Players in uniform shall not address or mingle with spectators, nor sit in the stands before, during, or after a game. No manager, coach or player shall address any spectator before or during a game. Players of opposing teams shall not fraternize at any time while in uniform.
Well, good for Rule 3.09. It’s still stupid, even if it’s in the rule book. I spoke this morning to Joe Sheehan — who will be our guest on HBT Daily later today — and he said that the rule is an old one, borne of a fear that players will conspire to fix games, which was not uncommon back in eighteen-dickety-seven through 1919. Not so much of a concern these days, and certainly divorced from the notion of pretending that baseball players on opposing teams are blood rivals.
Which, according to Lance Berkman, who got a glimpse of the Red Sox-Yankees thing last year and is now heading into Chicago for the first time as a Cardinal, is certainly not the case:
“The fans and the media are the ones that really get that fired up about it,” Berkman said. “I mean for us, obviously we want to win, they’re a tough team. But it’s not like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a blood match.'”
I think that, to the extent you see animosity among rivals it’s a personal thing. There were some Red Sox players who really didn’t care for Alex Rodriguez a few years ago. There are likely some Cardinals who don’t like Carlos Zambrano at all. But “Red Sox vs. Yankees” and “Cubs vs. Cardinals” is more of an abstract concept. Sure, the competition is fierce, because all competition at the professional level is fierce. And yes, if there are serious stakes in play, the competition can be ratcheted up a notch.
But the tribalism if “Cubs bad, Cardinals good!” just isn’t the kind of thing that resonates in big league ballplayers. And I’m fine with that.