The union does not plan on pushing for or agreeing to a smokeless tobacco ban

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Ken Rosenthal spoke to Tony Clark, head of the MLBPA. The topic: smokeless tobacco. Tony Gwynn was a personal hero of Clark’s, and Rosenthal asked him if Gwynn’s death — almost certainly caused by smokeless tobacco use — was enough to get the union to either push for or agree to a ban on smokeless tobacco among major league ballplayers.

Clark’s answer: a diplomatic “no”:

“The MLBPA continues to discourage the use of smokeless tobacco products by its members or by anyone else. As you know, the subject of their use is a collective bargaining issue, and new regulations regarding the use of smokeless tobacco products were introduced in the last round of bargaining. In general terms, included in the smokeless tobacco policy negotiated in 2011 are restrictions/prohibitions on its use, increased emphasis on education and cessation programs, as well as oral examinations. At this point in time, Player education continues to be a focus of ours.”

I can’t say I have a problem with that.

I’d never use the stuff. I’d strongly urge anyone else not to. If I was in government I’d consider taxing/regulating it to bring its actual cost as a product in line with the medical and social costs it inflicts on taxpayers and society. And I would certainly make great efforts to keep it away from kids. But the stuff is legal and ballplayers are adults. They’re stupid adults if they use it despite the clear health risks it occasions, but part of being an adult is having the freedom to make dumb choices.

The Royals are talking to the Jays about Francisco Liriano

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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Kansas City Royals are in talks with the Toronto Blue Jays about a trade for Francisco Liriano.

Liriano is not having a good year, but an arm is an arm I suppose. Liriano’s arm has posted 5.99 ERA and 70/42 K/BB ratio through 76.2 innings across 17 starts. He’s a free agent to be, so he shouldn’t cost too much, of course.

Earlier this week Kansas City picked up  Trevor Cahill, Brandon Maurer, and Ryan Buchter from the Padres. They’ve also won seven in a row and are just a game and a half behind the first place Indians. They’re going for it with whatever help they can find.

Odubel Herrera flips his bat on a fly ball, gets benched for lack of hustle

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Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera has been a polarizing figure in his young career. He’s talented and at times has shined, inspiring the Phillies to give him a long term contract this past offseason. At other times, however, he’s aggravated the snot out of his manager, his teammates and his team’s fans. Last night, in the Phillies-Astros game, he did the latter and was the subject of mockery of the opposing team to boot.

In the first inning he hit a long fly ball to center. He thought it was going out but . . . it didn’t. When the ball came off of his bat, however, he flipped his bat like he went yard. You know our view about bat flips — who cares? Flip away! — but you flip at your own risk. Just because you’re allowed to flip it whenever you want doesn’t mean you’re not gonna get mocked if you flip prematurely. That’s what Herrera did, and he was mocked for the flip by the Astros from the dugout:

If that was all that happened in the game, life would go on just fine. I mean, it’s just a bat flip. But later in the game he committed a more substantive transgression: he failed to hustle in a hustle situation.

In the sixth inning Herrera struck out swinging on a 1-2 curveball. The catcher didn’t hold on to it, though, and the ball went in the dirt. Herrera didn’t bother to run to first base and Pete Mackanin pulled Herrera from the game in a double switch right after that. Asked if Herrera was benched for not running that ball out, Mackanin said “It had something to do with it . . . I’m going to talk to him tomorrow.”

If you’re a veteran and you have hamstring issues or something you can take a dropped strike three off and no one is gonna say anything. If you’re hitting like Herrera has been hitting of late (i.e. pretty well) and you otherwise have no issues with your manager along these lines, it’s doubtful anyone will hold that sort of play against you either as long as it’s an isolated incident.

Herrera is not in that position, however. He’s raised Mackanin’s ire in the past for ignoring signs and taking what Mackanin believed to be a lackadaisical approach to the game. Whether that’s a fair assessment of Herrera or not — we can’t fully know everything about their interaction from the outside — is sort of beside the point. He has to know by now that Mackanin is going to get after him for that stuff and he has to know that him not being in the game is neither good for the Phillies or for Herrera.

Are these growing pains or a signs of a growing problem? That, it would seem, is up to Odubel Herrera.