We’re all familiar with the scene after baseball teams clinch postseason spots. Champagne everywhere. Beer poured over heads that are guarded only by goggles. Cigars lit and puffed frequently. Laughter. Cheering.
It’s all very cool and all very innocent, but not to an addict.
So Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, who spent his first couple years as a professional baseball player fighting battles with drugs and alcohol, sat on the sidelines as his club celebrated its first playoff berth since 1999 on Saturday in Oakland.
According to the Associated Press, Hamilton changed quickly into street clothes after the win and slipped into a training room as his teammates enjoyed the alcoholic beverage scene.
“It’s exciting,” Hamilton said about clinching the division. “It’s a
proud day in Texas. It was great to be on the field and with the guys
you’ve been in the trenches with.”
But he wasn’t going to put himself in a compromising situation. He wasn’t going to tempt himself with beer and champagne, as exciting as winning the AL West might have been.
Hamilton has been out of the Rangers’ starting lineup since September 4 because of two small fractures in his rib cage. He is making progress, though, and hoping to return for the final three games of the regular season. The MVP candidate was batting an incredible .361/.414/.635 with 31 homers and 97 RBI before going down.
Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke with the media today. Naturally, he was asked various questions about the landscape of the sport, given that superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper remain unsigned as spring training begins. Per The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli, Manfred said that he thinks the free agent market will begin to move once spring training exhibition games begin. Manfred also said that Harper’s camp suggesting that he wants $400 million back in 2016 was “an impediment” to discussions throughout the offseason.
No word on why Machado is also as yet unsigned, as he did not have a reported $400 million ask.
Manfred’s job is to look out for ownership, so it’s not surprising to see him point the finger at Harper. Consider:
Manfred’s comment comes just months after the Red Sox won 108 regular season games and the World Series with baseball’s largest payroll. And ongoing evidence that there is indeed a positive correlation between dollars spent and team success. We often hear justification for tanking/rebuilding because the Cubs and Astros did it and won championships because of it. When the Red Sox use financial muscle to win a championship, it’s crickets.
Manfred didn’t stop there, however.
An easy way to get baseball’s “glow” back would be for two of the game’s best and most popular players to be in uniform playing games. The first spring training exhibition game will be played on February 22, so it’s not looking like that’s going to happen anytime soon.
Baseball’s “glow” would also come back if more teams were actively trying to win. Instead, one-third of the league is “rebuilding” or otherwise coasting on revenue-sharing. For fans of the Rangers, Orioles, Royals, and Marlins — to name a few — the outcomes of their favorite teams’ seasons have already been decided, so what is there to get excited about?