Craig Calcaterra

Baltimore Orioles' Chris Davis (19) celebrates after hitting a three-run home run off Oakland Athletics pitcher Jesse Chavez in the first inning of a baseball game Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The Orioles are the first visiting team to deal with Boston’s smokeless tobacco ban


There’s an article in the Baltimore Sun today about how the Orioles are the first road team to face the smokeless tobacco ban in Boston when they face the Red Sox. As the article notes, San Francisco passed the first such law last year, it takes effect this season, and games in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles will have such bans this year as well. Next year it will be all of California.

We know the contours of the debate by now. The dangers of smokeless tobacco vs. personal freedom of adults to do otherwise legal things. But I still think there’s a part of the smokeless tobacco debate that some people are simply not getting. At least not fully. The Orioles players quoted in the article all say “yeah, we get it,” but there’s also a “but . . .” to it all. Like this:

“There’s a triple-bacon cheeseburger,” [Darren] O’Day said. “Do you really need that? No, you don’t, but the government’s not going to outlaw it.

“I get it,” O’Day said. “We get it. But as I said before, there’s some personal liberties that I just don’t think should be infringed upon. I don’t dip. I don’t smoke. I smoke a cigar once in a while. My dad lives in a community in Florida where you can’t smoke a cigar on your own back porch. To me, that just blows my mind.”

I’m against the soda bans and other regulations that reach into someone’s personal choices. Requiring information about calorie counts and whatever are fine as they’re just information, but the banning of otherwise legal conduct should not be done lightly. Let people have their triple cheeseburgers. Only when there is serious demonstrable harm to third parties, such as is the case with secondhand smoke, do actual bans make a ton of sense in my view.

But what O’Day and the others who say what he’s saying about smokeless tobacco are missing is that there is serious harm to third parties as a result of major league baseball players using smokeless tobacco: young baseball players. They absolutely emulate the use of big leaguers and use smokeless tobacco at rates far, far higher than other kids do.

“Think of the children” arguments almost always crumble upon looking at the data which shows that, rarely, do the things we worry about kids being exposed to actually harm kids. Video games, violent movies and things of that nature come to mind. We worry, but the actual threat is usually imaginary.

Not so with smokeless tobacco. Young players absolutely do it because they see big leaguers doing it. There is no other plausible explanation for the variation in rates of use between young ballplayers and other kids. Given that relationship, this isn’t a “ban the cheeseburgers” situation. No one is trying to save Darren O'Day or other ballplayers from themselves. They’re addressing an actually harmful thing.

If the major leaguers want to dip before and after the game, go for it. But taking it out of the ballparks is the right thing to do.

(h/t to DWolfe for the heads up)

Baseball to honor Emmett Ashford, the first African-American ump

Emmett Ashford

Today is the 50th anniversary of the major league debut of umpire Emmett Ashford. He was the first African-American umpires in major league history.

It was a late debut for Ashford. He was 51 years-old. He didn’t begin umping at all until he was 36, having worked for the postal service before that. But after having worked in the minors from 1951 through 1965, on April 11, 1966 Ashford got his break. It wasn’t a long career in the bigs — he’d retire in 1970 — but it was a groundbreaking one. You can read all about his life and his career over at the SABR website, which has a nice biography of him.

Today there will be a tribute video played in his honor:

Also, the current umps will wear a patch:

Braves reliever Daniel Wrinkler breaks his elbow throwing a pitch

Atlanta Braves pitcher Dan Winkler collapses on the field after throwing against the St. Louis Cardinals during the seventh inning of a baseball game Sunday, April 10, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Associated Press

Jarrod Parker fractured his elbow during a spring training game last month. It was horrible, not just for its own sake, but because Parker had dealt with so many other injuries and the latest one just made it seem like the guy is snakebitten.

Maybe Daniel Winkler is the east coast version of Parker. In 2014, when he was with the Rockies he had to have Tommy John surgery. That derailed his prospect status and sent him into journeyman land. He had latched on with the Braves last year and had a nice spring, making the big club’s pen.

Then yesterday, while throwing a pitch against the Cardinals he fractured his elbow and ran off the mound in obvious pain. If you must you can watch the video here, but don’t feel obligated.

He’ll have to have surgery now and will likely miss the entire year. Such a shame.