Today’s article: “Smoke Screen,” Dirk Hayhurst, Sports on Earth
To first address the issue of MLB players smoking copious amounts of weed: that fact in itself does not surprise me all that much. You’re young, (probably) rich and have way too much free time on your hands – these are the conditions that will lead to casual drug use. One would think the prospect of risking your career to smoke pot might discourage usage, but when so few people are caught it’s probably easy to rationalize it to yourself – “It’s never going to be me.”
What I found fascinating were the details in this story. The green room inside an MLB park, where you could smoke inside the stadium. Triple-A dudes lighting up before a game. Pillow cases full of pot. I’ll gobble up insight like this all day; not necessarily because it’s incredibly salacious, but because it’s a fascinating window into the lifestyles of professional baseball players, one we hardly ever have access to. I also didn’t know about the pot policy in the MLB. Three strikes and…a $35,000 fine?! They punish flopping more harshly in the NBA than they do pot in the MLB. Good on you, Bud Selig.
As far as this particular loophole goes, it seems a little silly to call it a loophole. It seems like it would take an extremely specific set of circumstances to enact it: a top prospect near or at the level of ability that is necessary to play in the Majors, and enough of a marijuana problem that it could be a risk to keep them down there. It also seems like a massive risk on the part of the top prospect. I don’t think this “loophole” is vast enough to actually be one worth closing.
But I do think it raises the interesting question of whether MLB teams ought to be testing their own players. Hayhurst, the author of the article, seems to think that pot may be of benefit to some player’s performances. I’m not so sure I agree. Ingesting any substance on a regular basis will take an undeniable physical toll, as well as a mental one. Marijuana sapping motivation is an old, tired trope, but I think it has some truth. I know that if I were the executive of an MLB team, I wouldn’t want my million-dollar assets smoking all of the time.
First, anyone wondering who Hayhurst is talking about in his weed-robbery story: it’s Evan Longoria, David Price, and Reid Brignac of the Tampa Bay Rays. And if the xeroxed similarities between his account and ESPN’s aren’t enough evidence for you, take a look at Hayhurst’s minor league career. In 2011, the year said robbery occurred, Hayhurst played for the Durham Bulls. That’s Tampa’s Triple-A affiliate. My guess is the “pillow-case-sized bag of weed” was Longoria’s and my evidence for that is the picture for today’s exchange.
Mike, you’re right and wrong. Yes, anyone could’ve guessed MLB players burn trees. But that’s not predictable because of the living conditions you mentioned. It’s predictable because, as the societal stigma around weed fades, we’re learning that, like, everyone smokes pot. Maybe that’s just a Washingtonian thing to think, but if our home state is any indication, there are a lot of people toking up around the country. I live with 60 adult-aged guys; 58 of them smoke weed. At least one of my UW professors each semester has referenced his or her recreational use of the drug. My boss lights up on the job, every single day. I remember a buddy of ours once telling me that many of our friends’ parents smoked weed. My sheltered, high-school self scoffed at this notion; my current self knows it to be true from firsthand experience. When I learn that someone indulges in the green nowadays, it’s honestly no more astonishing than learning they drink, and probably less so than hearing someone smokes tobacco.
I know that’s all anecdotal, and comes from time spent in one of the Union’s two legal-weed states no less. And national surveys suggest pot usage isn’t as prevalent as I might think (though people obviously can and do lie on those, and what does “regular” marijuana usage mean, anyways?). Still, I don’t think anyone is surprised to hear of another’s weed-smoking these days, be it a neighborhood teacher or pro baseball player.
Glad you brought up how intriguing this article was merely for its glimpse of an oft-obscured lifestyle. Like you said, Hayhurst could’ve written about how mundane and ordinary day-to-day MLB life is, and I still would’ve been glued. I don’t know why, though I don’t really care right now, because I’m just thinking about how awesome that fact is for people like Hayhurst. Not to say that Hayhurst is a poor writer by any means, but he could be, and still, he’d have an easier time finding a job than many, many talented storytellers. Once you’ve been on the inside, whether that specific place is an MLB clubhouse or Wall Street executive office, you’ll forever have outsiders whimpering to hear your tales. We don’t care if you can tell those stories well, or even if they’re interesting stories at all – we just want to know what the fuck goes on in rich peoples’ lives. I envy guys like guys like Hayhurst; not because they exploit how disgustingly indulgent we all are, but because I can’t.
I really don’t know how regular pot use affects performance. You probably can use it too frequently. But then again, and as Hayhurst mentions, I’d much rather my star is getting stoned on the reg than drinking himself into a fucked-up oblivion every night. Objectively speaking, weed’s not as physically harmful as tobacco or alcohol, despite what our social norms might tell you. And that fact is also why I think it’s stupid that the MLB penalizes marijuana use at all. On the bench, chewing a substance that makes your mouth look like this? Bud don’t care! In the locker room, consuming a liquid that leads to nearly 90,000 deaths per year? Fine with Selig, just make sure you save him a few Miller Lites! Smoke a joint and feel like going full-Golden Corral on the clubhouse spread? GIVE THE COMMISSIONER YOUR MONEY RIGHT NOW.
Question, Mike. Who do you think the MLB’s biggest stoners are? Here’s my list:
1. Tim Lincecum
2. Nick Swisher
Swisher is a notorious “goofball.” That’s the socially acceptable term for “stonebag.”
3. R.A. Dickey
Nothing says “I’m ripped” like throwing a knuckleball. A stoner’s favorite activity is not moving, and knuckleballers get by with exerting less effort than any other single type of athlete. The pitch also appeals to the high mind; just look at that spin, man.
4. David Ortiz
I was split on whether Papi is the type of guy to come to party with a personal 30-rack or double-digit blunts. But I realized that’s stupid, because Papi brings both. Dude rages.
“August in Kansas City is hotter than two rats in a fucking wool sock.” – Ichiro
“He said ‘Woof, woof, woof,” which meant ‘Stay, stay, stay.'” – Ichiro (on explaining how his dog convinced him to remain in Seattle)
“I hope he arouses the fire that’s dormant in the innermost recesses of my soul. I plan to face him with the zeal of a challenger.” – Ichiro (on facing Dice-K)
Five biggest stoners, let’s see. Yes, obviously, Tim Lincecum has to be in the discussion for #1. Somehow, Tim Lincecum’s marijuana usage has become a running joke in this blog’s short-lived existence, but yeah, come on. The physical appearance, the way he carries himself, the allusion to smoking a ton of pot after throwing his recent no-hitter (can’t find the video, but trust me, it happened): it’s tough to rank anyone besides Timmy #1. It’s possible, though, that he is simply the most visible stoner. As a sleeper pick for the actual biggest stoner in the MLB, I’m gonna go with Jason Vargas. Look at that guy. He’s got the droopy eyed, vaguely disconnected look on his face at all times. Plus, your top pick has to be a starting pitcher; they’ve got five or six days a week in which their only duty is to run around in the outfield for a few minutes. As for the rest of my rankings:
3. Sean Doolittle
4. R.A. Dickey (definitely came up with the idea to throw a knuckleball when he was stoned)
5. Jered Weaver
Felix probably doesn’t even know what weed is.
Anyway, onto less important matters. It’s effectively fact that pot usage is less harmful for the body than excessive drinking or chewing tobacco. And if I was coming from the player’s perspective, I’d think any ban on pot would be absolutely ridiculous. From the employer’s perspective, though, I could understand how they’d want to discourage use of any substance, regardless of the likelihood that it leads to dismal performance. But it’s not like they could ban alcohol, which is far more dangerous, so, I don’t know. I think it’s a tough one from the MLB’s perspective.
Couldn’t agree with you more on this: “I envy guys like Hayhurst; not because they exploit how disgustingly indulgent we all are, but because I can’t.” Not to turn this into a bitching and moaning session about our own lives, but I’m extremely envious of their ability to captivate an audience with or without talent. You can have all of the talent in the world, but if your stories aren’t worth telling, then no one’s going to care. It’s a cold realization to come to, as a writer, that nobody really gives a shit about your writing. They care about the subject of your story and the way the story unfolds. They care about the content of the story, pretty much. They don’t care about your lede, or the structure of your piece, or the discipline to avoid “to be” verbs. I mean, I’d like to think it matters subconsciously, but no one will notice, unless they’re a writer themselves. Guess that turned more bitchy and moany than I realized, but yeah, cold world.