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Does baseball have a cocaine problem?

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Andy Martino — who covered the Phillies and Mets for years before moving on to other beats — has a story about baseball up at the Huffington Post today. It’s a provocative one and an interesting one. It’s about the use of recreational drugs in Major League baseball.

It’s not a comprehensive study or anything like that. More of a question-asking affair. He speaks to a recently-retired big leaguer who talks about his own cocaine and marijuana use and that of some of his teammates. He also speaks to four major leaguers — two active, two recently retired — and has them estimate the percentage of players who use such drugs:

Three of the players offered educated guesses that ranged from 5 percent to 25 percent for cocaine, and 25 percent to 75 percent for marijuana. A fourth player, this one a current star for a contending team, offered a more modest estimate, saying that “one or two guys” on his ballclub used either cocaine or marijuana.

Again, anecdotal. And it’s worth noting that snorting coke is not exactly the sort of thing a guy would do in the clubhouse or talk about too openly. Baseball players are not the most reliable narrators and I’d take any guesses most of them have along these lines with a grain of salt.

Martino reminds us, though, that it’d be impossible for Major League Baseball to know about any of this itself, as its drug policy does not call for random drug tests for recreational drugs. It can only do so based on probable cause. As long as you stay out of trouble when it comes to this stuff, you can do lines during the day and hit line drives in the evening and never run afoul of Rob Manfred and his men.

Should anything change about this?

It depends on the drug, I suppose. Marijuana, which is mentioned in the article, has been shown time and time again to not be an addictive or particularly dangerous drug for most people (north of 90% of users do not become addicted). It’s deleterious effects are far less than that of alcohol, which is perfectly legal. It’s likewise legal or non-criminal in several jurisdictions now and has been shown to have medicinal benefits. Major League Baseball cracking down on players smoking pot in their downtime would be a dumb thing in my view. A waste of resources and a poor setting of priorities.

What about cocaine, though? As Martino notes, two players — Tommy Hanson and Jose Fernandez — have recently died while under the influence of cocaine. It was the direct cause in Hanson’s death and a contributing cause to the boat crash which killed Fernandez. It’s, in and of itself, a dangerous, addiction-forming drug. It’s also one with which baseball has a profoundly troubled history. I’ve written about this at length in the past.

Will Martino’s article hang out there for a couple of days and disappear, or will others start talking about it? If they do, will MLB pay any attention to it and, if so, how? MLB is nothing if not an organization which reacts to public opinion, so I’d be curious to see if it does here.

Major League Baseball told Kolten Wong to ditch Hawaii tribute sleeve

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Major League Baseball has told Cardinals infielder Kolten Wong that he has to get rid of the colorful arm sleeve he’s been wearing, pictured above, that pays tribute to his native Hawaii and seeks to raise awareness of recovery efforts from the destruction caused by the erupting Mount Kilauea.

Goold:

[Wong] has been notified by Major League Baseball that he will face a fine if he continues to wear an unapproved sleeve that features Hawaiian emblem. Wong said he will stash the sleeve, like Jose Martinez had to do with his Venezuelan-flag sleeve, and find other ways to call attention to his home island.

Willson Contreras was likewise told to ditch his Venezuela sleeve.

None of these guys are being singled out, it seems. Rather, this is all part of a wider sweep Major League Baseball is making with respect to the uniformity of uniforms. As Goold notes at the end of his piece, however, MLB has no problem whatsoever with players wearing a non-uniform article of underclothing as long as it’s from an MLB corporate sponsor. Such as this sleeve worn by Marcell Ozuna, and supplied by Nike that, last I checked, were not in keeping with the traditional St. Louis Cardinals livery:

ST. LOUIS, MO – MAY 22: Marcell Ozuna #23 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates after recording his third hit of the game against the Kansas City Royals in the fifth inning at Busch Stadium on May 22, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

If Nike was trying to get people to buy Hawaii or Venezuela compression sleeves, I’m sure there would be no issue here. They’re not, however, and it seems like creating awareness and support for people suffering from natural, political and humanitarian disasters do not impress the powers that be nearly as much.