Oct 4, 2011; Detroit, MI, USA; A general view of statues of former MLB players Willie Horton and Ty Cobb prior to game four of the 2011 ALDS between the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

Should We Hold Baseball Players to Higher Standards of Conduct?

Aug 21, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Yankees left fielder Andruw Jones (22) reacts after striking out against the Chicago White Sox in the sixth at US Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball isn’t alone in its history of player debauchery, but it seems like every time I turn to my RSS feed, there’s another player who has gotten in trouble for some off-field activity or another. Ex-Brave Andruw Jones found himself in jail after his wife reported that he placed his hands around her neck and threatened to kill her. She has since filed divorce. Giants relief pitcher was detained in the Las Vegas Airport after allegations that he violated TSA and airport rules on New Year’s Day. Debates abound over whether we should allow entry into the hall of fame for individuals who may have used steroids.

Of course, these baseball bad boys aren’t the only ones to go around drawing up trouble. Sports players have a history of causing a ruckus and getting themselves into trouble. Ty Cobb was perhaps the best hitter in all of baseball history. However, anyone who has watched the movie, Cobb, knows that he was also one of the meanest players. Pete Rose bet on baseball. Jason Halman tragically killed his brother, Seattle Mariner Gregory Halman.

Sure, one can argue that baseball players and other sports figures are human, just as fallible as any of us, and just as likely to fall into moral trappings and emotional uproars. No one’s perfect, and I don’t think any of us are expecting that from any of our sports heroes. However, there is a big difference between a sports player who is great on the field but has shady dealings off the field and a sports player who is a great player and a great example of a moral human being.

Take for example, the film A League of Their Own (Yes, I’m referencing the movie that gave us the line, “There’s no crying in baseball.” Get over it.) In the film, the women’s league players are held to high moral standards. They cannot appear to have shortcomings or to be poor examples. Compare the chiding for behavior in this film to the infamy one gains by causing a ruckus in baseball.

I’m not saying that we should impose some sort of 50s morality on our baseball players. We should, however, hold them to higher standards. The fact that Andruw Jones will still be eligible to play baseball with the Japan’s Pacific League team, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles with a $3.5 million contract, is disturbing. More atrocious is the fact the man spent only 7 hours in jail and is out on $2,400 bail after allegedly attacking and threatening to kill his wife.

We don’t have to have saints as baseball players, but it would sure be nice to have players we could look up to. An arrest record, especially one with convictions on crimes to me, seems as though it should come with at the very least a pay scale reduction. It would also seem that we might want to distinguish between players who have been upstanding citizens and outstanding ball players and those who demonstrated unsportsmanship-like behavior. One might even think that such behavior at the minor league, college, or high school level should disqualify a player from the Major Leagues.

Of course, one might argue, “Won’t that eliminate a lot of great players from eligibility?” Perhaps we could also have a rewards system for good behavior or a probation period. These are all loose thoughts, but I believe that something needs to be done about the instances of bad behavior. Perhaps by coming up with a reasonable system of deterrents and motivators, we can have players less likely to engage in such destructive behavior.

 

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