The past few weeks haven’t been the most fun to be a baseball fan. Most of the news has either been sanctimonious posturing from Hall of Fame voters, and arguments over allegations of PED use.
The level of outrage about extremely flimsy allegations is rather striking. Craig Calcaterra and Wendy Thurm, former lawyers, have written excellent pieces about how Ryan Braun’s explanation that his legal counsel hired Anthony Bosch as a consultant is completely plausible and not necessarily damning or strange at all. As a result, they have been excoriated as “PED advocates” and other unsavory titles by denizens of the internet whose legal experience consists of whatever Law & Order episodes they’ve seen.
I have listened to a lot of sports radio the past few days, and all of the baseball talk has been about PED use – whether or not Alex Rodriguez should make a statement personally, or whether they’re “guilty,” etc. The one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that these players are now, “guilty in the court of public opinion.” Something was unusual to me – although sadly, not surprising – about this tunnel vision on PEDs: Todd Helton got a DUI early on Wednesday morning, and nobody stopped frothing at the mouth over PEDs for 10 seconds to even mention it.
You can debate the effects of PEDs on the game’s integrity and history – whether it’s anything new, or if they’re completely different from generation to generation – and you can certainly talk about the potential health risks posed to those who use PEDs. Yet, DUIs kill hundreds of people every year, and are completely avoidable for professional athletes. I assure you even players making the league minimum can afford a cab. Todd Helton has made almost $160 million in his career – he can afford to be chauffeured to and from the bar in a helicopter, let alone a limo or a cab.
Miguel Cabrera has had several hideous incidents with alcohol – including a DUI and an alcohol-fueled domestic incident with his wife – and yet last year when it came to MVP voting nobody cared. In fact, people were arguing that he was a great teammate for moving back to 3B, and praising him as a high character guy. Whenever I reminded people about his off-the-field issues, they would hand wave it away and say, “Yes, that’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t change my opinion.”
Why doesn’t MLB care about DUIs? Why don’t journalists? If intangibles and character matter for awards, why can’t these be mentioned when those awards are being discussed? Maybe PEDs shorten the lifespan of the user, or decrease their quality of life somehow – but that’s all self-inflicted. I am not being melodramatic when I say that DUIs are often fatal – and more often than not, the fatalities are inflicted upon other people.
It is true that major leaguers don’t drive drunk as much as the general population, and MLB may not have the leverage to get the players union to consent to DUI suspensions. However, at the very least I as a fan and a writer can say that I am far more upset to hear that Todd Helton got a DUI than that Jesus Montero’s name showed up in some sleazebag’s notebook*. In 2009, Nick Adenhart was the innocent victim of a chronic drunk driver, and was killed before his 23rd birthday; and yet if you look at Bill Baer’s twitter feed from today, most sports fans don’t seem to really care about DUIs, especially compared to PEDs. I think that’s misguided and wrong. Todd Helton – a man who turns 40 in August, who has an absurd amount of money, is a 5-time All Star, and the face of a franchise – could have killed someone because he couldn’t be bothered to make a phone call. That’s important. People should care.
So far as White Sox fans we have been relatively fortunate on these fronts (Brett Myers is another story and I have plenty of outrage for him as well). Our big Steroid Era slugger is widely considered to have been clean, and has been an anti-steroids advocate from the beginning. Most positive tests affiliated with the White Sox have been rather obscure figures, or guys who aren’t really primarily associated with the White Sox. The big testing rings that have been caught have been distributors in New York and Los Angeles clubhouses. Carlton Fisk and Bobby Jenks are the only White Sox I can find who have had DUIs in the recent past, and Jenks had left the team by the time it happened. However, Rockies fans just had their Paul Konerko do something hideously selfish and dangerous. That’s awful, and I hope the White Sox fanbase – and all fanbases – get to be spared from such things.
*Further confusing things, he has a brother – also named Jesus Montero – who is a minor leaguer with the Cardinals.