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.

Steven Souza Jr. exits game after injuring his hand on a hit by pitch

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Rays’ right fielder Steven Souza Jr. left Saturday’s game after getting hit on the left hand by a pitch from Blue Jays’ right-hander Joe Biagini in the seventh inning. The pitch appeared to hit the top of Souza Jr.’s hand, causing the outfielder to crumple at the plate and requiring assistance from assistant athletic trainer Paul Harker as he exited the field. Postgame reports from the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin revealed that Souza Jr. sustained a left hand contusion and is scheduled to undergo further evaluation on Sunday.

While the diagnosis isn’t as bad as it could be, it’s still a tough break for the right fielder, who missed 40 days of the 2015 season after sustaining a fracture in his left hand on another hit by pitch. The team has yet to announce any concrete timetable for Souza Jr.’s return, though manager Kevin Cash indicated that they’ll be taking things day to day for the time being.

Souza Jr. is batting .326/.398/.543 with four home runs and 17 RBI through 104 PA in 2017. He went 1-for-2 with a base hit and a walk prior to his departure during Saturday’s 4-1 loss.

Video: Brett Gardner goes deep for his first and second home runs of 2017

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It’s been a slow start to the season for Yankees’ outfielder Brett Gardner, who entered Saturday’s matinee against the Orioles with a .188/.316/.234 batting line, three doubles and five stolen bases in his first 76 PA of the year. That all changed in the first inning of Saturday’s game, when Gardner skied a leadoff home run to right field:

Orioles’ right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez couldn’t find his footing against the Yankees in the second inning, either. Gardner returned for his second home run of the season, a three-run shot to lift New York 5-0 over Baltimore:

Measured at 411 feet in the right field bullpen, the left fielder’s blast marked the seventh home run hit by a Yankee this series. According to the club’s PR department, it’s also the first multi-home run game Gardner has recorded since September 2015. The Yankees currently lead the Orioles 7-0 through four innings.