February 25, 2012
Saying it's what he's "always done" as a manager, new Boston Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine told his players that alcohol would not be allowed in the team's clubhouse, or on the last flight of road trips, this season.
The new rules come after a tumultuous 2011 season that ended in collapse on the field and embarrassment for pitchers Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey for drinking beer in the clubhouse during games in which they weren't playing.
Well, Terry Francona is gone and there's a new sheriff in town. Via the Associated Press:
"It's just what I've always done, except for when I was in Texas, I guess," Valentine said when asked why he banned booze. "I'm comfortable with it that way."
He's the man in charge of the clubhouse and should get to set up the rules. Ideally, the players would police themselves and act responsibly on their own, but some prominent Red Sox didn't do that last season. Now, everyone gets punished — and it is a form of punishment for responsible players.
These days, many workplaces include opportunities to drink on the job site — some even during the workday, but certainly afterward. But the players' reaction to Valentine's rules, at least on the record, was supportive. David Ortiz, for example:
"We're not here to drink. We're here to play baseball," the slugger said. "This ain't no bar. If you want to drink, drink at home."
Funny and reasonable-sounding. But when 25 guys basically live with each other for six months (and that's just the regular season), being able to sit in the clubhouse and talk shop over a few brews is a nice way to relax for all of the reasons you might think: It helps players unwind after an intense ballgame, it promotes camaraderie, it breaks up the monotony. Old-school ballplayers, many of them, would tell you it's good for the team.
Other major league teams ban alcohol similarly. The policies are set up by each individual club; they change from manager to manager and from season to season. And not having beer in the clubhouse won't necessarily preclude your team from winning the World Series.
In 2007, the St. Louis Cardinals banned alcohol after pitcher Josh Hancock died after crashing his car following a night of drinking that started in the Cards' clubhouse. Quite understandable, given the horror, trauma and likely feelings of guilt. Five years later, the ban remains.
Though he hasn't managed in the majors for 10 years, Valentine — who more recently managed in Japan — seems to feel such a policy works for him. He doesn't want beer to be available and the Red Sox abused their privileges last season.
And yet, it's not necessarily a solution, or even a good idea, for every clubhouse. If I'm a Red Sox player who didn't hit the booze during games, I don't like being made to feel untrustworthy. Will that make me play worse? Hopefully not. Probably not, by itself. And you don't have to like your manager. And you don't have to like all of your teammates.
But it would be nice if you could trust each other.
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