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.

Nationals activate Stephen Strasburg off the disabled list

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The Nationals officially activated Stephen Strasburg off the 10-day disabled list, the team announced Saturday. They’ll pencil him into the starting lineup for their second set against the Padres on Saturday night. Strasburg is expected to assume Max Scherzer‘s roster spot after Scherzer landed on the disabled list with neck inflammation prior to Friday’s series opener. No other roster moves appear to be necessary for the time being.

Strasburg, 28, is finally looking stable after serving a 26-day stint on the DL with a right elbow nerve impingement. It’s the first serious injury he’s sustained since last August, when he missed 20 days with inflammation in his right elbow, and one the Nationals are taking seriously as they juggle multiple stints for their elite starters. He’ll enter Saturday’s competition with a 10-3 record in 20 starts, supplemented by a 3.25 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 through 121 2/3 innings.

Elbow issues are nothing to be played around with, but Strasburg’s performance in his lone rehab outing relieved any residual apprehension the Nats might have had about his activation this weekend. He tossed 66 pitches for High-A Potomac, hitting 95 MPH with his heater and logging three hits, one run, one walk and five strikeouts over five innings. Club manager Dusty Baker is hoping for a similarly dominant start against the Padres, and told reporters that he’ll hold Strasburg to a performance count as the righty works his way back to a full-time gig.

MLB umpires will wear white wristbands to protest “escalating verbal attacks”

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The World Umpires Association is dissatisfied with the punishment meted out to Tigers’ second baseman Ian Kinsler following his lengthy criticism of MLB umpire Angel Hernandez on Tuesday. Kinsler’s comments were sparked by a confrontation on Monday night, when the infielder was ejected after arguing balls and strikes with Hernandez in the fifth inning.

“It has to do with changing the game. He’s changing the game. He needs to find another job, he really does,” Kinsler told reporters. “Candidly, leave the game. No one wants you behind the plate anymore. No one in this game wants you behind the plate any more, none of the players.”

Kinsler was fined an undisclosed amount for the remarks, but did not receive a suspension. Hernandez, meanwhile, returned to cover second base the next day and appeared to resolve the conflict with a brief conversation and a handshake.

Whether or not the comments speak to underlying truths about Major League Baseball’s flawed umpiring system, they clearly got under the skin of the World Umpires Association. The union released a statement Saturday condemning Major League Baseball for choosing to overlook the “escalating attacks” on the men in blue:

This week, a player publicly and harshly impugned the character and integrity of Angel Hernandez – a veteran umpire who has dedicated his career to baseball and the community. The verbal attack on Angel denigrated the entire MLB umpiring staff and is unacceptable.

The Office of the Commissioner has failed to address this and other escalating attacks on umpires. The player who denigrated Hernandez publicly said he thought he would be suspended. Instead got far more lenient treatment – a fine. He shrugged that off and told reporters he has ‘no regrets’ about his offensive statements calling for an end to Hernandez’s career.

The Office of the Commissioner’s lenient treatment to abusive player behavior sends the wrong message to players and managers. It’s ‘open season’ on umpires, and that’s bad for the game.

We are held accountable for our performance at every game. Our most important duty is to protect the integrity of the game, and we will continue to do that job every day. But the Office of the Commissioner must protect our integrity when we are unfairly attacked simply for doing our jobs.

Starting Saturday, umpires will don white wristbands in protest of the Commissioner’s lack of support, and will continue to do so until their concerns are addressed.

Kinsler’s comments may have been in poor taste, but given the established in-game ramifications for challenging an umpire’s decisions, it’s difficult to tell where the union wants MLB to start drawing the line. If players already face ejections for questioning the parameters of a strike zone (often immediate ones, without any room for a productive or non-confrontational discussion), it seems unfair to hit them with suspensions for venting their frustrations after the game. Until Major League Baseball finds a way to start automating calls, however, the “human element” of the game will continue to pose problems for players and umpires alike.