Another baseball player allegedly drove drunk Tuesday. This wasn't just dawdling near the legally acceptable line of intoxication. This was full-blown, God's own drunk, nearly three times the legal limit, the sort of drunk a man can get when the consequences in his state are laughable and those at his workplace nonexistent.
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo will pay the government $778 in fines, or .0001 of his salary this season, for filling himself so full of beer that he blew a 0.22 blood-alcohol level and proceeded to swerve his heavy-duty Ford F-150 in and out of lanes, according to a police report. He could also face a nominal charge from the Brewers for breaking curfew. His penalties will end there.
And, once again, Major League Baseball will look like it doesn't care about drunk driving. It does. It has to. There is no good argument for driving drunk. None. Ever. Player after player getting arrested for DUI does nothing but reflect poorly on the sport. Gallardo is just the latest.
So it is time. Time to do what the league should've done long ago.
Time to do what it should've done when a player drove drunk and killed himself. St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock died almost six years ago. Time to do what it should've done last year after Matt Bush, the Tampa Bay Rays prospect with a history of alcohol problems, went on a drunk-driving rampage and ran over a man's head with a teammate's car. And time to do what it should've done in between: emphasize the selfishness of drunk driving, how it's not harmful to one person but anyone on the road, something never better illustrated than when a man plowed into a car carrying Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and killed him and two others.
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.
Drunk driving isn't an epidemic in baseball. Compared to the general population, its drunk-driving rate is likely lower. 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.
For those who try to argue their workplace wouldn't discipline them for a DUI: Would yours randomly drug test you? Would it tell you where and when it isn't OK to chew tobacco? Would it distribute a detailed weapons policy?
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.
It's not like MLB has avoided disciplining players for off-field incidents before. John Rocker served a two-week suspension for racist remarks. Kenny Rogers spent 13 games out for shoving a cameraman. The game's most sacrosanct rule, no gambling on baseball, extends to games in which players aren't even involved.
There is nothing – nothing – keeping baseball from suspending players for drunk-driving incidents. The MLB Players Association should be pushing for a program that highlights the seriousness of drunken driving by showing its constituents tangible penalties instead of the current recourse, which is an evaluation from a doctor after a referral to the league's treatment board.
During the last collective-bargaining negotiations, the league and union compromised on that solution. It wasn't a baby step as much as a slug's crawl. No matter the infrequency – and considering Miguel Cabrera, Coco Crisp, Shin-Soo Choo, Adam Kennedy, Austin Kearns, Derek Lowe, Alex White, Michael Pineda, Bobby Jenks, Yamaico Navarro, Cristhian Martinez, Drake Britton, Todd Helton, Bush and Gallardo have been arrested for DUI the last three seasons, it ain't infrequent – this is an issue that can only get worse.
Certainly suspensions won't rid baseball of DUIs. Players still take PEDs, even staring at 50 games lost. What they will do is plant a seed, at the very least, that the consequences of their actions not only will shame them but harm their teammates. And that, in concert with a program in which baseball provides limousine service in every city, will give the sport a fighting chance at combating a culture in which alcohol abuse and lack of consequences is the norm.
The union turned down the idea of a car service, worried teams would use it to demonize players, and that's a legitimate concern. Anonymity for limousine use would be paramount, and it's something baseball certainly would trade for the potential to suspend those who run afoul of drunk-driving laws.
Because a system in which the Red Sox's Britton can drive 111 mph in a 45-mph zone on March 8 and start on opening day for the team's Double-A affiliate is embarrassing. And one in which Gallardo can endanger people's lives and continue on like nothing happened is perfect only in baseball's backward culture.
MLB knows it's wrong. The union does, too. People died. Nothing changed. It's time for that to end. It was time a long while ago.
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