Drunk Driving sign

Jim Bowden has some ideas about DUIs in baseball

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When I saw Jim Bowden’s post over at ESPN’s Sweet Spot about how to deal with baseball’s DUI epidemic, my first thought was to tackle it on the merits. But then I saw this tweet from Will Leitch:

Jim Bowden is writing about how to curb DUI arrests in baseball on ESPN. Somehow, he didn’t mention this.

UPDATE:  Bowden’s post has been updated with reference to his 2006 arrest for DUI, rendering the following Paul O’Neill/Roberto Kelly joke moot. Yet I shall leave it here for posterity. In any event, good for ESPN for updating it.

Yeah, that’s something.  It’s enough to make me think that Bowden’s next post will be about how baseball should step in to stop teams from trading Paul O’Neill for Roberto Kelly.

But let’s leave that aside. Only Nixon could go to China, only Kirk could make peace with the Vulcans and maybe, just maybe, Bowden’s past doesn’t disqualify him from weighing in on this stuff. Indeed, it may make him better suited to talk about it because he, unlike most of us, can actually relate to the mind of a man about to climb behind the wheel drunk and consider what might make him not do it.

Judge for yourself if his ideas have merit: He proposes (1) identical punishment for steroids and DUIs, including 50 and then 100-game suspensions; (2) bringing parents of kids killed by drunk drivers in to talk to major leaguers; (3) providing players with the phone numbers of cabs, town car or limo services in every city; and (4) making teams implement a rule that says “No drinking and driving period. No exceptions.”

The 50 game suspension thing seems extreme to me. While there are some baseball implications to player behavior, unlike PEDs, players drinking and driving is not primarily a baseball issue. I get that the consequences of drunk driving are far more dire than that of PED use, but it seems to me that you have to line up penalties and behavior better. Bowden doesn’t explain his rationale here so I’ll grant that there could be a good reason to go 50/100 games, but I’d think a much greater fine-to-suspension ratio is in order. Big money, a handful of games.

As for number two: I have no problem with teams bringing home the notion of the dangers of drunk driving, and if they feel that it’s best to do so via some scared straight program, hey, let them.  It’s not the kind of thing that makes sense as a formal policy though. Specialized programs and speakers should be a team-by-team kind of thing and would be best handled in conjunction with local anti-drunk driving groups. The idea is the same as that which held for high school assemblies: the less rote and expected the programming, the better it is, and clubs would be better able to handle that kind of thing on their own in conjunction with a more broad-based anti-alcohol abuse program.

Providing phone numbers for car services is a good thing — I know teams already do that in spring training and may do so in the regular season — but let’s also keep in mind that most of the incidents that have happened lately have happened when the players were at home, not on the road, where guys tend to drink closer to hotels.  Many players live 20 or 30 miles out of the city or more, and while even the suburban bars will call you a cab, I’ve been around people under the influence in those kinds of places, and the idea of waiting on a cab or a Town Car to head out that far is one of the reasons people don’t call them already.

Here’s kind of a nutty idea: give players a designated driver who lives in the area. Not someone who goes out with the player, but just a name on a card, in addition to a cab service, who the player can call if they need a ride. A team employee. A volunteer. someone who agrees ahead of time that, sure, they’ll go out at 2AM to bring Derek Lowe home if he needs it. Maybe that’s logistically weird — and the kid gloves handling is a bit awkward — but whether we care to admit it or not, these are VIPs and between the proper incentives and a well-executed confidentiality agreement, I bet you could find a person willing to take that call for the greater glory of the ballclub in suburbs north, south, east and west.

As for the last one: given that drinking and driving is against the law already, I’m not sure what a club rule to that effect accomplishes. Rather than passing rules, let’s have clubs make a more broad and concerted effort to discourage alcohol abuse via education, punishment and overall team culture.

I’m not sure how you do that last part, exactly, but it could begin with education and simply discouraging after-game drinking. Maybe over time it could be done via teams incorporating a player’s partying tendencies into overall evaluation.  I don’t mean scoring his sobriety on a scale of 80 like you would his glove, really, but by taking such things into account and being less-willing to sign or pay top dollar for guys who are known to booze it up and by not hesitating to bring such things up in negotiations.  Over time this would send a message to players that there are costs to their drinking.

Obviously this isn’t an easy nut to crack. If it were, we wouldn’t still have drunk driving.  But it strikes me that a multi-level approach is better than merely posting a policy, bringing in a guest speaker and ratcheting up the penalties, even if those things are part of the solution.

Braves sign former football player Sanders Commings

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 15:  Cornerback Sanders Commings #26 of the Kansas City Chiefs on the sidelines during the pre-season NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on August 15, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Braves have signed former football player and current outfielder Sanders Commings, an Augusta, Georgia native, to a minor league contract, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports.

Commings, 26, was a defensive back who played for the University of Georgia before being selected by the Chiefs in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. He appeared in two games in the 2013 season.

Commings also played baseball for Westside High School and was selected by the Diamondbacks in the 37th round of the 2008 draft. He chose to attend the University of Georgia instead. When football didn’t pan out, Commings started training with Jerry Hairston, Jr. Hairston said he was “blown away” when he saw Commings hit for the first time.

Obviously, Commings’ path to success as a professional baseball player will be long, but it’s a no-risk flier for the Braves. The club has past experience with football players, including Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan.

The next task for the Braves will be to acquire Ryan Goins from the Blue Jays. That way, players will look at the lineup card each day to see if it’s Commings or Goins.

Justin Verlander: “I’d like to see the AL and NL have the same rules… I vote NL rules.”

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 10:  Starting pitcher Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning at Safeco Field on August 10, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
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On Thursday afternoon, Rays pitcher Chris Archer asked his Twitter followers, “Lots swirling around what needs to be changed about the game of baseball. What do y’all want to see changed, if anything, & why?”

Tigers ace Justin Verlander responded:

To that, Archer said:

For what it’s worth, Verlander hasn’t been much of a hitter. In 47 career plate appearances, he has three singles and no extra-base hits. And if the AL did get rid of the DH rule, the Tigers would have nowhere to put Victor Martinez. Verlander, though, would have an easier time pitching to opposing pitchers rather than their DH’s.