KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Every time a Major League Baseball player is charged with driving under the influence, it’s a reminder that baseball, the sport that has lost more players to intoxicated accidents than any, has no formal policy regarding DUIs. For a sport that laments each burial of its own and vows to change, it’s an unconscionable duplicity, a breach of responsibility from the league and players’ association that together could do with action what mere words never will.
Suspending players for operating vehicles under the influence of alcohol or drugs will not end the scourge of such dangerous behavior. The cocktail of money, privilege, entitlement and opportunity is too strong to purge completely. Anything to give players another reason to reconsider their actions, though, would be a step in the right direction, an easy way to turn moralizing prattle into potentially substantive deterrence.
The latest DUI came Sunday, when suburban Kansas City police cited Danny Duffy in a Burger King parking lot, barely eight months after his friend and teammate, Yordano Ventura, died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. While the toxicology report on Ventura was not released, his death followed that of Jose Fernandez, which followed that of Oscar Taveras, which followed that of Josh Hancock, which followed that of Tim Crews and Steve Olin. Each died in an accident involving alcohol or drugs. Dozens more minor leaguers have lost their lives in crashes.
Duffy was lucky. He suffered only the embarrassment of his actions, for which he apologized Tuesday. The Royals could pursue discipline against him, though the likelihood of them doing so – and courting a fight with the Major League Baseball Players Association, which undoubtedly would contest any suspension – is infinitesimal. No matter how disappointed Royals general manager Dayton Moore was, no team would pick a protracted fight against one of its core players.
Which is the sort of thing that screams for a league-wide policy to inure teams from the personal responsibility of doing what’s right. If that sounds absurd, it is. That it happens to be the reality of baseball’s situation is proof MLB and the union need to address this issue in the same manner they did domestic violence.
Originally, the union blanched at a domestic-violence policy of any kind, fearful the inclusion of off-the-field behavior in discipline would open a Pandora’s box to sanctioning all off-field conduct. It hasn’t. On the contrary, baseball’s domestic-violence policy is seen as relatively fair and representative of both parties, proof that when MLB and the union work toward making their game better and safer, all can benefit.
This is not some sort of an invitation for MLB to turn into the NFL, where Roger Goodell metes out punishment as though the league is his banana republic. Even though the domestic-violence policy has behooved baseball, the union still fears the idea of a DUI suspension paving a slippery slope for other discipline. What, then, would prevent the league from pursuing a suspension when a player gets into a bar fight or shoplifts?
The concern is…