Baseball should ban smokeless tobacco

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After Tony Gwynn — Stephen Strasburg’s college coach — was diagnosed with parotid cancer, Stephen Strasburg decided to give up smokeless tobacco:

“I’m still in the process of quitting,” Strasburg, 22, said. “I’ve made a lot of strides, stopped being so compulsive with it. I’m hoping I’m going to be clean for spring training. It’s going to be hard, because it’s something that’s embedded in the game … I’m not going to sit here and be the spokesperson for quitting dipping. I’m doing it for myself. I’m not saying anything about anybody else – it’s their personal choice. For me, it’s the best decision.”

Good for him. I wish him luck.  And I agree with his sentiments about having to do it for himself as opposed to this being some larger principled stand.  It’s really hard and sometimes counterproductive to shame people into quitting tobacco. My mom smoked, and God knows how hard we’ve all tried to stop her. I wish it wasn’t the case, but the fact was that it wasn’t until she wanted to stop that she did. I think most people are that way with tobacco and other addictive substances.

Not that baseball shouldn’t try.  While direct appeals didn’t help my mom quit smoking, the fact of restaurant and workplace bans made it way harder for her to keep it up.  Smokeless tobacco is banned in the minor leagues. It should be in the majors too, at least at the ballparks and when players are on the clock, as it were.  As Strasburg himself notes, kids definitely emulate the habit after seeing major leaguers do it.  What’s more, smokeless tobacco is way more dangerous for players’ health than steroids are and is way more easily obtainable for kids than steroids are.  Plus, it’s totally disgusting, yo.  How do these guys manage to keep girlfriends with that crap in their mouths?

As the article notes, the union believes this to be a matter for collective bargaining.  I think, however, that this is an issue like steroids was: protecting the players’ rights to use — be it directly or indirectly — is worse for the players in the long run than simply agreeing to a ban would be.

Once again, Cy Young votes from the Tampa Bay chapter were interesting

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In 2016, Red Sox starter Rick Porcello narrowly and controversially eked ahead of then-Tigers starter Justin Verlander in Cy Young Award balloting, winning on points 137 to 132. Verlander was not included at all in the top-five of two ballots, both coincidentally belonging to writers from the Tampa Bay chapter, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain and Fred Goodall of the Associated Press. Verlander had more first-place votes than Porcello, but being left out of the top-five on two ballots was the difference maker.

In the aftermath, Verlander’s then-fiancée Kate Upton fired off some angry tweets, as did Justin’s brother Ben.

Verlander was again in the running for the 2018 AL Cy Young Award. He again finished in second place, this time behind Blake Snell of the Rays. Snell had 17 first-place votes and 169 total points to Verlander’s 13 and 154. There weren’t any ballots that made a big difference like in 2016, but there were two odd ballots from the Tampa Bay chapter again.

If a chapter doesn’t have enough eligible voters, a voter from another chapter is chosen to represent that city. This year, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News was a replacement voter along with Mark Didtler, a freelancer for the Associated Press. Both writers voted for Snell in first place, reasonably. But neither writer put Verlander second, less reasonably, putting Corey Kluber there instead. Madden actually had Verlander fourth behind Athletics reliever Blake Treinen. Didtler had Treinen in fifth place. Two other writers had Verlander in third place: George A. King III of the New York Post and Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. The other 26 had Verlander in first or second place.

Voting Kluber ahead of Verlander doesn’t make any sense, especially we finally live in a world where a pitcher’s win-loss record isn’t valued highly. Kluber had 20 wins to Verlander’s 16 and pitched one more inning. In every other area, Verlander was better. ERA? Verlander led 2.52 to 2.89. Strikeouts? Verlander led 290 to 222. Strikeout rate? Verlander led 34.8% to 26.4%. Opponent batting average? Verlander led .198 to .222. FIP and xFIP? Verlander led both 2.78 and 3.03 to 3.12 and 3.08, respectively. And while Treinen had an excellent year, Verlander pitched 134 more innings, which is significant.

Upton had another tweet for the occasion: