Photo by Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) -- Major League Baseball and its players' association are considering a formal plan for dealing with alcohol-related incidents in the next collective bargaining agreement.
Two baseball officials confirmed the negotiations to The Associated Press on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks are considered confidential.
Alcohol use has become a hot-button issue in baseball, following a spate of six drunken-driving incidents involving high-profile players already this season.
The current CBA, which expires Dec. 11, has provisions for dealing with "drugs of abuse" such as cocaine and marijuana, but does not provide Commissioner Bud Selig with the authority to discipline players for alcohol-related offenses.
Instead, players arrested for DUI and other incidents are typically offered confidential counseling and treatment on a case-by-case basis. According to one baseball official, the league and the players' union simply want to "codify" the current process.
The plan could mirror the one already in place for players who test positive for drugs like marijuana -- they face mandatory counseling and possible suspension if they refuse to cooperate.
The officials said the union is not opposed to including alcohol in the next CBA.
"This is something we have planned to discuss, alcohol in general," league spokesman Pat Courtney said Friday. "It's been brought up and will continue to be brought up."
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Friday night that alcohol abuse should be treated in a matter similar to drug abuse.
"It really is pretty much the same thing," he said. "There should be a program for that."
USA Today and the Daily News have reported on the talks previously.
On Monday, Cleveland Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo became the latest player arrested when he failed field sobriety tests in Sheffield Lake, Ohio. Choo was released without bond and was driven home. He made the Indians' trip to Oakland, and after apologizing to teammates and the fans, he was in the starting lineup Tuesday night.
Other players involved in alcohol-related incidents this season include Choo's teammate, Austin Kearns; Adam Kennedy of the Seattle Mariners; Coco Crisp of the Oakland Athletics; Derek Lowe of the Atlanta Braves; and Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers.
None of the players has been suspended by their respective teams.
Kearns' case shows how far removed teams presently are from the alcohol issue.
The outfielder was arrested on Feb. 12 in Kentucky and chose not to tell the Indians about it on the advice of his attorneys. That left the team in the awkward position of addressing the situation weeks later without knowing many of the facts.
"The Indians organization takes these issues very seriously and we are disappointed in the matter," general manager Chris Antonetti said in a statement following Choo's arrest. "We will continue to monitor the situation and we will not have any further comment."
There have been other alcohol-related incidents in recent years, including a pair involving the St. Louis Cardinals, that have trained a spotlight squarely on Major League Baseball.
The first involved Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who was charged with DUI in 2007 after falling asleep at the wheel of his vehicle at an intersection near the team's spring training headquarters in Jupiter, Fla. La Russa eventually pleaded guilty.
Two months later, relief pitcher Josh Hancock died when the sport utility vehicle he was driving struck a truck parked on Interstate 64 in St. Louis. Police said Hancock was speeding, talking on a cell phone and had a blood-alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit.
Five days after his death, the team banned alcohol from the clubhouse.