Yovani Gallardo did something stupid. Probably one of the dumbest things an adult can do. He got drunk – proper drunk, blowing a .22 blood-alcohol level – and got behind the wheel of his car.
And he got busted for it. While I take serious issue with this fact alone, the pending punishment from MLB and the Milwaukee Brewers will likely be fairly light. I take a more serious issue with that.
I take issue with it because Major League Baseball and the players employed by the league as a whole and the teams therein have no problem identifying themselves as a social institution, and further recognizing the responsibilities inherent with that label. When it comes to issues of alcohol, illicit drugs, and other disreputable behavior like domestic violence however, they seem to be speaking out of both sides of their mouth.
The Milwaukee Brewers pride themselves on being part of the community in Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. In order to further cement that position, the Brewers need to impose harsher penalties on Yovani Gallardo than the reported “breaking curfew” fines, as reported by Jeff Passan on Yahoo! Sports. He makes a point to demonstrate how little Gallardo will have to suffer financially for his mistake, which highlights all the more why the MLB, and by extension the Brewers, should pick up the slack.
Wisconsin already has a dicey relationship with alcohol – it’s humorous enough to poke fun at my home state and the attitudes regarding alcohol – but a high-profile situation like this brings home the ramifications and the need for stiffer penalties on all sides. In 2011 – the latest available data published by the Wisconsin DOT – alcohol was a contributing factor in 4.7% of all accidents, but factored into 37.2% of all fatalities on the road. When Gallardo got on the road after his night out, he could have easily contributed to those numbers.
Ron Roenicke and Major League Baseball are certainly not ignorant of that fact. It was not that long ago that one of Roenicke’s former players, Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver. That is obviously the extreme consequence, but the league is not immune to its players getting pinched for drunk driving, or perpetrating accidents, arrests, and fatalities for driving under the influence.
And yet, little progress is being made on this front by Major League Baseball. While League officials engage in a legally questionable hunt surrounding players linked to Biogenesis, the punishment hardly fits the crime when it comes to drunk driving or other behaviors that shed a bad light on the sport.
According to most resources I checked, there is no official policy on the books for alcohol-related offenses with Major League Baseball. According to their Official Drug Policy, alcohol is not even listed as a substance of abuse, even though anyone with limited motivation and an internet connection can produce reams of evidence to the contrary. Still, Major League Baseball seems content to deal with all of this on a case-by-case basis.
I want to be clear: I’m not advocating for a league of teetotalers, I like a beer or two after hard day’s work and they certainly deserve the same luxury. But I know that if I get wasted and do something stupid, I’m putting everything I have at risk. This is obviously not the case for professional baseball players and I think fans deserve to know why.
Major League Baseball has a history of slow reaction to illicit drugs and other substances (lest we need to talk about PED use again), and alcohol is perhaps the last area in which this organization needs to act. They are doing some work in banning alcohol in clubhouses, but again, it is the team’s discretion and not mandated to do so. Figures are unclear but it is believed that about 20 of the 30 teams in the league have a restriction on beer and liquor in the clubhouse.
In the case of players like Yovani Gallardo, or Colorado’s Todd Helton before the season began, there is usually little to no punishment for alcohol-related offenses. I understand that a first offense can be chalked up to a mistake, but few mistakes are so God-awful stupid and blatantly dangerous. I firmly believe that drunk driving penalties need to be more strict for everyone – my home state and the ballplayers I love included.
At the very least, a monetary fine should be imposed for the players seeing as how there is a likely case of financial liability for the team involved when something like this happens. Losing playing time should be a given.
While hitting the player in the wallet is a good start, I think a more proactive approach in situations like this might be demanding some service time in the community for alcohol and drug-related issues. Having the player volunteer or speak in the community and help to rectify, in some small way, the damage of his actions would not only realign the players’ understanding but also go a long way to shift the public view of alcohol and intoxicated driving.
Bottom line: most players, every team, and Major League Baseball as a whole have no problem identifying themselves as role models. It’s high time they start acting like it.