Why is the Red Sox decision to ban alcohol from the clubhouse a news story? It’s a rhetorical question since its Bobby Valentine’s first step in cleaning up the lax atmosphere that helped doom the Sox last September. I think Valentine’s response, however, tells you that this is a practice that is largely accepted around MLB.
“It’s just what I’ve already done, except for when I was in Texas, I guess,” Valentine said. “I’m comfortable with it that way.”
The Red Sox are the 19th team to implement the “no drinking in the clubhouse” rule.
“What would happen if they got traded to St. Louis? Would they refuse the trade? Or New York? Or one of the other 19 teams, or however many teams there are? I don’t know,” Valentine added. “I doubt it. I don’t know what kind of pushback you could get.”
I guess my question is what’s up with the other 11 teams? The clubhouse is a place of work where players are paid to prepare for the main event: the game that night. Considering the average big league salary is $3 million dollars, these are not low leverage retail clerks or part-time baggers.
Regardless, the clubhouse shouldn’t be any different than an office or other place of work. The grocery bagger or checkout clerk will lose their job if they have a bottle of Budweiser open while they perform their duties. Show up to work intoxicated anywhere and you will lose your job. Companies throughout the country have substance abuse rules that sometimes require you to take a drug test for employment. Drive a company vehicle or operate machinery and you may be subjected to random drug testing throughout your employment.
“We’re not here to drink,” said David Ortiz. “We’re here to play baseball. You know what I’m saying? This ain’t no bar. This is an organization, a place that needs a lot of athleticism. Alcohol has nothing to do with that. People have alcohol in their houses. If you want to drink it, drink at home.”
I have worked for companies that require drug tests anytime you get into an accident with a company vehicle. If you show up to a corporate event intoxicated or drink too much at said events, it can be grounds for termination.
Some of the purist will argue that baseball players drank beer and spit tobacco since the early days of the game. It’s a children’s game played by adults. Thousands of people drink beer while they play softball on Sunday’s during the summer. Times have changed and there is too much at stake in modern MLB.
The fact remains the Red Sox are a major company. Their employees are handsomely paid thanks to fans that shell out top-dollar for tickets to their games. It’s ok to have fun at team functions, the hotel or on your down time. The clubhouse should be about working out, focusing on the task at hand, and using the time as productively as possible to be the best at your craft as possible. Alcohol doesn’t help anyone be productive at anything. Remember, these guys aren’t playing the game for fun; it’s their job.
If it were up to me, I would collectively bargain penalties for player and coaches convicted of DUI’s. I am sure it would never happen, nor do I think it’s legal if the players are driving their own vehicles. I do wonder, however, if you made it a standard part of the player contract if that could be prevented. Again, it would have to be collectively-bargained (good luck), and I doubt the Players Association would be open to such a clause. They were, however, in agreement that players shouldn’t chew tobacco on the field or dugout. I think that’s far more benign than anything that results from alcohol abuse. That point is, you went after tobacco, why not address the real issue that has become a problem in baseball: alcoholism.
Check out more about the Red Sox banning alcohol in their clubhouse at MLB.com