Every time a ballplayer or coach gets arrested for drunk driving you can bet that we here at HBT are gonna have a post or three about it. Especially if there’s a good mugshot.
You can also bet that, rather than merely post it and say “hey look what happened,” we (usually I) am going to offer several sentences about how bad it is and how baseball should do something about it. And later, when someone gets disciplined for some ticky-tack thing, we (usually I) am going to offer several sentences about how bad it is that baseball will do something about the ticky-tack thing and not punish ballplayers for the DUI stuff. All of these posts will be sprinkled with some sanctimony too because that’s how we (I) often roll.
But Jon Bois of SB Nation did some research and, guess what? Baseball players are arrested for DUI at rates far lower than that of the general population:
NFL players are no worse about it than the average American, and NBA and MLB players, in fact, are significantly better about it. And as for hockey: I was unable to find a single NHL player who was arrested for intoxicated driving over the last 365 days.
One baseball player out of 433 was arrested for DUI in the past year compared to one in 149 licensed drivers. For the NFL it was one in 160. For the NBA it was one in 237.5. No hockey players were arrested for DUI in the past year.
Jon takes this data — which is obviously too skewed sample size-wise to be truly scientific even if it is instructive — and asks some good questions about it which you should go read. My takeaways:
- Having been guilty of throwing the word “epidemic” around when these things have come up in the past, I officially stand corrected as far as any claim, implicit or otherwise, that ballplayers are worse about drunk driving than the general public. Again, this isn’t the most scientific study ever, but it’s good enough that any claim that they are worse is not entitled to any presumption of validity. That said:
- Just because the DUI rates aren’t bad as far as those things go does not minimize the seriousness of drunk driving in baseball at all, nor should anyone dismiss concerns about it merely by reference to the numbers.
The ideal number of drunk driving ballplayers would be zero, and while ballplayers as a group should be applauded for their overall responsibility, it does not mean that baseball should not consider the matter something to be addressed, via post-hoc discipline or some other means.
I say this because any institution should strive to keep its own house in order by any reasonable means at its disposal, and when a guy gets more discipline for tweeting than he does for drunk driving, one doesn’t get the sense that baseball does that as well as it might. This is particularly important given the optics of baseball’s relationship with alcohol advertising and the fact that baseball, indirectly or otherwise, sells A LOT of beer to people. If you’re inclined to believe that ballplayers are role models you can add that too, though since I don’t buy into that stuff I don’t have real standing to talk about it.
That aside: good job by Bois. It’s a good corrective for people like me who have big soapboxes and strong opinions about things to be presented with, you know, actual data before we spout off.