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Senators to baseball: ban smokeless tobacco

Feb 15, 2011, 3:35 PM EDT

Dykstra Tobacco

I’m torn: on the one hand I would love Major League Baseball to ban the use of smokeless tobacco by players.  On the other hand, there aren’t many things I hate more than when Congress decides to stick its nose in baseball’s business:

Two Democratic senators are asking baseball commissioner Bud Selig to ban all tobacco use in the sport, specifically citing smokeless products. Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey are suggesting that Selig push for a ban as part of the negotiations in the players’ collective bargaining agreement later this year.

They sent letters to Bud Selig and Michael Weiner to that effect. They said that they were inspired by the same Washington Post article we all read a couple of weeks ago in which Stephen Strasburg said that Tony Gwynn’s battle with cancer inspired him to try to quit dipping.  You know, the cancer Gwynn had that was almost certainly not caused by smokeless tobacco.

Between Congress’ involvement and that Gwynn misinformation, all of this is is going to lead me into a deep “is it OK to do the right thing for the wrong reasons?” think-hole that will render me unproductive for the rest of the day.

  1. Chris Fiorentino - Feb 15, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    Craig, I don’t see the harm in a couple of Senators sending a note to Bud Selig asking him to consider making part of the next agreement to ban smokeless tobacco. In this case, it isn’t like they are calling Lenny Dykstra to Washington to ask him if he used. Letters from Senators/Congressmen are sometimes very powerful ways to bring awareness to an issue. In this instance, I don’t see the problem at all. If they go further and try to ban it somehow, then by all means, let’s jump down their throats. Here, I applaud them for doing it. Even though it is just political bandstanding, it is for a great cause that most of us believe in, whether smokeless tobacco caused Tony Gwynn’s cancer or not.

    • billybeaneismyhero - Feb 15, 2011 at 3:51 PM

      Agreed, but it never seems to stop there. Next thing you know, there are hearings before a Senate committee, and they’re threatening to revoke baseball’s anti-trust exemption. I agree with the concern in spirit. I think chewing tobacco is the nastiest habit one can take up. (Even worse than smoking.) Still, I think Congress has much more important things to concern themselves with than baseball.

    • madhatternalice - Feb 15, 2011 at 5:55 PM

      Why is it the government’s position to try and ban smokeless tobacco from baseball? If it’s truly a health hazard, then let them work on banning in everywhere. That’s the problem I have here. I hate to say it, but I don’t think this is about the players. This is about a government trying to look effective.

      Again, I’m not trying to argue that smokeless tobacco has a place in society; merely that it seems disingenuous to slam MLB for allowing it. Would we feel the same happiness over this “political bandstanding” if the suggestion by the Senate was to ban energy drinks in non-profit businesses, or the miming of marijuana use in film? No, we wouldn’t. The Senators’ letter has a big “think of the children” justification to it.

      My first baseball game was an exhibition at Memorial Stadium: Orioles/Indians. I remember getting there early and being able to go down and see the players in the dugout. I saw someone chewing something that didn’t look like gum, and asked my dad. He (a smoker at the time) responded with, “That stuff is awful. Never do it.” And I never did.

      Most baseball players are adults. They have access to a wide amount of information, and can decide for themselves if they want to chew/dip or not. Just because an individual finds something disgusting doesn’t mean it should be illegal.

      • Utley's Hair - Feb 15, 2011 at 6:45 PM

        Ban it everywhere? I have absolutely no problem with that.

  2. Ari Collins - Feb 15, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    That is one disgusting picture you’ve found.

    • Brian Murphy - Feb 15, 2011 at 4:18 PM

      HardballTalk is a lot like swimming: You should wait at least 20 minutes after a meal before diving in.

      I just wolfed down a quesadilla; it’s now making an unfortunate comeback.

  3. cur68 - Feb 15, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    Really? That’s the pic you go with? Really? Ban that crap. My neighbor had a dog who used to appear to be eating similar stuff. Totally, f**kin gross.

  4. frankvzappa - Feb 15, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    fascism sucks

    • cur68 - Feb 15, 2011 at 4:14 PM

      Why, WHY go straight to fascism?! Seriously, have you ever lived under a fascist regime? Trust me, you’d gladly trade your baccy for ANY other kind of government. We don’t let these guys walk around nude (In my opinion we shouldn’t let any man walk around without at least covering from neck to mid thigh. Women will have to apply to me in person for permission but some ladies,yes I’m talking to you Miss Alba, already have my special dispensation. See me for further instructions) but no one screams “Civil Rights!” Why all the friggin fuss over tobacco being banned? This is not a trenchant, deeply held, founding fathers right. They can chew all they want, when they aren’t on TV playing ball, just like they can go nekked all they want but just not while playing ball.

      • spudchukar - Feb 15, 2011 at 5:19 PM

        Cur, you shouldn’t have gone down the Founding Fathers/Tobacco analysis route. Think about it, dude.

    • Utley's Hair - Feb 15, 2011 at 6:51 PM

      Yes. Fascism sucks…big time, though that has nothing to do with this post, but you are right. Fascism sucks.

      Let the word go forth that fascism does, indeed, suck.

  5. Jonny 5 - Feb 15, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    That picture was from when Lenny got smacked in the back of his head. They knocked some of his sh!t for brains loose.

    • cur68 - Feb 15, 2011 at 4:23 PM

      Dude! I’m eating here! You nearly killed me choking on my spag…ROFL!!

      • Utley's Hair - Feb 15, 2011 at 6:48 PM

        You have a problem with Jonny making you laugh hard enough to spew food? I took one look at that picture and almost lost my lunch from yesterday.

  6. laterounddraftpick - Feb 15, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    Im sure glad the nation isnt in a recession, fighting two foreign wars, has a bloated budget pushing the debt ceiling upwards of 14 Trillion dollars, and figthing an average unemployment rate of 9.6% or anything.

    This is just what I want my Congressmen and Senators working on, and while they are at it, maybe they should spend more taxpayers money on going after Bonds too, maybe they can find a way to throw out ALL the charges so everyone will KNOW that case is a total was of money, instead of just ASSUMING it is..

    While they are at it, MLB players should forfeit their rights to drink alcohol because thats inherently bad ,no driving because speeding is bad, dont ever stop at a McDonalds and get your kids a happy mean (damn your French Fries McD’s!).

    *gets frustrated*
    *decides to burn money like Congress*
    *rolls a cigarette using a $20 bill*
    *decides smoking is bad too and throws it aside*

    • cur68 - Feb 15, 2011 at 4:52 PM

      They aren’t allowed to drink alcohol while playing already, I think. This is sort of the point. Don’t look like you are puking haggis on TV, that’s all I’m sayin’. Right up there with wear your damn clothes. As for political involvement, totally agree about the whole Bonds trial and this. Damn country just about broke and they’re wasting time & $$ chasing that guy and belaboring the bloody obvious; don’t chew that filthy mess on TV and get the f**k over Barry Bonds.

  7. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Feb 15, 2011 at 5:03 PM

    I pritt’ near done swallowed chaw once and dang near puked mah guts out. Naw I git yer point but I live ma life and yall done live yer own, ya her? I ain’t fer stickin’ my nose in yer britches so keep yers out mine. The colors don’t run and ‘merikah is the land of the free so tell dem city slickin’ Senators to put some chaw where da sun don’t shine. The argument older than white shit ya her?

    • Utley's Hair - Feb 15, 2011 at 6:43 PM

      Try reversing the Cholly-ese translator, Heyward.

      • cur68 - Feb 15, 2011 at 7:21 PM

        @ Utley’s Hair; my comment to Jonny 5 was not to indicate a problem with J5. It was equal parts admiration, envy, amusement and choking on spaghetti. I wish I’d come with that comment. Still makes me chuckle when I read it (his sh!t for brains, indeed!). Jonny 5 is the sack.

      • Utley's Hair - Feb 15, 2011 at 7:24 PM

        I was just impressed—if that’s really the appropriate word here, though I doubt it is—that you were able to eat after seeing that photo.

  8. laterounddraftpick - Feb 15, 2011 at 5:04 PM

    Dear America,

    In addition to taking away tobacco from baseball players we propose the follwoing changes:
    No more Gatorade or sports drinks, the dyes used can be harmful;
    No more sports suppliments from GNC, as they arent rated by the FDA;
    No more hotdogs at the ball park (unless they are all beef kosher dogs, wouldnt want cows suffering for food);
    Better yet, only veggie meals at concession stands, animals are living creatures (and plants arent?!?)
    No more sunflower seeds; plants die to give them to us, and sodium is bad for you;


    P.S. Can you belive you pay us to write letters like these? Every character cost you $140, time to go bang my intern on a skiing trip to Aspen for “business”..

    Sarcasm works well, but you get the point…

    • baseballfanatic74 - Feb 15, 2011 at 5:14 PM

      Kind of a silly statement, but I know what you are getting at. That said, this isn’t nanny state governing here. They are asking that MLB and the players’ union agree to this voluntarily. I haven’t heard of them introducing legislation to interfere with MLB nor do I expect we ever will see any. Should they draw attention to a health issue by putting out a statement or writing a letter? I think so.

      Note that none of this is about what the players do in their personal lives. It is about what they do when they are on the field – on TV, in public view. You don’t see TV hosts or new anchors chewing tobacco – if they did there would be a huge uproar about the impact that has on kids, not to mention how inappropriate it is. These guys are ON THE JOB. We all have a code of conduct with restrictions on what substances are allowable and what are not when we are at work.

      • cur68 - Feb 15, 2011 at 5:20 PM

        My point! That’s my point!

  9. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Feb 15, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    Dear Congress:

    Legalize that shit please!!!!

    Warm Regards,
    Sir Smokes-a-lot

  10. jamie54 - Feb 15, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    Craig, you are right. Government intervention in private businesses is another form of socialism. Whether it’s trying to get the BCS to administrate a playoff system or telling baseball it must ban the use of smokeless tobaccos while players are on the field or in the dugout, these are business enterprises. Where would it stop? Would they tell web sites to put only what the Government wants people to read? Newspapers could only print what they tell them to? No, that would be a violation of our constitutional rights. Besides, you get the Government involved it slows things to a crawl (even slower than ‘instant’ replay decisions). Baseball made the rules for minor leagues why not just do it across the board? What are they afraid of? Smoking has been banned in almost all workplaces as well as most seating areas within ballparks so the players themselves should not be exempt in their workplace. Sheesh.

  11. cur68 - Feb 15, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    @Utley’s Hair; Ahhh, I understand now. No worries. To explain; I’m in medical research. I’ve eaten during autopsies. That picture is not the grossest thing I’ve ever seen but the comment by J5 was damn near the funniest thing I’ve ever read about something that looked that gross.

    • Utley's Hair - Feb 15, 2011 at 7:51 PM

      Medical research, huh? You must be champing at the bit to get your hands on Dykstra’s head.

      • cur68 - Feb 15, 2011 at 8:19 PM

        Cut that out! I nearly choked once already today (ROFL!) No, actually I think Dr. J5 has already elucidated the contents of Dykstra’s head very succinctly. I’ll wait patiently on his further publication as to what animal left the material that constitutes Dykstra’s brains. What I want is Canseco’s head. I’m going to propose a thesis that it contains 50% oat mush, 25% pigeon guano, 15% sunflower seed, and the rest is horse steroid. Since its animal studies I’ll have no trouble getting it thru ethics review.

  12. baseballstars - Feb 15, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    So we’re facing an exponentially-increasing debt that may consume the entire US economy and cause us to hit bankruptcy, but our leaders are worried about what baseball players put in their mouths? Typical, and they will probably try to justify it by claiming they are upholding morality.

  13. 18thstreet - Feb 16, 2011 at 9:11 AM

    These comments were really awful. I mean, this is usually a site with pretty darn thoughtful things to say about whether to sacrifice bunt in the third inning, but … sheesh.

    For those who suggested a couple Congressional leaders shouldn’t write a letter to the Commissioner but that Congress should instead pass a law banning the product entirely … I mean, I’m speechless. There’s no reason to believe that prohibition works. Changing attitudes is (a) free and (b) effective.

    I’m also annoyed at the idea that because there’s something more important to do, they can’t do anything else. A staffer wrote the letter, another staffer edited it, the Senators signed it. Trust me, it didn’t interfere with anyone’s ability to end the war in Iraq. (True story: Senators have more than one person on their staffs.)

    Kudos to Durbin and Lautenberg. A reasonable, modest request.

    • cur68 - Feb 16, 2011 at 5:01 PM

      Yup, awful, I agree. But, here’s the thing; no baseball yet. We bored. This is what happens when bored people are given a pic of Dykstra with that mess hangin from his gob. Your regularly scheduled high minded baseball prose will recommence after March 31. However all pictures of Dykstra will likely cause a reoccurrence of what you see herein. Cheers.

  14. monsieurbear - Feb 16, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    Your statement “the cancer Gwynn had that was almost certainly not caused by smokeless tobacco” mischaracterizes the comment in the linked post, which includes a pathologist’s statement that the type of cancer that Gwynn contracted is not presently linked with smokeless tobacco use. Although smokeless tobacco use has not been previously demonstrated to correlate to the particular cancer that Gwynn contracted, the absence of such evidence may merely be a consequence of insufficient data rather than an absence of cause and effect. For example, in 1920, one could have said “lung cancer is almost certainly not caused by smoking” based on the evidence available at that time. It is unknowable whether or not tobacco use contributed to Gwynn’s particular cancer.

    Moreover, the connection between smokeless tobacco use and certain oral, esophageal, and pancreatic cancers is well established ( Consequently, Strasburg’s decision to quit using smokeless tobacco will reduce his risk for contracting cancer whether or not Gwynn’s cancer was tobacco-related.

  15. paintan8 - Feb 16, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    Aren’t the Senators now called the Twins?

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