Miguel Cabrera

Are the Tigers doing right by Miguel Cabrera?

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Yesterday Miguel Cabrera met the media and the Tigers explained that he’ll begin workouts with the Tigers today.  Some folks have a problem with that. One of them is Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan, who thinks that the Tigers’ failure to force Cabrera into an alcohol treatment program is a major mistake:

The Pussy Cats are, essentially, doubling down on an alcoholic whose sobriety lasted barely a year. There is supportive, and there is coddling, and for somebody who said he has worked with dozens of players with substance-abuse issues, general manager Dave Dombrowski should know better than to skew toward the latter.

Like Passan, I’m inclined to believe that a guy who has had two major alcohol-fueled incidents in a little over a year has a major problem. Those little checklists that are designed to help you figure out if you have an alcohol problem aren’t perfect, but the fact is that Cabrera could check off a great many of the warning signs:

  • He drank scotch when he was pulled over, suggesting that he drinks to deal with problems;
  • By virtue of the incident before the White Sox series in 2009 and his late start to spring training this year, alcohol has interfered with his job;
  • The altercation with his wife showed that it has impacted his personal relationships;
  • The 2009 thing showed he had a damn high tolerance.

Still, I can’t say with any sort of certainty if the Tigers are coddling him like Passan charges.

We’re inclined to believe that someone with the means and the ability to take time off work like Cabrera does should be in some sort of in-patient facility — and my first impulse when Cabrera was arrested was to think that he should go to one — but not every alcoholic is the same. A great many people have successfully dealt with a severe alcohol problem by going to AA or getting counselling or exercising or finding religion or any number of other means.  Utilizing one of these other means — or many of them — doesn’t fit our expectation that celebrities must go into rehab, but it can be done and, in some cases, it may be a more effective way for any one person to deal with it like that rather than to take them out of their life for a 28 days.

I guess my point isn’t that Passan is wrong — he may very well be right — but I think that there are too many variables in play here for those of us outside the situation to be so certain about it.  A team that essentially says “get back on the field” like the Tigers are saying is owed some serious skepticism. But that team also has a huge long-term contract with the guy so even if we were to assume the most selfish of motives on the team’s part, those motives also counsel that they make damn sure that Cabrera doesn’t fall off the wagon again.

The Tigers may be screwing this up. They may also be doing exactly what Cabrera needs.  I’m not sure how anyone besides the Tigers, their doctors or Cabrera can know it. And hell, given how tough a nut to crack alcoholism is, I’m not even sure how they could know it either.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this:

Tony Clark responds to Rob Manfred’s claim that union had a “lack of cooperation”

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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Earlier, Craig covered Rob Manfred’s comments in which he accused the Major League Baseball Players’ Association of “a lack of cooperation” concerning some proposed rule changes. The union would need to agree to any such changes, which have included automatic intentional walks, limiting mound visits, pitch clocks, and swapping batting practice times for home and visiting teams.

Manfred went on to say that MLB will impose those rule changes unilaterally next year as allowed in the latest collective bargaining agreement.

Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLBPA, responded to Manfred’s comment. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

“Unless your definition of ‘cooperation’ is blanket approval, I don’t agree that we’ve failed to cooperate with the Commissioner’s office on these issues.”

“Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this off season we’ve been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened.”

“I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don’t continue, notwithstanding today’s comments about implementation. As I’ve said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open.”

“My understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2min limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of Game warning/fine adjustments.”

Clark’s response isn’t anything too shocking. Manfred’s accusation was pretty baseless, but it’s behavior to be expected of a commissioner who comes down on the side of the owners over the players almost always.