(Originally posted: 3:11 p.m. Updated throughout: 7:15 p.m.)
For the past two days, the Braves have been a staple on TMZ, with storylines about a coach’s alleged homophobia and a pitcher’s alleged drunk driving and street racing. Suddenly, they sit uncomfortably in the same talk show green room with Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen and, “Sara Evans’ Ex: She Surrounds Our Kids with Drugs!”
And you thought Dan Uggla hitting .180 was a concern.
Derek Lowe has been charged with DUI and reckless driving. He allegedly was racing his Porsche through Buckhead Thursday night. This came a day after pitching coach Roger McDowell was accused of spewing anti-gay slurs and inappropriate comments to some fans at a recent game in San Francisco.
Lowe was at Turner Field Friday night and apologized. He will make his scheduled start Sunday, the Braves rationalizing that decision with the standard explanation of letting the legal process run its course (perhaps down Peachtree).
McDowell was not at the stadium. He has been placed on “administrative leave,” which doesn’t sound any worse than maternity leave. I guess the Braves don’t want to use the word “suspension” yet. At the very least, we can be certain Lowe won’t be driving McDowell to sensitivity classes.
Now, does any of this mean the Braves’ franchise is morphing into something between the Cincinnati Bengals and “Celebrity Rehab”? Hardly.
But it would be nice to see both the team and Major League Baseball take these matters seriously, rather than merely dismiss them with players, general managers and coaches making contrite statements and explaining that everybody makes mistakes, so let’s just move on.
I’m not trying to bury Lowe and McDowell. I’m not suggesting they be thrown out of baseball. But how is it that MLB allows Cincinnati pitcher Mike Leake to make a start two days after he’s arrested for shoplifting? And yes, while Lowe will get his due process — and likely eventually will plea his charges down to something resembling an expensive parking ticket — isn’t it just a little weird that he will take the mound Sunday, three days after being arrested and spending the night in jail?
Did Lowe ever consider skipping his start?
“No,” he said.
The Braves and MLB are moving slowly with McDowell. That’s understandable. There are multiple witnesses. Details are varied. One of the parties has turned this into a sideshow, bringing his 9-year-old twin daughters to a news conference the other day as props. He also has hired noted attorney Gloria Allred, who is fresh off representing a porn star and a kindergarten teacher for scoldings of Tiger Woods.
That woman has headline GPS.
But we know something happened because McDowell already has admitted, “I apologize to everyone for my actions.” Those aren’t the words of an innocent man.
He needs to be hit with a suspension, and hit hard. The absolute minimum: 30 games without pay, a significant fine and court-mandated Saying Stupid Things Rehab. If even half what has been alleged is true, most of us would be fired.
Commissioner Bud Selig just suspended Ozzie Guillen two games for Tweeting. Is he really going to go lightly on McDowell?
General manager Frank Wren was predictably guarded Friday. They are still sorting out details, and he acknowledged, “The commissioner is taking the lead on this.”
When asked if there was any chance McDowell could lose his job, Wren said: “I’m not going to get into any final determination of anything at this point.”
Asked the same question, manager Fredi Gonzalez said: “No, and it shouldn’t.”
Fredi didn’t get the memo.
This isn’t merely about us living in politically correct times. Baseball is still dealing with the beating of a Giants fan in Los Angeles. The NBA fined Kobe Bryant $100,000 for homophobic slurs. Feelings are a bit raw.
The Braves recognize their brand has been damaged. They haven’t been hit like this since John Rocker spoke so eloquently about the 7 Train to Flushing.
Said Lowe, “It’s been a rough couple of days for this organization and clearly I have a lot to do with that.”
He does. And such actions should not go unpunished.
By Jeff Schultz
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