Monday, April 30, 2012

Young arrest evidence of MLB's alcohol problem

The New York Yankees taking two out of three games from the Detroit Tigers this weekend shouldn’t overshadow the ugly story involving Tigers outfielder Delmon Young.

Young was arrested and charged with a hate crime after allegedly using an anti-Semitic slur against a group of men and tackling one of them. The religious and racial undertones of this story make it a particularly ugly one. But the far more disturbing part for me is that Young was apparently intoxicated during the incident, the latest in a long line of baseball players to get into serious trouble because of excessive alcohol abuse.

Thankfully, Young was not behind the wheel of a car like so many other players or the consequences could be devastating. But are Major League Baseball and the players’ union going to wait until it comes to that, until another one of their players is killed or tragically kills someone else while recklessly abusing drugs and alcohol? Not even the death of young Josh Hancock of the St. Louis Cardinals five years ago yesterday spurred baseball to take serious steps to address the problem.

Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine bannedalcohol from the team’s clubhouse and returning flights after road trips. But this move came only after news emerged that some Red Sox starting pitchers were drinking beer in the clubhouse last season rather than supporting their teammates from the bench. That there is no league-wide policy banning alcohol is just one sign of MLB’s failure to lead on this issue.

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter has made it his personal mission to keep kids away from drugs and alcohol, as his parents successfully instilled in him an aversion to such substances. Unfortunately, it is starting to seem that Jeter is alone in caring about this issue and there is not much he can do to save his baseball counterparts. It’s tragic that no one else in the baseball world cares as much about preventing drug and alcohol abuse. 

There needs to be a stricter policy with real consequences for players who violate it, mandatory rehab and a loss of salary rather than a stay on the restricted list and full compensation as Young has received. 

It’s time for MLB and the players’ union to step up and take real steps to curb the alcohol problem in their sport.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the Delmon Young photo.   

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