Bye Bye Boggs: No beer in the baseball clubhouse
Bob Nightengale’s story in today’s USA Today is a frank discussion of something that clued-in baseball fans have known about, and been skeptical of, for a very long time: baseball players drink an exorbitant amount of beer.
Or, at least, they used to. According to Nightengale, the formerly common practice of baseball players drinking in the clubhouse after home games or on the plane ride home after a road trip has been slowly phased out. What was once the status quo is now just a dust-covered memory of baseball’s passing tradition.
Reaction seems mixed, because the act of drinking a few (or “a many,” which seems to have been much more common) brought camaraderie and togetherness to a baseball locker room. Now, players blame the drying of the suds and the presence of social media and omnipresent digital screens for the lack of this bond:
"Nobody hangs out anymore," San Francisco Giants reliever Scott Proctor says. "You used to sit down and have beers in the clubhouse, and it’s not even part of the game anymore. That’s what I miss."
I’m currently reading Francona: The Red Sox Years, which I expected to be much more scandalous but has instead been rather tame in its takedown of the Red Sox recent glory run. Drinking in the clubhouse is characterized as tempered, but accepted, so long as players acted maturely.
The problem is, too often, players did not. Players often glorified drinking into a hero’s job (see: Wade Boggs: 64 beers on a flight) but even worse, too often got behind the wheel of a car. ESPN’s Keith Law has been an extremely vocal critic of baseball’s lax punishments for DUI:
Another baseball DUI. But hey, let’s test Jose Bautista’s urine for steroids another dozen times
But the thing that always mystified me was that baseball has become known for advanced analytics and the reams of data that front offices use to get an edge. Teams pay strength and conditioning coaches hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to keep players in peak fitness and build endurance over the season. Are you telling me that the post-game food spread can’t be optimized? If you’ve dieted, you’ve told yourself that beer is just empty calories. Removing it from the locker room and replacing it with nutrient-rich foods should, reasonably, help a team win more games by keeping players less drunk, improving sleep, temperament, and health.
I’m not a teetotaler. If I could, I’d be drinking right now while I wrote this. But I’m not paid millions to perform athletic feats, and I don’t research my efficiency to the second as baseball teams do. I’m happy to see baseball’s beer culture go away. I don’t think the sport should lack fun, and baseball’s characters shouldn’t be restrained. But it shouldn’t take 64 beers for them to get there.