Here at Beyond the Box Score we take a look at Baseball in an analytical format. We approach every bit of information with a keen mind and critical thought. We believe it leads to discovery, change, and progress, both in baseball and in the manner in which we digest the sport. It's important to continue to dig deeper, examine every topic, aspect, and condition of the game from every angle possible. Thinking inside and outside of the box is a prerequisite amongst the BTBS squad, and we love every minute of it.
Consequently, it's fairly common to see members of the baseball community, most notably but not exclusively players, throwing thinking and analysis overboard. No, I'm not referring to the numerous players, coaches, scouts, and like that are uninterested in advanced metrics or even looking at game film in order to better prepare and improve. Instead, I'm referring to the players who imbibe and drive, consume and pilot, or put as simply as possible, operate a motor vehicle while impaired.
Just the other day, Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo was pulled over for swerving between lanes in his Ford truck. He was then given a Breathalyzer test, which he promptly failed miserably. Gallardo scored a 0.22 blood-alcohol level, which is approximately 3 times the legal limit, and would be considered even by pub regulars as drunk. Gallardo will pay a $778 fine not including any monetary punishment handed down by the Brewers organization.
In a piece on this topic, Yahoo! Sports columnist Jeff Passan uses this example of boneheadedness to discuss a more important and overarching issue.
"Penalize drunk driving. Suspend players who are convicted or enter no-contest pleas or plead down to lesser offenses but failed Breathalyzer or field-sobriety tests. Make eradicating drunk driving as big a priority as eradicating performance-enhancing drugs, because the former is far worse than the latter."
Passan makes note of the issues involved in amending the league's current policy to include mandatory suspensions, large fines, or a combination of the two in the case of driving while intoxicated. He mentions the standard argument that most employers do not punish their employees in a similar situation. He goes on:
"Baseball is not a normal workplace, and it does not operate by standard workplace rules. Its players' behavior outside of work reflects on its product at the ballpark, both good and bad. A baseball player cannot separate his life like most working men and women; he is a baseball player 24 hours a day. That is a sacrifice that comes with an average salary of more than $3 million a year."
Passan makes perfect sense in that baseball players, like any other celebrity or high-profile figure, find their lives under a microscope at all times. Fans casually search for players' wives to rate their looks, their salaries are public and important information, and they play a game for an incredibly lucrative living. A symbiotic relationship exists between professional athletes and fans. Without one the other wouldn't be so richly compensated, and without the other there would be far fewer reasons to get excited about something as trivial as a sporting event.
Passan's piece touches on all the hotspots of this topic, mentioning the numerous MLB players arrested for DUI, the one or two awful cases, and even former Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart who died as a result of a drunk driver. He also discusses the idea that Major League Baseball has done much to improve or retain its integrity. The league has made significant changes towards their PED testing policies as well as the punishments for failing said tests. In fact, the league has gone so far in its attempt to eradicate (although that will most-likely never happen) performance-enhancing substances from baseball they asked for the Mitchell Report and have attempted to do everything under the law to gain access to the Biogenesis documents.
So, if the league continues to be so intent on improving its image in the case of PEDs, why would it remain so stagnant on an issue as unfortunately common as driving while intoxicated. The simplest answer that comes to mind is that PEDs actively affect the play of the game, the part that the fans pay to see and enjoy. It's the visible and visceral aspect of the game, but dangerous automotive infractions that occur hours after a game has ended remain merely minor headlines towards the back of the sports section.
MLB players aren't more likely to be arrested for DUI than any other American, but Passan has thought of that.
"Then again, comparing baseball to the public is unfair, not just because athletes' affluence gives them far greater access to solutions but because the sport itself does not hold itself to average standards."
In this sentiment Jeff is abundantly correct. Baseball doesn't remotely hold itself to the standard of other American institutions, from random drug testing for substances like Adderall to their exemption from anti-trust violations. In that same vain, Major League Baseball should absolutely create some sort of pecuniary punishment when players get arrested for offenses like DUI. The same, by the way, should be said for athletes who get arrested for beating their spouses. These infractions do not usually lead to jail time or any major fine from the government, but are terrible acts that look even worse in the news.
Baseball should institute some sort of punishment for these actions, and implement a system that increases the penalty for multiple offenses. Almost as important, if the league decides to put such a system in place, the players union cannot and should not fight this. It might not set the best precedent, but the two sides can make it clear that such penalties apply only to these specific situations. This is the right move ethically and from a public relations standpoint. The players union and league flirted with the idea of a car service for players but ran into roadblocks, and I understand the issues, but some form of that discussion needs to be had again.
This issue doesn't involve metrics, advances stats, or front office moves, but it does involve the core value embodied in every article on Beyond the Box Score, critical thinking. Since enough high-profiled players and coaches cannot seem to think before they act, like say getting a taxi and leaving their car at the bar, then the league needs to both think and act for them. It isn't monumental or earth-shattering, but changing this type of conduct and the manner in which it is dealt with could go a long way to improving the league's overall integrity and image, at least in the mind of this fan.