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Major League Baseball Confronts the Drinking Issue

By Dirk Hanson 05/09/11

Six major league baseball players have been arrested for DUI so far this spring.

Say it ain’t so, Choo.
Photo via prorumors

It’s not just the fans who are causing controversy about alcohol in pro baseball. More than four years after St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock smashed into a parked tow truck and died drunk, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig still has no authority to discipline players for alcohol abuse—despite full authority to throw the book at any players involved with “drugs of abuse” such as cocaine and marijuana. But sources say the players’ association has confirmed that an alcohol policy is part of the collective bargaining talks now in progress.

Professional baseball has had a rocky spring, with last week’s arrest of Cleveland Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo marking the 6th player to face DUI charges so far this season—and the season is scarcely underway. The pending cases include Choo’s teammate Austin Kearns, who caused a controversy when he was arrested for DUI in February but did not tell Cleveland management on the advice of his attorneys.  As Associated Press reported: “That left the team in the awkward position of addressing the situation weeks later without knowing many of the facts.” None of the players involved in DUI court cases have been suspended or disciplined by their respective teams. A few teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies, have banned alcohol in the clubhouse.

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told AP that he believed it was time for alcohol abuse to be part of the discussion. “It really is pretty much the same thing. There should be a  program for that.” Under the current agreement, players face mandatory counseling and the threat of suspension in drug-related cases. “Things are so different now,” Diamondback’s bench coach Alan Trammell said in USA Today. “That was just part of our generation then…”

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]

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