florida.
Josh Hancock was killed on April 29, 2007 when the truck he was driving late after a Cardinals game struck the rear of a flat bed tow truck that was in the left lane assisting another vehicle. Toxicology tests revealed a blood alcohol level of 0.157 after the crash. Hancock was texting on his cell phone when the accident occurred and was not wearing a seatbelt. The Cardinals would wear a patch on their jersey for the remainder of the year “honoring” their fallen teammate.
March 22, 2012 saw yet another incident, this one involving Rays top prospect, Matt Bush. Actually, you might be better off phrasing it as three incidents, the most serious of which involved Bush hitting a motorcyclist and then running over his head as he fled the scene of the crime. Read the full story as it was a pretty bad day for Bush.
What bothers me about the three examples above is that they are simply three of many. These are the two that went horribly wrong, but how many of them have just resulted in legal discipline? From Dontrelle Willis to Miguel Cabrera, we see names pop all the time in baseball of players involved in alcohol related incidents and nothing is done by Bud Selig and the MLB discipline committee.
Jay Jaffe of Yahoo addressed the issue in a column posted on opening day:
In contrast to their progress on the PED front, baseball has done nothing to penalize far more dangerous and destructive behaviors such as driving under the influence of alcohol or abusing wives and girlfriends. The league may be content to let law enforcement handle such offenses, but it could have far more impact if it took additional action in such cases by suspending guilty players without pay for similar lengths of time as PED violators, and donating their salaries to programs oriented towards awareness, treatment and prevention. (Full Story)
At the same time, Bill Parker of The Platoon Advantage argues:
An employer has a right to be concerned about how its employees make it look in the community at large, but those employees have a competing right to have their employers stay the hell out of their personal lives, too. The judicial system exists to catch and punish things like DUIs; by and large, I don’t think it’s baseball’s responsibility to pile punishments on top of that (and you might think the judicial system isn’t harsh enough, particularly on professional athletes, but that’s not a problem that it’s baseball’s job to fix). I just don’t think a sport can go around meting out punishments for things that happen outside the sport. (Full Story)
MLB has to take action on this and needs to do it now. Some will argue that the issue must first be collectively bargained, which is true. However, if the players union and the owners cannot both agree that this is a major issue facing baseball and society in general then someone needs to do it for them. I can tell you this, if they’re not careful, someone will be killed as a result of something a Major League player does related to alcohol and MLB will find themselves strapped with a large civil suit arguing negligence on their part. The family initiating the suit may not win, and it may not even go to court, but you can be assured that MLB will pay something.
It’s not about the money, however, it’s simply about doing what is right for society. I have no patience for drivers who get behind the wheel under the influence of any substance, including alcohol. It’s irresponsible and always preventable. There is no excuse. Being in the insurance department, I hear all the sob stories from customers who say they just had one drink and blew over the limit. I nod my head, explain the penalty from an insurance standpoint, and promptly roll my eyes as they exit my office or I hang up the phone. There is no excuse.
I’m calling now for MLB to strike while the iron is still somewhat hot on this issue and implement an immediate punishment going forward for all DUI offenders. A minimum 50 game suspension for any player convicted of the DUI on a first offense and a lifetime ban from the league for a second offense. You want to risk the lives of my family? Then I’m going to make sure you can’t do the things you love. Unfortunately, MLB has no balls and will simply go on record with press releases stating how they are deeply saddened by the events and are making it high priority.
Article XII, section B of the 2012-2016 CBA states:
Players may be disciplined for just cause for conduct that is materially detrimental or materially prejudicial to the best interests of Baseball including, but not limited to, engaging in conduct in violation of federal, state or local law. The Commissioner and a Club shall not discipline a Player for the same act or conduct under this provision. In cases of this type, a Club may only discipline a Player, or take other adverse action against him, when the Commissioner defers the disciplinary decision to the Club.
Selig has the power, he’s just too much of a pansy to use it and soon he’ll come to regret it.