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Raise a glass?

May 15, 2011

As I imagine most of our readers have already learned, earlier this week former Giant and Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs infielder Kevin Frandsen was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for ritalinic acid, pursuant to the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.  There aren’t really any further details at this point, so there’s not much else to comment on at this time other than to say that we hope, whatever the case is, that Kevin is safe and healthy and can return to playing at the appropriate time.  Seeing a local favorite with his name back in the headlines this way hit home, though.

The Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program has resulted in a number of suspensions this season already, not to mention the high profile choice by Manny Ramirez to retire rather than serve a 100 game suspension for testing positive to a banned performance enhancing substance according to MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, and the circus surrounding the Barry Bonds trial.  I point all of this out not to belittle the importance of the steps the league has taken to remove performance enhancing drugs from the landscape of baseball.  I’m of the generation that has had to watch some of the heroes of my youth have their accomplishments tainted by admissions and allegations of the use of various PEDs.  I want these substances out of the sport and away from the guys that I admire and cheer for so much.  But all of this ignores one other very real problem.

There have been six players, here in the first month and a half of the season, who were charged with DUIs, something which is currently outside the purview of the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLBPA.  Six players who not only could have injured themselves and others, but who could have found themselves facing the very real possibility of being on the receiving end of the 51 years to life sentence handed down to the driver who took the life of Angel’s pitcher Nick Adenhart in 2009.  This isn’t about the sanctity of the game, this isn’t about the validity of home run titles, this is about the safety of players and fans and members of the communities where they play.

It’s hard in this situation not to remember the showers of beer and champagne last fall, the scenes of utter triumph soaked in alcohol that goes without a thought.  Culturally, even outside of baseball, alcohol is a part of celebrations, so of course we don’t think much of it.  We smile fondly at Madison Bumgarner’s reported staunch avoidance of any of the clubhouse alcohol until his 21st birthday in August.  We laugh and shake our heads at the Bud Light cans littering pictures from the victory parade.  So where do we draw that line?  At what point can we encourage the league to take action against alcohol abuse and yet not blink an eye at champagne drenched players clutching a Tiffany trophy?

Honestly, where law enforcement does.  The same way we do with anyone else, and for that matter with any substance or behavior (yes, I’m looking at you Timmy).  Enjoy yourself, enjoy your drink, even enjoy more than a few, but don’t do it and get behind the wheel and don’t do it and let it impact your performance on the field, and if you do, know that there will be consequences.  For the good of the sport and, more importantly, for the safety of the guys we love so much to watch and the communities they live and play in.

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