The reason Miguel Cabrera is
smiling in this DUI mugshot? He
has a serious drinking problem
but will avoid MLB suspension.
Don't expect that to change.
Right off the top, let’s get something out of the way: there’s no good excuse for drinking and driving. To add, just because you’re a professional athlete does not make you smart. If anything, the actions by several players earning millions by drinking and driving shows that they’re really exceptionally stupid, irresponsible, and disrespectful. If you want to get loaded, great. It’s you’re right. But, when you can easily afford a personal driver, you’re teetering on “jackass” levels for getting behind the wheel after having too many drinks. Shin-Soo Choo, Derek Lowe, Coco Crisp, Adam Kennedy, Austin Kearns, and especially you, Miguel Cabrera, welcome to that club.
"This is something we have planned to discuss, alcohol in general," league spokesman Pat Courtney said Friday to The Associated Press. "It's been brought up and will continue to be brought up."
But, for Major League Baseball (in, conveniently, a year when the CBA is up for expiration) to try and get something akin to the league’s drug policy is, quite frankly, a PR move. Before you go ballistic on that comment, here’s why.
You’re not going to get the policy on a host of factors. The drug policy deals will drugs of abuse, but those are illegal. The drug policy deals with PEDs, but those are deemed to be impacting the play on the field.
Speaking of that.
Let’s say there was a policy in place in which a player was to show up hung over or drunk. The argument by the MLBPA would likely be this: are there damages being inflicted on the club? Is a player that is pulled due to being intoxicated or hung over impacting ticket sales, or sponsorships, or ultimately, the game on the field? If the answer were yes (let’s say that the league were to argue that the player was in violation of the Uniform Player Contract), then there would be a grievance process, and there’s nothing to say that any outcome (at least the public one that the league is likely seeking that has PR value) would always come about. After all, it’s happened before. Just ask Sidney Ponson and Denny Neagle (although the latter also involved soliciting a prostitute) when clubs attempted to get contracts voided over alcohol related matters.
And then there’s this: the league does have an alcohol program. Granted, it’s one far from having teeth in it, but as is the case with Miguel Cabrera, if a player is seen to have serious drinking problems, the player can be made to enter a program. The MLBPA would likely argue that without players being able to enter this type of program that keeps identity private, it would be less effective.
Finally, while we’d all be naïve to think that Major League baseball players are held to the same standard of “Joe Public”, there is the fact that those arrested for drunk driving are (supposed to be) held accountable by the state laws for such infractions.
All of this is to say that MLB isn’t likely to get any policy that would include game suspensions any time soon. The players are getting off on technicalities, and will continue to do so. This isn’t an issue wholly laid at MLB’s feet. Look at the NFL, NBA, NHL, or for that matter, NCAA collegiate sports, Hollywood stars, or powerful people in the business world. They are held to a different standard. It’s been like this, and always will. That doesn’t mean athletes aren’t idiots for drinking and driving. Maybe in that sense, they are held to a different standard. The one that makes them dumber than most of society.
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Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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