On June 8th, Arizona Diamondbacks announcer and former Chicago Cubs great Mark Grace became the latest member of the baseball community to be arrested and charged with DUI. Over the past year, this has become an all too familiar situation for the league. This year alone, Miguel Cabrera, Derek Lowe, Coco Crisp, Shin-Soo Choo, Austin Kearns and Adam Kennedy have been arrested for driving under the influence. How many combined games would you guess they got suspended? Or how about the number of days in jail they spent? Or maybe you wonder if the price of fines they paid outnumbered both?
According to the current collective bargaining agreement, Commissioner Bud Selig can punish players for drug-related incidents, but he is powerless against alcohol-related problems. Former MLBPA head Don Fehr was so much for protecting his players, that he left it up to the law of the land, not the league, to punish the players. It’s time that MLB adds alcohol-related incidents to their CBA when it expires. While the six players that have been arrested only make up 0.8% of major league players, it shouldn’t be tolerated. This is a league that fines and suspends players for arguing balls and strikes, and for making remarks about the umpiring. However, let the player go out and race his Porsche with another driver at 2 in the morning under the influence – like Derek Lowe did – and let them get off without anything? It’s simply egregious.
Like any business, especially one that is in the public spotlight, baseball should have the right to discipline any employee who embarrasses the company. Miguel Cabrera had a history of alcohol problems and was thought to have sobered up. This spring training, he was on the side of the road when a cop approached him.
“Do you know who I am? You don’t know anything about my problems”, Cabrera said while taking a swig out of his bottle in front of the officer.
Cabrera’s case may be the most blatant, but will his monster year at the plate this season make his off-the-field issues go away? The 28-year old Cabrera is set to make $20 million this season and currently is batting .311 with 13 HR and 45 RBI.
Opposite to Cabrera’s case was Shin-Soo Choo’s surprising DUI. Choo is not known for his off-the-field issues, so when news of his arrest came out, it was a shocker to all. Choo recently told ESPN that his struggles at the plate this season are due to his arrest and he can’t stop thinking about it. Choo, who reportedly couldn’t tell his left hand from his right hand when arrested, was driving home after a night out; the only problem was he didn’t know where home was. He spotted a police car on the side of the road and pulled over to ask for directions – to his house. The policeman noticed the slurred speech and drunken appearance and pulled him over right down the road where he blew a .20, over twice the legal limit. Choo shows legitimate remorse for his action and while I can’t say I feel bad for anyone who drinks and drives, I can feel for his emotions.
It isn’t just the players who are getting into trouble. Along with Grace’s recent arrest, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was arrested during spring training of 2007. La Russa fell asleep behind the wheel of his car at a traffic light. Two hours after he was arrested, his blood-alcohol limit was STILL over the legal limit. La Russa also never missed a game due to his arrest and the fans actually gave him a standing ovation upon his return. I understand the support, but a standing ovation seems a little much to me.
In a country where over 10,000 people die per year in alcohol-related crashes, isn’t it time some punishment is handed down to such individuals? I’m all about second chances, but I’m also about punishment leading to lessons learned. In 2009, the baseball world lost one of their own when a drunk driver claimed the life of Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher Nick Adenhart after celebrating his first start of the season. I would think that would make it hit more closely to home to the players and league, but apparently I’m wrong.
So how does baseball fix this epidemic when they are able to? Sure, a suspension needs to happen when appropriate, but what would really hit home is taking money from the players through fines. For the first offense, suspend the player for 10 games and levy a $50,000 fine. For the next offense, the amounts of games and fines double. After the third strike, you’re out – excuse the pun. In the NFL, players have a 24-hour car service available to them at anytime – no questions asked. The problems don’t happen on the road, when players are rarely further than a few blocks from their hotel, but they happen at home. Most players live 20-30 minutes from the ballpark and don’t want to wait for a cab or limo, so they opt to drive. Having the car service available to MLB players like is the case for NFL players can only help, not hurt the situation.
The fact remains: why does a 37-year-old Lowe, or even a 66-year-old La Russa need to be baby-sat? They need to be held accountable for their actions. I pray the league finds a way to control the issue before another tragic loss happens.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com