Archive for March 3rd, 2011

The first step to addressing a problem is admitting you have it. After a fourth major league baseball player was charged with DUI in the last month, it may be time for Bud Selig to stand up and say, “I am the commissioner of baseball, and my sport has an alcohol problem”.

Although the most high profile case, Miguel Cabrera is not alone among baseball players recently arrested for DUI.

Last night, A’s outfielder Coco Crisp was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, only one week after Miguel Cabrera’s more publicized arrest on the same charge. Earlier in the winter, just before reporting to camp, Indians’ outfielder and former Yankee Austin Kearns as well as Mariners’ infielder Adam Kennedy were also cited for DUI.

Because of his status as a star player, Cabrera’s arrest was covered much more prominently, but the incidents involving Crisp, Kearns and Kennedy aren’t any less serious. What’s more, this isn’t a new problem. Although baseball players have generally managed to avoid making the same kinds of criminal headlines as their NFL and NBA brethren, DUI has been one area in which the sport has run afoul. Other high profile cases like Joba Chamberlain’s arrest in 2008 and Tony LaRussa’s incident in 2007 are further examples of a problem that is gradually getting out of control.

Baseball shouldn’t need a special reason to be vigilant regarding drunk driving. Still, you’d expect the sport to be particularly sensitive to the problem after suffering the April 9, 2009 tragedy that claimed the life of Angels’ pitcher Nick Adenhart. Although Adenhart wasn’t driving under the influence, his young life and promising career were ended by someone who was. As bad as the frequent arrests have been for baseball, nothing could be worse than an incident in which an active major league player tragically causes either his own death, or the death of others.

Alcohol has long been a problem in baseball. Many of the stories that we all enjoy about the old timers were usually fermented under its influence. Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four”, for example, is full of such examples of these colorful escapades. Of course, nowadays we know these kinds of stories aren’t really funny, especially because the modern ballplayer isn’t simply stumbling back to a hotel or causing havoc on a train. What makes baseball’s current predicament even more serious is players are taking the clubhouse culture of excessive drinking and bringing with them behind the wheel of a car. This winter alone, baseball has been lucky on four occasions that one of its players didn’t cause a tragedy. The sport can’t afford to wait until one finally occurs. (more…)

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