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.

How Yu Darvish tipped his pitches during the World Series

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You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.

Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.

Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.

Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.