John McGrath

John McGrath: Hold the Champagne, please, until a World Series is at stake

The American League champion Kansas City Royals did what they do best Friday night.

I’m not talking about Lorenzo Cain’s electro-charged sprint from first base to home on a single, scoring the go-ahead run in the Royals’ series-clinching 4-3 victory over Toronto. (Although that was pretty cool.)

I’m talking about the clubhouse party that followed, when the theme of the night turned from racing Cain to raising Cain. Teammates sprayed Champagne on each other with the giddiness of revelers new to the ritual.

Turns out, it was the Royals’ third bubbly breakout of the season, and their seventh over the past 13 months. The first one — on Sept. 26, 2014 — was held to commemorate Kansas City’s snapping of a 31-year playoff drought with their clinching of a wild-card spot.

Another bash ensued after they won the wild-card game, then another after the division series, and still another after the league championship series. The Royals avoided the wild-card game this year, but were able to celebrate their AL Central title instead.

Seven parties in 13 months, and to think: None has been associated with the sport’s ultimate achievement, a World Series championship.

As one who believes Champagne is something that’s meant to be sipped for a toast and not shaken and sprayed during the baseball equivalent of a toga party, I usually find myself wincing at the waste, uh, mismanagement. And there’s something about the sight of plastic curtains — installed in the clubhouse to protect the players’ street clothes — that deprives the event of authenticity.

Nowadays goggles are worn, because Champagne is carbonated and — who knew? — can be uneasy on the eyes.

Between the curtains and the goggles, moments that once packed a mood of spontaneous combustion seem a bit staged.

“I think the celebrations are unattractive, in large measure because they involve alcohol,” former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent told The New York Times in 2010. “It’s ritualized, and I think it’s silly.”

Fair points, but I don’t recall Vincent taking a particularly vigilant stand against the beer companies whose sponsorships, on TV and radio and stadium signage, have been worth billions of dollars to baseball.

As long as it’s OK to sell beverages containing alcohol at games, and advertise beverages containing alcohol at games, it should be OK for players to pour beverages containing alcohol over each other in the clubhouse.

My problem with the Royals convening seven times in 13 months for “ritualistic and silly” celebrations is about jealousy.

It’s October and they’re loving life — definition of loving life: a bottomless ice chest wheeled into the clubhouse every 10 days or so — while the rest of us are challenged to recall the Mariners participating in similar revelry.

It didn’t happen in 2001, the last time Seattle qualified for the playoffs. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Mariners deemed any kind of party to be inappropriate.

Their division-clinching victory that season was noted by a solemn procession around Safeco Field with the American flag. And a tougher-than-anticipated advancement past Cleveland in the division series was regarded with more of an exhausted sigh than an excuse to go crazy.

In any case, after a defeat in the regular-season finale had secured the Mariners’ historically successful record at 116-46, Champagne was limited to a couple of small plastic cups, set up in the manager’s office for Lou Piniella and GM Pat Gillick.

“What a season,” Piniella said.

“Quite a season,” Gillick concurred.


I wish the Royals all the best in the World Series, partly because I admire their take-no-guff aggressiveness, and partly because — speaking here as a native-born Chicago Cubs fan — I’ve spent darn near a half-century loathing the New York Mets.

I hope Champagne is broken out again in the Kansas City clubhouse, at which point it will be reasonable to ask:

Why not save this stuff for a one-time celebration, when the winner takes all?

And, please, lose the goggles. If you can’t cope with Champagne burning in your eyes, then don’t spray Champagne onto your neighbor.

Too bad Moses was limited to the Ten Commandments. That would’ve worked as the 11th.