Alcohol and athletics do not mix
You inherit a team that set a baseball record by blowing a nine-game lead last September. Afterward you hear the disgust over some of your new players spending time in the clubhouse during that meltdown chasing down their fried chicken with beer.
So if you're Bobby Valentine, you issue an executive order when you become manager of those Boston Red Sox. You say alcohol is banned in the clubhouse and on the last plane flight of road trips to promote a policy of no drinking and driving for those heading home.
Makes sense to me.
It doesn't to Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon.
"We're not the Boston Red Sox," Maddon said to the Tampa Bay Times, revealing that he wouldn't ban alcohol from the Rays clubhouse, likely because of this: His Rays join the Yankees as the Red Sox's primary adversaries in the American League East, and Maddon is noted for his quirky ways of motivation.
For one, Maddon wants his words to rattle around the heads of Valentine and the rest of the Red Sox throughout the season, especially during Rays games. For another, Maddon wants to affect the thinking of his own players in regard to personal responsibility.
"I've said it a hundred times," Maddon told reporters this spring. "For me, at the end of the day, I'd much prefer our players making good decisions, and if you're of legal age, and the game is over, and you've sweated and lost a bunch of pounds, and you want to sit down and have a beer, I see nothing wrong with that."
Actually, something is wrong with that. It goes beyond the perception that Boston's chicken-eating and beer-guzzling players weren't exactly into every pitch down the stretch in 2011 when their team dropped 20 of their last 27 games. Alcohol and athletics don't mix. We've seen everything from the drinking-related death of NHL player Dan Snyder after teammate Dany Heatley lost control of his speeding Ferrari to the DUI manslaughter arrest of NFL wide receiver Donte Stallworth.
That said, beer and baseball have been synonymous forever, but not necessarily in a negative way.
You can start with the ballparks.
Busch Stadium in St. Louis was named after the local family that was into Clydesdales and breweries when they weren't running the Cardinals. You have Miller Park for the (ahem) Brewers, and those in charge of the Miller Brewing Company helped make Milwaukee famous.
Can't forget about Coors Field in Colorado.
While growing up in the Midwest, it seemed that every team had a beer connection, especially when it came to advertising.
From the Land of Sky Blue Waters,
From the land of pines' lofty balsams,
Comes the beer refreshing,
Hamm's the beer refreshing.
As soon as you heard that jingle during the 1960s -- proceeded by the beating of tom-toms -- you knew the Cubs or the White Sox were on the air.
Those Hamm's commercials even featured a bear named Sascha leading a bunch of other black-and-white cartoon animals in dancing. And given the mostly sorry state of Chicago baseball in those years, Sascha was the highlight of many of the broadcasts.
Not coincidentally, after the Stroh Brewery company grew into prominence in its native Detroit, it sponsored the Tigers for years. Then there were the Reds, who were associated with more than a few breweries that once dominated Cincinnati for nearly a century.
Speaking of the Reds, I remember covering games at old Riverfront Stadium during the mid-1970s, when players and coaches openly drank some of Cincinnati's finest -- or Milwaukee's, Detroit's, St. Louis' or anybody else's -- in the clubhouse after games.
The Reds weren't alone. Such beer drinking for all to see was as common around the Major Leagues back then as infield grounders.
Now teams have hidden lounges, and that's fine.
But this isn't: When the overindulging of alcohol leads to tragedy.
You had the drunk-driving death in 2007 of Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock. Less than 12 hours after he'd thrown three innings of relief in a loss, he was killed when his SUV slammed into the back of a tow truck on the side of the road. According to a medical examiner, Hancock's blood-alcohol content was twice the legal limit under Missouri's DUI law.
Fourteen years before Hancock's death, there were the deaths of Indians pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews during Spring Training in Florida. Crews was piloting a boat at a high rate of speed during an off-day fishing trip that also included teammate Bob Ojeda, and Crews slammed into a dock. According to legal officials, Crews was legally drunk.
Another example is the DUI arrest of Tony La Russa, the former Cardinals manager found sleeping inside his vehicle at a signal light. And there were more than a few booze-related issues before and after the legendary ones involving the Yankees of Mickey, Billy and Whitey, when society mostly giggled at such things.
Society stopped giggling a while back. As a result it doesn't matter that Terry Francona -- the manager at the helm during Boston's collapse last September -- tried to protect his image this week, claiming Valentine's alcohol ban is "a PR move."
But the bottom line came from Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who told reporters, "We're not here to drink. We're here to play baseball. This ain't no bar. If you want to drink, drink at home."
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.