The lawyers are involved and if they had their way Danny Duffy would not have even spoken to reporters about a DUI arrest. Lawyers are paid to be protective, and there is no legal advantage in a 28-year-old millionaire athlete riffing about the most embarrassing and potentially dangerous mistake of his known public life.
But they coached him up enough that the Royals pitcher’s 253-word, 128-second statement never went more specific than using the word distraction three times. That’s a sign the lawyers think they can beat this, or at least plan to fight it, but whatever details are being delayed are not what’s most important.
This isn’t about a distraction, and it isn’t even about a once promising season leaking hope every day. This is about a young, valuable, and bright life that may need serious help.
He did not discuss the arrest in detail, or even directly, and that’s fine. Let the lawyers have this one. The important part of this fight starts now. For Duffy, for the Royals, and in real ways, for Kansas City.
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“Let the facts shake out,” Duffy said. “And please continue to have faith in me because I’m better than the distraction that’s at hand.”
Duffy left the room after his statement, but general manager Dayton Moore stuck around to answer questions in two different settings for a total of about 45 minutes.
He was open, at times raw, passionate throughout, but the most important takeaway isn’t what he said but what he didn’t.
Over and over and over — both in front of the cameras and not — Moore was asked some form of whether he believed this to be an isolated incident.
And, over and over and over — both in front of the cameras and not — he would not commit.
“I wouldn’t say that yet,” Moore said. “I don’t have all the facts.”
DUIs are issued every hour of every day, and they’re all concerning, all potentially dangerous, but this one carries some concerning markers, most notably that it occurred at 8 p.m. on a Sunday.
Duffy had an MRI on his injured elbow the day before, which Moore said came back clean. There is no reason to believe any medications he was prescribed would exacerbate the effects of alcohol, but it’s not uncommon for ballplayers to be on pain medication particularly this time of the season.
Duffy has always pushed limits. That does not make him rare among professional athletes. When he was younger, he partied, but nothing out of the normal range of ballplayers. A club source said nobody on staff, whether a coach or trainer, had any reason to suspect a problem.
But alcohol counselors often say nobody is ever caught the first time, and while that’s not literally true, it’s true enough that you get the point — it’s hard to believe a ballplayer was arrested for DUI in a fast-food drive-through early enough that the sun’s still up without a buildup.
“Something like this happens, there’s an issue,” Moore said. “There just is. It may be a big issue, it may be a small issue. I don’t know. But it’s behavior you don’t want to see.”
Moore mentioned a few times that Duffy was lucky, and he’s right. Too many of us — including me — have driven when we shouldn’t, and anyone who’s never been in an alcohol-related injury accident can be thankful for some level of good fortune.
But that only lasts so long. I want to be clear that the rest of this sentence is speculation, but it’s speculation from a place of compassion, because if there is something else at play with Duffy — addiction, depression, private personal struggles — the risks are going away only in proportion to how honestly and fully the causes are met.
Duffy has so much to give. He has built a great reservoir of goodwill in Kansas City and beyond, both in how he’s treated people privately and causes he’s taken up publicly.
But that’s not reason to dismiss this; it’s reason to meet it head-on.
Duffy’s popularity and public trust should not be a crutch to avoid whatever led up to his arrest; it should raise the stakes and importance of him getting this right.
Because he’s shown himself willing and able to give more than most. Not just as an entertainer, or athlete, or even representative of what Royals fans want their team to be. He has consistently been generous with his time and energy for people and causes that are in no position to pay him back.
The Royals are a better team when Duffy is himself, with a clear mind and spirit. More importantly, Kansas City is a better place, in ways less obvious because they’re away from a baseball field but more important because they can change lives.
He has made a major and careless mistake, which is at least one thing he has in common with a lot of us.
The next task is to turn around and attack whatever has chased him to this point. Because he needs to get better. He needs to get right. For himself, and for many others.