Note: I asked my friend and public relations and crisis-management expert Len Gutman to provide a glimpse into how the Tigers should — and likely will — handle the Miguel Cabrera situation from a communications perspective. Though Len, a San Diego native, is still stinging from the outcome of the 1984 World Series, he was kind enough to outline the Tigers’ approach.
Admit it … when you read about Miguel Cabrera’s arrest this morning you probably chuckled a little about the whole swigging a bottle of scotch in front of the police part. Of course there’s nothing funny about driving under the influence, and if in fact Cabrera was drunk while he was driving, he should be subject to the full extent of the law. Clearly Cabrera has a drinking problem, but what are the public relations implications for the Tigers?
As a public relations professional (and baseball fan) my advice to the Tigers would be to make a short statement like this: “All of us in the Tigers community are troubled after hearing of Miguel Cabrera’s arrest this morning. We don’t know all the details at this time, but we’ve been in contact with Miguel and have offered to help in any way we can. Right now our main concern is with Miguel’s health. Obviously we want the best for him and hope he can quickly return to spring training to prepare for the 2011 season.”
End of story from a PR perspective.
Let’s face it, baseball has a storied history when it comes to drunks. Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle were all said to be drunks — and all are hall of famers. Tony LaRussa, arguably one of the best major league managers ever, has had his share of alcohol-related run ins with the law. Wade Boggs could party with the best of them.
The truth is, baseball fans have a high threshold for drunks. David Wells claims he was “half-drunk” when he pitched a perfect game for the Yankees in 1998. And what did it do for his reputation? Did the Yankees admonish him? Did his fans abandon him? Nope — it made him a legend.
Cabrera’s image is what it is. A few weeks in rehab would probably do him some good, but either way fans have a short memory as long as nobody gets hurt. There aren’t too many fans in Philadelphia cursing Michael Vick these days. But could you imagine what the atmosphere in Philly would have been for Vick if he didn’t have an MVP season?