On Sept. 28, the Minnesota Twins lost 4-2 to Cleveland. Twins starter Adalberto Mejia didn’t make it out of the fourth inning, and his teammates failed to score until the ninth as they scratched out just five hits against the Indians. Two days later, the Colorado Rockies lost at home to the Dodgers, 5-3. The Rockies jumped to a 3-0 lead against Clayton Kershaw after two innings, but frittered it away as they went 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
What do these two lackluster, seemingly random losses have in common? After each of them, the losing players retired to their clubhouse, slapped on some plastic goggles and sprayed one another with beer and sparkling wine. They laughed and danced and sprayed. Sprayed and sprayed. Because thanks to other teams having lost, both had earned playoff berths — something more than 33 percent of the league does each year.
Welcome to Major League Baseball, where every stop on the road to the world championship is treated as the final destination. Baseball’s odd devotion to sticky, carbonated beverages will be on display again tonight, when the Yankees host the Twins in the American League Wild Card Game. Rolls of plastic sheeting will stand ready to cover the lockers in both clubhouses, and the bubbly will be on ice, prepared to meet its fate on the head of Aaron Judge or Miguel Sano.
Really? Those clusters of chardonnay grapes gave their lives for this?
I don’t think of myself as a killjoy. I admit the champagne dump (I live in Napa and cover Sonoma County, so I know it’s probably not really “Champagne,” but please forgive my shorthand) is a fun tradition. If you’re celebrating a championship. Like, a real championship. The kind where you’re the last team standing.
But donning those goggles and getting turnt because, like the Twins on Sept. 28, you’re 83-76 (a winning clip of .522, which would have been good for fourth place in the NL West) and bound for a one-game preliminary playoff battle? Honestly, MLB, this is kind of embarrassing. It’s time we staged an intervention.
Consider other sports. Stephen Curry added to the Warriors-Cavaliers feud two years ago when he wondered aloud if the visitors’ locker room at Quicken Loans Arena still smelled of champagne, a few months after Golden State had wrapped up the 2015 NBA championship there. Of course the Warriors had popped the corks after that accomplishment. Who could blame them after that achievement, for which Bay Area basketball fans had been waiting 40 years?
Now imagine the Warriors shooting champagne after sweeping the No. 8 seed Pelicans in the first round that year, or after doing the same to overmatched Portland last April. Imagine Draymond Green wildly splashing beer on Klay Thompson after the Warriors clinched a playoff spot last year — on Feb. 25.
Picture an NFL team breaking out the sparkling after winning a wild-card game 13-6, setting up a road trip to Foxborough, Massachusetts, to be slaughtered by the New England Patriots.
There’s just something wrong about throwing a hootenanny before the job is done. Barack Obama didn’t pour champagne on Joe Biden after he won the Maine caucuses in February of 2006. Usain Bolt never did it after winning one of the preliminary heats in the Olympic 100- or 200-meter dash. And a sommelier has never brought a bottle to a boxer’s corner after eight rounds of a championship fight because the guy is ahead on points — though, come to think of it, Floyd Mayweather Jr. might do that.