Morosi: baseball should ban alcohol in the clubhouse

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Busch stadium scoreboard.jpgFOX’s Jon Paul Morosi thinks it’s time for the 15 or so teams that continue to provide alcohol to players in the clubhouse after the game to ban the practice:

A universal ban on alcohol in major league clubhouses is long overdue.
Until every team removes beer from the working quarters of its
employees, each day on the baseball schedule will include the most
unsettling of possibilities – that alcohol consumed in a clubhouse
could contribute to injury or death on the road.

I struggle
to think of a good reason why baseball clubhouses should be viewed
differently than all the other workplaces where alcohol is forbidden.
The NFL gets this. Roger Goodell has a simple, easy-to-remember policy:
If you’re in the locker room, bus or airplane of an NFL team, you can’t
drink. Period.

While I’m not entirely unsympathetic to Morosi’s arguments, the examples he uses don’t help him out that much. Miguel Cabrera, Morosi’s lede, was drinking at a hotel after a game. Josh Hancock — the St. Louis Cardinals pitcher who was killed while driving drunk in 2007 and whom Morosi also cites — was drinking at a restaurant. The NFL’s policy may or may not be a good one in practice, but one wonders if it’s borne out of a real thought process or out of the fact the NFL seems hellbent on treating its players like children.

I’m not aware of any incidents involving ballplayers and alcohol that have been directly linked to beer in the clubhouse. Indeed, when several clubs moved to ban clubhouse beer following Hancock’s death many people around the game — I recall Joe Torre’s comments specifically — noted that beer at the ballpark wasn’t much of a problem at all.  Most players either have families they want to get home to following the game and/or adhere to conditioning regimes that simply aren’t compatible with pounding that Budweiser after a game. On the road everyone rides the bus or takes a cab.

As a lawyer, I can appreciate that fear of liability is what really drives this sort of thing, and it’s a legitimate fear. But if that’s something teams are truly interested in, they have to examine a bunch of their other alcohol policies as well, such as how much fans are served and when.  I’ve had the privilege of sitting in a luxury box before and I observed that if one were so inclined, one could sit in one of those bad boys and chase whiskey with beer for three solid hours without ever taking a dollar out of their pocket. Likewise, some teams’ “all-inclusive” seating areas — the cheap seats where you can get all-you-can-eat food — includes beer.

Where does that leave us? I can’t speak for others, but in my mind it leaves us with clubhouse bans being largely symbolic due to the fact that after-game beer hasn’t been a real problem and potentially hypocritical due to how freely the booze flows to others who leave the ballpark in their cars each night.

That doesn’t mean that banning clubhouse beer is a bad idea — if I owned a team and something happened with a player after the game I’d probably feel better if I knew he didn’t have a beer on the premises that night — but I don’t know that it’s a particularly useful one either.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.