Extra time from MLB wouldn’t fit the crime

Posted Saturday, May. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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When a fan or a media member or a team sponsor or whoever gets the chance to meet a major-league baseball player, one of the things that often strikes them is how much of a regular guy the player is.

He doesn’t expect to have non-baseball types bowing in his presence or showering him with gifts and praise. That might happen, but it’s not required behavior.

In most cases, ballplayers at their cores aren’t vastly different than all of us working stiffs. They have money that most will never realize, which allows them to afford houses and cars that most dream about owning.

But they also have wives and children. They have family members who pass away or are sick or even off fighting a war.

They follow the Jodi Arias trial. They play golf. They enter NCAA Tournament pools.

They do normal stuff outside of their abnormal workplace, including making dumb mistakes.

Yet a legal system designed to treat everyone legally isn’t harsh enough for players who are arrested for drunken driving.

Whatever penalties the player is to receive under the law for their stupid, life-endangering crime isn’t enough, critics say.

He should be suspended for making a mistake that leads to nearly a million arrests each year — not to mention the millions more who get away with it — and results in accidents that kill 12,000 a year.

It’s an outrage that Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association haven’t tried to clean up this part of the game.

And on and on the grandstanding goes, as hypocritical it is.

To say that a baseball player must behave to a higher standard than anyone else is putting him on the pedestal that so many are shocked to discover upon meeting him that he’s never on in the first place.

To think the shame he feels for his misdeed isn’t sincere or that he doesn’t learn a lesson or just lets his agent and legal team make the issue go away is bitter and uninformed.

Take Yovani Gallardo, who was the latest player arrested for allegedly driving drunk. He had a blood-alcohol level of .22 and wasn’t able to keep his truck in one lane of traffic. With that much booze in his system, he probably visited every lane early on April 16.

Gallardo, who went to Trimble Tech High in Fort Worth and lives near Eagle Mountain Lake in the off-season, didn’t shy away from the arrest. He apologized then—couldn’t have been more contrite—and was the same way Tuesday at Miller Park.

He knows he could have killed someone. He could have killed himself.

“You never want to make mistakes in that way, and you don’t want to see it happen to anybody,” said Gallardo, 27, who is married and has a son. “It’s something very serious. It was a dumb mistake.”

Anyone who doesn’t believe that he regrets that night isn’t paying attention. The mistake, he admits, has served as motivation during a post-arrest stretch in which he has gone 3-1 with a 3.94 ERA.

He is focused on atoning on the field and off it.

“It makes you realize a lot of things that are important to your life, family and career,” Gallardo said. “All you can do now is learn from it.”

Unfortunately, Gallardo won’t be the last baseball player to get arrested for DWI or DUI.

Unfortunately, thousands across the country likely were arrested last night, and thousands more are likely to get caught tonight.

They will all regret their mistakes, just as Gallardo does his. But there won’t be calls for them to be suspended or lose their jobs, additional punishments that Rangers reliever Derek Lowe says aren’t fair in any walk of life.

Lowe was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in 2011, though charges were quickly dropped after the district attorney’s office in Atlanta noted a lack of evidence and an overzealousness on the part of the arresting officer.

Lowe did, after all, pass a field sobriety test.

Yet in response to Gallardo’s arrest, Lowe’s name was included in lists of the major-league players recently cited for drunken driving.

A player is guilty and scrutinized publicly as soon as word of his arrest hits the news cycle. That’s a pretty stiff penalty that 99 percent of those arrested for drunken driving don’t receive, not to mention having to face scrutiny from the media and sports fan base.

It comes as no surprise that Lowe is against any form of punishment from MLB for drunken driving. His contention is that any crime would then become subject to penalty and the judgment of, presumably, Commissioner Bud Selig.

“Everyone tries to conduct themselves in a proper way,” Lowe said. “If you start suspending people for off-the-field issues, when does it stop once you open that can of worms? I am absolutely 100 percent against it.”

Baseball players are, at their core, regular people who do regular things off the field and are as likely to make a dumb mistake as the next person.

Drunken driving might be the dumbest mistake, yet people from all walks of life continue to do it. Dealing with the legal consequences and the personal regret is a heavy sentence, even for baseball players.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson

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