In today's Game Thread, O's Fan in L.A. noted Kevin Gausman chewing dip on the MASN broadcast. Given that dip is banned in the Minor Leagues - it has been since 1993 - it's very likely that this is something that he's picked up either in the last week since coming to Baltimore, or in Spring Training. For me at least, it's upsetting to see a fresh-faced 22-year old kid, famed for his love of eating donuts between innings, pick up a habit like this. And it reminds me of a question I've had for a while: isn't it time for MLB to ban chewing tobacco?
First, I find it absurd that any sport would be associated with tobacco use of any kind. It's well-documented that chewing tobacco is just as dangerous as smoking it, and MLB players are sending out the message that dip is an OK thing for athletes to use, or a good alternative to cigarettes. It's pretty easy to see players chewing it on virtually any TV you'll see on TV - the huge wad in the player's cheek looks quite different to gum, and you can also see the tins of it in players' back pockets as they run. We would *never* allow a sports broadcast showing athletes smoking, or even showing strong evidence of them smoking. So why do we allow images of them chewing?
Second, as the Gausman case may illustrate, when it's part of the culture of the game so that young players are taking it up under the influence of others, banning it has the opportunity to prevent, over the long run, thousands of young players from taking up a deadly and dangerous habit.
Some people say that dip helps them to perform. But this can cut in both directions. Nicotine is a stimulant which can make a player jittery or hyped-up. I remember noticing several years ago a sudden worsening in former O's closer George Sherrill's performance correlated with his beginning to always appear with a huge wad of dip in his mouth. With someone like Gausman, who has been doing precisely what he needs to be doing (including showing pinpoint control) in the minors without dip, I would rather not have a new bunch of chemicals affecting his body as he tries to adjust to the majors.
Of course for those who are genuinely addicted there should be some process of support in tandem with a ban to allow them to adjust. But we need to stop these addictions before they start by cutting this problem off at the source.