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.