Bud Selig: smokeless tobacco should be banned in the majors

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There has been increasing pressure from anti-tobacco groups — and Congress — on Major League Baseball to do something about smokeless tobacco use by major leaguers. To date, baseball has merely acknowledged that it’s and issue, noted that it’s already banned at minor league parks and has made mention of the fact that doing anything with tobacco is a matter of collective bargaining.

That changed yesterday, when Commissioner Selig took a position on the matter:

In a letter to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids on Thursday, Selig told the group’s president he believes “smokeless tobacco should be banned at the Major League level … In the current round of bargaining with the MLBPA, MLB will propose restrictions on the use of smokeless tobacco at the Major League level comparable to the restrictions in place at the Minor League level,” Selig wrote.

This comes two days after top public health officials in 15 Major League Baseball cities sent a letter to Selig and the Major League Baseball Players Association asking them to ban tobacco use by players, managers, coaches and other staff at major league ballparks. And it comes at a time when smokeless tobacco use among high school boys has seen a 36 percent increase in the past eight years. According to the CDC, 15 percent of high school boys currently use smokeless tobacco.

I’m usually the last guy who will respond to “think of the children” appeals and I am a strong advocate of letting grownups do what they damn well please. But I think allowing ballplayers to dip and chew while they’re at the ballpark is something that has to end. It does nothing to enhance the game. Kids see that an take their use as tacit approval. It’s really, really dangerous to ballplayers’ health. Oh, and it’s totally disgusting too.  Viva principle, but in this case, a ballplayer’s personal freedom is outweighed by the factors that demand it be curtailed, at least during working hours.

Hard to say if the union fights this. Their impulse probably would normally be to do so, and I get why that is. But the last time principle trumped sense when it came to negotiations regarding substances used by ballplayers it led to unchecked steroids use which, in my view, was one of the few if only times the MLBPA did a disservice to its membership, both from a PR perspective and from the perspective of the players’ actual best interests.

Use Selig’s call for a smokeless tobacco ban to extract something else you want, Michael Weiner, because I realize that’s how these things work. But ultimately, agree to a ban on smokeless tobacco on ballpark premises. It’s the right thing to do.

The Cubs send Kyle Schwarber to the minors

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Kyle Schwarber broke into the bigs in 2015 with a big bat. After missing almost all of the last season with an injury, he reemerged as a postseason hero, posting a .971 OPS in the World Series. As 2017 began he was supposed to be one of the key parts of a potent Cubs offense.

Then the baseball games actually started and he has hit a mere .171/.295/.378. Indeed, he has the lowest batting average among qualified MLB hitters in 2017. Given that he has very little if any defensive value, he has been a significant drag on the Cubs, who are just a single game over .500.

Now this:

The Cubs are also putting Jason Heyward on the disabled list, so the outfield is a bit of a mess these days. Lucky for them, they’re only trailing the Brewers by a game and a half.

The A’s designate Stephen Vogt for assignment

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A surprising move out of Oakland: the Athletics have designated catcher Stephen Vogt for assignment.

Vogt is suffering through a bad season at the plate, hitting .217/.287/.357, so on the basis of pure performance it’s understandable that the A’s may want to part ways with the 32-year-old former All-Star. That said, Vogt is considered to be a leader in the Oakland clubhouse and is one of the last players remaining from the A’s 2013-14 playoff teams.

Catcher Bruce Maxwell has been recalled from Triple-A to take Vogt’s place on the roster. Main catching duties will belong to Josh Phegley.