Saturday, March 24, 2012

Baseball's DUI Problem

In the early morning hours Friday, Bobby Jenks of the Boston Red Sox left a Fort Myers strip club, hit a parked car, left the scene of the accident and then drove erratically enough for an officer to notice him and stop him. Jenks blamed his erratic driving on having taken too many muscle relaxers, but then admitted to having hit a car at the strip club. Jenks did not register a blood alcohol content (BAC) when tested. He has been charged with DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, and three counts of property damage while under the influence.

Bobby Jenks' arrest came less than twenty-four hours after a prospect in the Rays organization, Matt Bush, was arrested in Florida after a car accident that left a motorcycle rider in serious condition. Bush was charged with a DUI after registering a BAC of .180. The legal limit in Florida is .08.

The arrests of Bush and Jenks are just two in a list of recent DUI arrests of Major League Baseball players. In fact, Bush and Jenks are only two of the four MLB players arrested for DUI in March alone. The Rockies' Alex White was arrested on March 4th for DUI after being stopped for a traffic infraction and registering a .174 BAC. On March 11th, bullpen catcher Eric Langill of the Mets was arrested after causing a single-car accident and property damage while driving under the influence. The list (as best as I can recall and reconstruct):

  • 2012: Bobby Jenks (Red Sox)
  • 2012: Matt Bush (Rays)
  • 2012: Alex White (Rockies)
  • 2012: Eric Langill (Mets)
  • 2011: Shin-Soo Choo (Indians)
  • 2011: Adam Kennedy (Mariners)
  • 2011: Coco Crisp (A's)
  • 2011: Austin Kearns (Indians)
  • 2011: Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)
  • 2010: Dane Sardinha (Phillies)
  • 2009: Ryan Ouellette (Orioles)*
  • 2008: Joba Chamberlain (Yankees)
  • 2008: Rafael Furcal (Dodgers)**
  • 2008: Luis Vizcaino (Rockies)
  • 2007: Tony La Russa (Cardinals, manager)
  • 2007: Jim Hickey (Rays, coach)
  • 2007: Steve Swindal (Yankees, general partner)
  • 2007: Gustavo Chacin (Blue Jays)
  • 2006: Esteban Loaiza (A's)
  • 2006: Dontrelle Willis (Marlins)
  • 2006: Jim Bowden (National, general manager)
  • 2005: Sidney Ponson (Orioles)
  • 2005: Erik DuBose (Orioles)
  • 2004: Rafael Furcal (Braves)
*Oullette registered a .223 BAC.
**Furcal is the only repeat offender on this list.

How can this list not convince you that Major League Baseball has a DUI problem? That's twenty-four arrests that were easy to remember or easy to locate online. There could be others. And the arrests aren't limited to players enjoying themselves in Florida during Spring Training. The list includes a coach, a manager, and a general manager. La Russa's arrest video has been fodder for years. If this DUI problem isn't new then why isn't anyone saying anything about it? They are and have been for years. Keith Law wrote about it clear back in 2007 after La Russa's arrest. Jerry Crasnick wrote about it last year after the Orioles' Jeremy Guthrie tweeted about White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen's fine and suspension for tweeting during a game and the lack of fine for players who are arrested (and many convicted) for driving under the influence. Just this morning Buster Olney of ESPN said "it may be time for baseball to address its DUI problem." It may be time? You think?

What is perplexing for fans is how a sport that was crushed by the loss of Nick Adenhart in 2009 can be so ignorant of its own DUI problem. Adenhart and two others in the car he was riding in were killed by a drunk driver who was driving on a suspended license for a prior DUI. The man responsible for Adenhart's death was sentenced to a minimum of fifty-one years in prison. Then came the acquittal of former big leaguer Jim Leyritz who was charged with DUI manslaughter in 2007 after running a red light and killing the woman whose car he struck. Many in the MLB community were torn when Leyritz was acquitted, quite possibly due to the still open wound of losing the promising Adenhart.

While many a column has been written about the need for MLB to institute an organization DUI policy, nothing has happened. What's it going to take for the powers that be in baseball to recognize and do something about this growing problem? Where is Commissioner Bud Selig on this? Unfortunately, it may take a tragedy for Major League Baseball to wake up and do something about this growing problem. When that tragedy unfolds and a Major League Baseball player is arrested for having caused a fatal injury while driving under the influence, the league will not be able to deny that the writing was on the wall.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

You can add another one to your list