LAKELAND, FL - MARCH 02: Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers during the game against the Houston Astros at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 2, 2011 in Lakeland, Florida. The Astros defeated the Tigers 6-3. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
This is good news, I think. The first part, anyway. From Yahoo's Jeff Passan:
Even before the rash of DUIs that embarrassed the sport this spring, Major League Baseball and the players' union planned on negotiating a policy that will discipline players for alcohol-related arrests, multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports.
For the rest of this season, however, baseball players are free to drink and drive with minimal threat of punishment. The sources said the sides do not plan to institute a temporary policy before the Dec. 11 expiration of the current collective-bargaining agreement.
Which leaves the MLB prone as ever to the awkwardness of suspending Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen for two games because he used Twitter after an ejection while allowing Shin-Soo Choo, Derek Lowe, Adam Kennedy, Coco Crisp, Austin Kearns and Miguel Cabrera to skate without professional consequences after their arrests.
The middle part is factual, though with perhaps just a tinge of editorial subtext. I think Passan jumps the rails in the last part, though. There is a dividing line between what happens at the ballpark and what doesn't. In my mind, anyway. Then again, I was one of the very few who argued that John Rocker shouldn't have been disciplined for his oh-so-public brilliance.
Of course, that was a long time ago. I'm not sure how I would feel about it today. Probably the same, though. Punishing someone for what they say gives me chills (not the good kind).
Just to be clear, the difference between Ozzie Guillen's tweets and the other stuff is that Guillen's tweets threaten (potentially, at least) the integrity of the game, while driving drunk is simply an embarrassment to the sport. I mean, aside from also being really stupid and dangerous.
Passan suggests that the Players Association might fund a car service in every major-league city, so players would at least have an option -- you know, aside from just calling a freaking taxi -- if they found themselves in a bad way. Of course, one of the coolest things about being intoxicated is that you forget that being intoxicated means you probably shouldn't be driving.
Suspensions for DUI arrests? Passan writes, "Even if MLB can’t prove with concrete numbers that player DUIs harm the business, sports remain a public trust and drunken driving remains a public cause."
True enough, I suppose. I don't really buy into the PR angle, because MLB can search for numbers forever and won't find any evidence at all that attendance is hurt by off-the-field indiscretions. Holy Moses, look at the NFL. But if a DUI policy with some teeth sends a message to the public about drunk driving and results in just one baseball player at some point not killing himself or someone else, I'm all for it.
Let's just not demonize the players or the union right now, though. Yes, it seems like there's an epidemic, but it's probably just a fluke that so many players have gotten busted this spring. And frankly, I suspect today's players drink less and do fewer stupid things than they've ever done before.