MLB considers penalizing teams who break alcohol celebration rules
By David Brown, Baseball Writer
October 22, 2015
Major League Baseball players might be having too much fun out there, and the league is considering penalizing anyone who breaks the rules about bringing celebratory alcohol on to the field from the clubhouse and spraying fans and/or minors with it.
ESPN published an otherwise fun report Thursday about the history of alcohol in clinching celebrations — how far back it goes, players dousing each other with beer, champagne and other beverages. Within the story, something not so fun: MLB believes it’s all gotten out of hand.
In September, teams were made aware of postgame celebration guidelines in a memo sent from the league office. Among the policies, notes Pat Courtney, MLB’s chief communications officer, is this:
Teams have also been told not to take any alcoholic beverages onto the field and spray fans, some of whom may be minors.
“Our policy explicitly states that no alcohol is permitted outside of the clubhouse or at any time on the field of play, and that all celebrations involving the use of alcohol must take place within the clubhouse,” Courtney said. “We have MLB security on-site to enforce our rules. The commissioner determines the appropriate steps if any individuals violate our rules.”
The problem is, teams have been violating the rules, leaving the commissioner’s office to ponder those “appropriate steps.” Images of players drinking on the field and spraying fans with champagne have become commonplace this postseason, leading the league to contact the guilty parties and warn them that future incidents will result in discipline.
“Things have gone beyond where they’re supposed to,” said one league source. “You just have to turn on the TV and can see it.”
After the Mets beat the Cubs in Game 4 of the NLCS on Thursday, manager Terry Collins celebrated among the fans at Wrigley Field, bringing a champagne bottle with him. Collins isn’t the only guilty party. Jake Arrieta of the Cubs was photographed drinking champagne poured by his young son, and teammate Jon Lester got some help from his son spraying others with champagne. They are moments that probably will be cherished by Arrieta and Lester, and their kids (if they remember when they’re older). But not everyone is OK with it.
The kids belong to the ballplayers, who are adults and know best how to raise them, but the specific welfare of the Arrieta and Lester boys is probably not what MLB is concerned about. The image created by juxtaposing minors (even their own kids) and alcohol definitely makes some uncomfortable. There’s also the practical matter of ballplayers and staff potentially spraying alcohol on minors in the stands.
Amazing, but also against the rules, which aren’t limited to keeping the alcohol inside of the clubhose.
Policy states that teams must have non-alcoholic beverages available, and champagne must be limited to two bottles per player and must be used primarily for spraying each other, not drinking (it really says this). Beer is the only other kind of alcohol allowed, and only one kind of beer is permitted; Budweiser sponsors the clubhouse celebrations, you might have noticed. There also are reminders to celebrate responsibly, and that transportation is available to get players and staff home or to the team hotel.
The league is being protective of its image, but also doesn’t want to open itself up to fan lawsuits (“They sprayed me with alcohol and I didn’t want any!”), or pressure on or from sponsorship because some images don’t jibe with how they market their alcoholic products. It’s more than a little kid pouring champagne down his father’s throat in a fun and harmless moment. It’s political correctness with dollar signs attached.