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MLB players get arrested for DUI at a way lower rate than the general population

Jun 6, 2012, 1:02 PM EDT

cop dui

Every time a ballplayer or coach gets arrested for drunk driving you can bet that we here at HBT are gonna have a post or three about it. Especially if there’s a good mugshot.

You can also bet that, rather than merely post it and say “hey look what happened,” we (usually I) am going to offer several sentences about how bad it is and how baseball should do something about it. And later, when someone gets disciplined for some ticky-tack thing, we (usually I) am going to offer several sentences about how bad it is that baseball will do something about the ticky-tack thing and not punish ballplayers for the DUI stuff. All of these posts will be sprinkled with some sanctimony too because that’s how we (I) often roll.

But Jon Bois of SB Nation did some research and, guess what? Baseball players are arrested for DUI at rates far lower than that of the general population:

 NFL players are no worse about it than the average American, and NBA and MLB players, in fact, are significantly better about it. And as for hockey: I was unable to find a single NHL player who was arrested for intoxicated driving over the last 365 days.

One baseball player out of 433 was arrested for DUI in the past year compared to one in 149 licensed drivers. For the NFL it was one in 160. For the NBA it was one in 237.5. No hockey players were arrested for DUI in the past year.

Jon takes this data — which is obviously too skewed sample size-wise to be truly scientific even if it is instructive — and asks some good questions about it which you should go read.  My takeaways:

  • Having been guilty of throwing the word “epidemic” around when these things have come up in the past, I officially stand corrected as far as any claim, implicit or otherwise, that ballplayers are worse about drunk driving than the general public. Again, this isn’t the most scientific study ever, but it’s good enough that any claim that they are worse is not entitled to any presumption of validity. That said:
  • Just because the DUI rates aren’t bad as far as those things go does not minimize the seriousness of drunk driving in baseball at all, nor should anyone dismiss concerns about it merely by reference to the numbers.

The ideal number of drunk driving ballplayers would be zero, and while ballplayers as a group should be applauded for their overall responsibility, it does not mean that baseball should not consider the matter something to be addressed, via post-hoc discipline or some other means.

I say this because any institution should strive to keep its own house in order by any reasonable means at its disposal, and when a guy gets more discipline for tweeting than he does for drunk driving, one doesn’t get the sense that baseball does that as well as it might. This is particularly important given the optics of baseball’s relationship with alcohol advertising and the fact that baseball, indirectly or otherwise, sells A LOT of  beer to people.  If you’re inclined to believe that ballplayers are role models you can add that too, though since I don’t buy into that stuff I don’t have real standing to talk about it.

That aside: good job by Bois.  It’s a good corrective for people like me who have big soapboxes and strong opinions about things to be presented with, you know, actual data before we spout off.

  1. saints97 - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    I have no idea what the data actually says, but I would think that drunk driving rates would be lower for people in the top couple percent of wealth. And that seems especially true in sports, where they have programs set up to pick guys up any time, no questions asked.

    But I still think that lower middle class people probably get arrested for DWI far more than wealthy folks, as their options are a lot more limited.

    • peterjmancuso - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:26 PM

      data is the plural form of datum. what the data actually say.

      • atworkident - Jun 6, 2012 at 4:01 PM

        data doesn’t say anything to me since it doesn’t speak a language i understand. even when i think i understand what it’s saying it sounds like that little guy from perfect strangers… and I don’t mean ian gillian.

    • HitsDingers - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:31 PM

      Not to mention the fact that these guys spend 25% of the year on the road (usually without a car) and another 20% working from 7 to 11 pm when they are home. It just seems like a lot fewer opportunities.

      Kind of reminds me of the statistic that like 70% of accidents happen when you’re driving within 25 miles of your home, but leaves out the fact that 99% of your driving is within that area.

  2. mgv38 - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    But on the other hand, MLB players (and professional atheltes in gernal) probably get out of a lot more of tese situations than the average citizen?

  3. mgv38 - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    EDIT FUNCTION (sorry)

  4. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    Money talks. So does stardum. It’s unjust.

  5. peterjmancuso - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:24 PM


  6. sknut - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:28 PM

    What amazes a lot of fans is that athletes have resources to not drive drunk, the nfl has a program for crying out loud to give ride home and yet it still happens. Says something both about the person and the power of alcohol to influence decision making.

  7. illcomm - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    Given how much money they make. The number of dui cases should be zero. There is no excuse.

    • drunkenhooliganism - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:34 PM


      Obviously it’s okay for the poor and middle class to occasionally get shitfaced and cruise around town. Because they’re not filthy rich and shouldn’t be held responsible.

      • bsbiz - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:47 PM

        But man, as soon as they scratch and claw their way over the poverty line, throw the effing book at those rich bastards.

  8. bkertz - Jun 6, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    Small sample size?

  9. drewsylvania - Jun 6, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    “Baseball players are arrested for DUI at rates far lower than that of the general population:”

    As others have alluded to, isn’t it significantly likely that (MLB) baseball players are arrested for DUI at lower rates because the officer at the scene LETS HIM GO?

  10. IdahoMariner - Jun 6, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    “In 1998 the Yankees won 125 games, the final four of which came in a sweep of the Padres (with Ken Caminiti at third base) in the World Series. Twenty-six days after the end of the season, the Yankees traded for Naulty. He was amazed that an elite team wanted a middle reliever with a body that was breaking down.

    Shortly after the trade, Naulty went to a bar near his home in Southern California. He was a full-blown alcoholic by then. There was a dispute over a woman. A bouncer asked him to leave. Somebody wanted to mess with him, and Naulty was ready. Naulty wasn’t about to back down from a bouncer — or two or three or four or five. It took six men to finally bring him down.

    “Just more testosterone,” he explained. “You’re a wild animal. It’s amazing I didn’t kill somebody, myself included, as much as I was drinking and everything.”

    The cops hauled him away and, after emptying his pockets and taking his mug shot, threw him in a cell. Naulty sat there weeping, his head in his hands, convinced he had just blown his chance to pitch for the Yankees. Suddenly one of the cops walked toward the cell, holding up a card.

    “Hey, is this real?”
    It was Naulty’s Major League Baseball player identification card. The cop had found it in his wallet.

    “Yeah,” Naulty said. “I just got traded to the New York Yankees.”

    The cop immediately unlocked the cell and let him out. Other cops printed four copies of his mug shot and asked Naulty to autograph them. They slapped him on the back, shook his hand and sent him on his way. No charges were filed.

    “I barely graduated high school,” Naulty says. “I probably graduated college with about an eighth-grade reading level. And when you play major league baseball, society is at your beck and call.”

    From Verducci’s story last week in SI. Yes, it’s about a bar fight, but I think it’s ridiculous to say this couldn’t be jsut as applicable to a DUI. also, did they “send him on his way” in his own car?

    As a fresh out of law school prosecutor in a small university town, I prosecuted a LOT of DUIs over my first three years. I never got a report on one of the university’s football players. This struck me as improbable, given the number of football players and the size of the community, and how many regular students had been arrested and cited for DUI. And as a recent grad of the same university, it struck me as flat out impossible.

    Until you can account for how many of these guys get a free pass based on their status, you can’t say that they are driving drunk at a lesser rate than the rest of us. just that they are getting arrested less often.

    • ThatGuy - Jun 6, 2012 at 3:34 PM

      I think your onto something. This is anecdotal, but it seems to me most of the time an MLB player’s DUI gets into the news its because of reported other factors, refusing to cooperate or they blew so high and were so trashed they couldn’t not be arrested for it.

      Wouldn’t surprise me at all if a lot of .09’s-1.2 BAC’s get let off, if they are cooperative.

  11. atworkident - Jun 6, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    Did Jim Leyritz count towards the numbers or does he only fall under the vehicular homicide numbers?

    I guess Bob Lorenz isn’t a player so his number doesn’t count towards the total either right?

  12. chumthumper - Jun 7, 2012 at 6:39 AM

    Things You Probably Should Not Say To A Policeman:

    1. I can’t reach my license unless you hold my beer.
    2. Sorry Officer, I didn’t realize my radar detector wasn’t plugged in.
    3. Aren’t you the guy from the Village People?
    4. Hey, you must’ve been doin’ about 90 mph to keep up with me. Good job!
    5. Are You Andy or Barney?
    6. I thought you had to be in relatively good physical condition to be a police officer.
    7. You’re not gonna check the trunk, are you?
    8. I pay your salary!
    9. Gee Officer! That’s terrific. The last officer only gave me a warning, too!
    10. Do you know why you pulled me over? Okay, just so one of us does.
    11. I was trying to keep up with traffic. Yes, I know there are no other cars around. That’s how far ahead of me they are.
    12. When the Officer says “Sir, your eyes look red, have you been drinking?” You probably should not respond with “Gee Officer, your eyes look glazed, have you been eating doughnuts?”
    13. Will you guys make up your mind! Yesterday the judge took my license away and now you want me to show it to you.

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