DUIs should be a bigger issue for MLB than steroids

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Yovani Gallardo is the latest on a long list of baseball players who combine alcohol driving. The media would like you to think that steroids are the biggest problem in baseball, but driving under the influence actually puts other people in danger.

Major League Baseball would have you think that steroids are the greatest threat to the integrity of baseball, but there is another. A threat more real and much more serious than anything that can happen in a baseball game. MLB spends its time grasping at straws trying to investigate Biogenesis, desperately trying to buy evidence to a crime that may or may not have ever been committed; meanwhile, MLB players are continually getting caught driving under the influence of alcohol. Drunk driving is a problem. You put other people in danger and that's a terrible thing. Steroids don't hurt other people like drunk driving does, and yet MLB puts all its efforts into trying to expose people like Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun. Fans and the media also get swept up into the great steroids hunt and it often leads to sullied reputations for steroid users, yet drunk drivers are old news by the next day. Something needs to change.

Drunk driving continues to be an issue and it seems that no one looks to be doing anything about it. Steroids don't hurt other people -- they don't kill people, they don't endanger other people, and yet those that are even supposed users are chastised while drunk drivers roam free. I would certainly prefer steroids not be a part of baseball because it's an unhealthy substance to put into your body, but so were amphetamines and whatever else players have been putting into their bodies for decades.

I can understand the argument that baseball can't punish players for a personal matter or a non-baseball matter. Unfortunately, when reputations and the integrity of the game are at stake, MLB needs to do more than chase leads while trying to drag players' names into the mud. There are players making a mockery of the sport right under their noses and while it might not be occurring on the field, it still has an effect on the game. The anti-steroid regime takes the stance that steroids are a bad example for the kids, but so is drunk driving. This goes beyond baseball. It's a problem all over, and it's not going away anytime soon because people let it slide. We all know who took steroids and we all ridicule them, but what about the people who are guilty of driving while intoxicated? They deserve as much, and probably much more, ridiculing because they're not simply disrespecting their own bodies, or even the game of baseball, they're disrespecting human life. That is a much worse offense than any drug that can make your muscles bigger.

There has been a large surge in DUIs and DWIs in the last few years, and each time someone new is caught they get a slap on the wrist, it's mentioned in the news, we roll our eyes, and that's the end of that -- we forget. That's basically the reaction I have towards steroids now. I want you to remember or I want you to know for the first time who is guilty of putting the lives of innocents in danger and whose reputation hasn't been sullied quite as much as maybe it deserves to be. Steroids aren't going away anytime soon, but neither should this:

Terry Collins:

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06/27/2002 - Before he was managing the Mets, Collins was pulled over because he was driving on a flat tire. After staggering out of the car and failing a sobriety test he was arrested and later failed a breathalyzer test.

Rafael Furcal:

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09/10/2004 - Furcal actually has two DUI charges, one from 2004 and a previous one from 2000. For his first offense he was fined $500 and sentenced to 40 hours of community service and one year probation, however, after several delays from appeals he still had one more month of probation when he committed his second offense. He registered a .127 BAC and even tried to get the officer to cut him a break because he already got one before. Furcal ended up serving 21 days in jail, but only after the Braves were eliminated from the playoffs. Priorities. He also once attempted to play baseball while drunk and ended up crashing into Derrek Lee, breaking Lee's wrist, and then threw up on the field.

Sidney Ponson (No mugshot? no problem):

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08/25/2005 - He has been arrested twice for drunk driving, once in January of 2005 and again in August of the same year. For his first offense, Ponson had his driver's license suspended for six months, was required to serve 50 hours of community service and was placed on probation for nine months. For his second offense he was sentenced to five days in jail and fined $500.

Dontrelle Willis:

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12/22/2006 - Willis was found urinating on the side of the road and was stumbling near his car when an officer spotted him. He was taken into custody and refused a breathalyzer test. At least his mom was very apologetic.

Tony LaRussa:

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03/22/2007 - La Russa was found asleep at the wheel at a stop sign and registered a .093 BAC. When he returned to the team the fans gave him a round of applause like he was some kind of hero or something. Apparently winning the World Series gives you a lot of leeway.

Scott Olsen:

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07/20/2007 - Scott Olsen made his troubled MLB existence even more troublesome when he refused to pull over after being caught speeding. When he finally arrived at his house he got into a physical altercation with the police, refused a breathalyzer test, and had to be tased. He had just gotten off a two game suspension for fighting with a teammate, but was in the clubhouse soon after and that was that.

Joba Chamberlain:

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10/18/2008 - Joba's BAC was .134 and he postponed his arraignment four separate times until he finally pled guilty in April 2009 and was sentenced to nine months of probation and a $500 fine. Who knows what he was doing between those dates.

Adam Kennedy:

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01/26/2011 - No one cares about Adam Kennedy, so no one mentions it. He was pulled over for speeding and was over the legal limit. Jack Zduriencik gave him an earful, at least.

Miguel Cabrera:

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02/16/2011 - Cabrera, who had been struggling with alcohol-related problems, was found on the side of the road and refused to take a breathalyzer test. Tigers GM, and blatant alcoholic apologist, Dave Dombrowski, said "I don't know how to explain it, but it's not an alcohol problem." After pleading no contest he was given one year of probation, a $500 fine and had his license suspended. Then it came out that he may have forced other cars off the road, but then they gave him his license back because they couldn't prove he was even driving the car. Or something like that.

Coco Crisp:

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03/02/2011 - Crisp was pulled over for failing to stay in his own lane and blew a BAC of .13 at the scene. Crisp described the event as "embarrassing" and said he'll "get through this," as if he were the victim.

Austin Kearns:

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03/12/2011 - Not a lot of attention was put on Kearns' DUI arrest, since it happened during the whole Miguel Cabrera thing, so he kind of slipped under the radar. He refused a breathalyzer test and, according to the arresting officer, "advised that he played professional baseball and asked if I could cut him a break." Apparently Kearns spoke more profoundly than he intended to because it seems like cutting players a break is the ongoing policy with MLB.

Shin-Soo Choo:

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05/02/2011 - Choo was caught after he asked an officer for directions and started weaving his car on the road. He registered a 0.20 BAC and was arrested. He was fined $775 and has his license suspended for five months.

Derek Lowe:

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04/29/11 - Lowe was charged with reckless driving, driving under the influence and racing another car. He failed a field sobriety test and smelled of alcohol, yet the charges were later dropped due to a lack of evidence.

Alex White:

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03/03/2012 - White was arrested after blowing a .174 BAC, over twice the legal limit, and faces the threat of being categorized as an extreme DUI. He claimed he only had two drinks and "it's very unfortunate, and I'm completely embarrassed," but Andrew T. Fisher over at Purple Row already called him out on his stupidity. I guess he was eventually punished, having been traded to the Astros for Wilton Lopez just nine months later.

Matt Bush:

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03/22/2012 - Everyone knows what an awful human being Matt Bush is. This guy has been arrested for numerous crimes involving alcohol. He was finally charged with a laundry list of crimes after he hit a motorcyclist, ran over his body (he lived), and left the scene. Bush had a BAC of 0.18 after he was finally caught and is now serving a 51-month prison sentence. He's admitted that he's an alcoholic, but everyone is responsible for their actions. It's good that he's been locked away before someone actually got killed by this criminal.

Bobby Jenks:

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03/23/2012 - Jenks was pulled over for driving erratically after taking too many muscle relaxers.He was aware that he had been swerving in the road and even told the officer that he had hit a car while trying to leave a stripclub. He failed a field sobriety test and was hit with a laundry list of charges. He wouldn't even take the blame for driving while impaired when he said "I don't know whose fault it was. But there was an error done inside."

Cristhian Martinez:

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04/09/2012 - After blowing a .10 BAC he was charged with improper lane change and impeding the flow of traffic. An interesting part of this incident was the Braves organization's mention that he would be "evaluated by an independent professional, as provided for in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement." I am unsure as to what kind of evaluation this was or how it works as part of the CBA, but if MLB actually provides some kind of service in regards to cases like this it could be the foundation to more DUI-related policy making.

Michael Pineda:

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08/20/2012 - Pineda posted a BAC of .128 and .125 in two separate breathalyzer tests and seemed to get off rather lightly, with 50 hours of community service, a $500 fine, and one year of probation after claiming a no contest.

Todd Helton:

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02/06/2013 - Helton's BAC was unreleased, because we can expose confidential patient information related to PEDs, but not criminal charges. The Rockies' first baseman was stopped at a gas station when he went to buy lottery tickets, meanwhile, Helton has already made over $161M in his career.

Drake Britton:

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03/03/2013 - Red Sox prospect, Drake Britton was pulled over after driving drunk, driving over the curb and breaking down a fence at 111 MPH. At least the organization punished him by scratching him from his scheduled Spring Training start and optioning him back to Double-A.

Yovani Gallardo:

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04/16/2013 - The latest on this wall of shame is Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo, who was pulled over for going too slow and swerving between lanes. He failed a field sobriety test and later registered a BAC of .22, which is nearly three times the legal limit. He will not be facing jail time, but he will have to pay a $300 fine for the offense, with an extra $300 tacked on for the severity of the offense and another $178.80 fine for lane deviation. And a slap on the wrist.

A whole lot of "very serious matter," "embarrassing," and "disappointment," but nothing has really been done to stop it or to even punish the guilty. I understand that people make mistakes, but I don't understand how people can be this selfish. This isn't 'embarrassing' or 'unfortunate,' this is horrifying and, in some cases, only feet away from being tragic. People who drink and drive aren't any more evil than steroid users are, but if you're looking for players who represent the picture perfect image of the Golden Age of baseball, it seems that one group is hounded more than the other. Let's stop and realize that these people are actually putting other peoples' lives at risk with their behavior and that their actions, more than steroids-using, need to be stopped. MLB can take steps to ensure that this does not become a regrettable trend, but they need to act now, instead of spending so much time and energy on fruitless investigations.

You would think that after Josh Hancock was killed after driving while intoxicated in 2007 and Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver in 2009 that baseball would feel compelled to crack down on problems like this. These were hits too close to home. Two MLB players were killed over the span of three seasons because of alcohol, and yet since then, the crackdown on performance enhancing drugs is what has made headlines and garnered the attention.

Houston Astros prospect Jonathan Singleton was recently suspended for 50 games for smoking pot and breaching MLB's drug policy. Yet somehow none of the players listed above were ever punished by the league or their team. It's good to see where baseball's priorities are.

I don't hold all the answers. I realize punishing DUI offenders would be a tricky situation because it's an actual criminal investigation, not just a baseball matter, but MLB needs to do something. If I had to choose between the steroid users and the drunk drivers, I know who I would be punishing. Maybe one day we can stop hunting people for what they may or may not have put into their own bodies and stop ignoring the real issue. Maybe we can fix the problem before someone else has to die.

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