Major League Baseball will seek the option to discipline players involved in off-the-field cases such as driving under the influence when labor contract talks begin after this season.
“This will be a topic of negotiations this time around,” Major League Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney said today in a telephone interview.
Shin-Soo Choo of the Cleveland Indians was arrested yesterday in Sheffield Lake, Ohio, after tests showed he had a blood-alcohol level more than double the state’s legal limit. Choo, who’s from South Korea, is the sixth major league player cited on a drunken driving charge this year.
Baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement, which expires in December, doesn’t include a provision that allows baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to punish players for off-field matters.
“Right now what we do with the union is a result of informal understandings, there’s nothing in the agreement,” Courtney said. “The team or commissioner could discipline an employee for off-duty misconduct. Frankly, with alcohol abuse, our approach has been one more of making sure the players get adequate help to keep their careers on track as opposed to pure discipline.”
MLB Players Association spokesman Greg Bouris declined to comment.
Detroit Tigers All-Star first baseman Miguel Cabrera was arrested in February and charged with driving under the influence during spring training. Cabrera, who finished second in American League Most Valuable Player voting last season, was arrested as police watched him drink from a bottle of Scotch as he sat in his car alongside a Florida road.
Cabrera has played in all 30 games for the Tigers this season and is hitting a team-leading .352 with seven home runs and 22 runs batted in.
Adam Kennedy of the Seattle Mariners, Austin Kearns of the Indians, Coco Crisp of the Oakland Athletics and Derek Lowe of the Atlanta Braves also have been involved in DUI incidents within the past four months. None was disciplined.
Courtney said baseball, which has encouraged teams to limit the availability of alcohol in clubhouses after games, will work with the players’ union to get a “full handle on what’s going on” in regard to the DUI cases.
There also will be increased conversation with players about off-field indiscretions, he said.
“We have ongoing communications with the clubs, including spring training briefings about issues that can lead to interaction between players and law-enforcement authorities,” Courtney said. “We will be looking to step up our communication with the clubs on these topics.”
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