October 05, 2011
The U.S. Congress and Commissioner Bud Selig might never get the Major League Baseball Players Association to go along with banning the chewing of smokeless tobacco at the ballpark. And even if they did, many players still would use the stuff — as happens in the minor leagues.
However, authorities might want to see how they can use a recent crash at home plate to somehow further their own ends.
In Game 4 of the ALDS on Tuesday, Sean Rodriguez(notes) of the Tampa Bay Rays violently slammed into catcher Mike Napoli(notes) of the Texas Rangers, jarring loose the ball from Napoli's mitt and scoring a run in the second inning.
The ball wasn't the only thing he jarred loose. On Wednesday, reporters learned from Rangers manager Ron Washington that Napoli had swallowed the tobacco he was chewing.
(If you need a moment to excuse yourself, please, by all means. ...
Napoli, who used to be Rodriguez's teammate on the Angels, didn't have a problem with the play, saying Rodriguez was doing what anyone might in order to win. He did say that some part of Rodriguez's body caught him in the throat, which no doubt had something to do with Napoli swallowing his chew.
Via a post by Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas, it seems the unwelcome snack didn't bother Napoli much at the time:
Jamie Reed, the club's head athletic trainer, came out to check on Napoli along with manager Ron Washington and Reed continued to check on him after each inning. Washington told the umpire he was checking on him.
"The next thing is [Napoli] said, 'Geez, I had a wad of chew, where is it?'" Washington said. "He had swallowed it. Then he said, 'I'm all right skip, let's go.' "
Tough guy with a tough gizzard. And everyone was worried about Napoli's brain, that it was vulnerable to a concussion. It's funny that two of baseball's hot-button issues — tobacco and violent home-plate crashes, came together in one moment. There doesn't seem to be much of a push right now — as there was after Buster Posey(notes) got hurt — to change the rules about sliding into home, though we'll see in the future if MLB addresses it.
As for the tobacco issue at hand (in mouth?), I can see both sides. White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy(notes) dips, and says he's "a grown man with a mortgage" who can make his own decisions. Similarly, player representative Mark Kotsay(notes) of the Brewers says he doesn't want MLB or Congress regulating what players chew or don't chew (presumably as long as it's not a performance-enhancing drug).
Power to the persons, you libertarians!
However, MLB is right to worry — if only from a marketing standpoint — about players keeping disgusting habits with chaw in the public's view. I hate to agree with The Man sometimes, but Selig and friends are in the right to present their game as being tobacco-free — certainly, at least, during the game itself.
Show 'em who's boss, you capitalists!
Even stopping short of that, here's hoping the next time a dipper thinks about going to the mound, stepping into the batter's box or taking his position while chewing tobacco, he thinks again, before something happens and he swallows it. He might not have the same iron constitution as Mike Napoli, so he might barf all over Joe West.
Big BLS h/t: Anthony Andro of Fox Sports Southwest
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