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To the players, the rivalries aren’t that big of a deal for their own sake

May 10, 2011, 1:08 PM EDT

Image (1) red%20sox%20yankees%20fight.jpg for post 5030

Following up on that stuff about fraternization from yesterday: I wasn’t aware of it until a reader told me yesterday, but there is a rule against players making nice before games. It’s Rule 3.09:

Players in uniform shall not address or mingle with spectators, nor sit in the stands before, during, or after a game. No manager, coach or player shall address any spectator before or during a game. Players of opposing teams shall not fraternize at any time while in uniform.

Well, good for Rule 3.09. It’s still stupid, even if it’s in the rule book.  I spoke this morning to Joe Sheehan — who will be our guest on HBT Daily later today — and he said that the rule is an old one, borne of a fear that players will conspire to fix games, which was not uncommon back in eighteen-dickety-seven through 1919.  Not so much of a concern these days, and certainly divorced from the notion of pretending that baseball players on opposing teams are blood rivals.

Which, according to Lance Berkman, who got a glimpse of the Red Sox-Yankees thing last year and is now heading into Chicago for the first time as a Cardinal, is certainly not the case:

“The fans and the media are the ones that really get that fired up about it,” Berkman said. “I mean for us, obviously we want to win, they’re a tough team. But it’s not like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a blood match.'”

I think that, to the extent you see animosity among rivals it’s a personal thing. There were some Red Sox players who really didn’t care for Alex Rodriguez a few years ago. There are likely some Cardinals who don’t like Carlos Zambrano at all.  But “Red Sox vs. Yankees” and “Cubs vs. Cardinals” is more of an abstract concept.  Sure, the competition is fierce, because all competition at the professional level is fierce. And yes, if there are serious stakes in play, the competition can be ratcheted up a notch.

But the tribalism if “Cubs bad, Cardinals good!” just isn’t the kind of thing that resonates in big league ballplayers.  And I’m fine with that.

  1. BC - May 10, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    When the teams played so many fewer times, it was good stuff. Now, about every third week, you get Yankees-Red Sox on the Sunday night game.
    Thank you Lord for inventing “Family Guy”….

  2. spudchukar - May 10, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    This is spot on Craig. Even the fans, at least in St. Louis refer to the Cubs as a friendly rival. Maybe it is due in part to their ineptitude, but hate really isn’t part of the equation. Berkman is the perfect example, a tough competitor but good guy, who whose cajoling nature is great for the game. Incidents occur that fire up teams but the infernal hatred motif is tiresome. BC, you are correct, another Hatfield vs. McCoy Sunday night offering by MLB, makes baseball the cartoon not Family Guy.

  3. marshmallowsnake - May 10, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    So, it is illegal to get an autograph before and after a game? Wow…who made this rule?

  4. thefalcon123 - May 10, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    Here’s my take on the Cards/Cubs rivalry. What rivalry? The one where the Cubs finish 15 games behind the Cardinals every year? (yeah yeah, 2007 and 2008. Considering out center fielder was an ex pitcher, I don’t count those)?

  5. ThatGuy - May 10, 2011 at 1:44 PM

    hm, so people were fixing games 20 years before baseball was a game. Good thing we got out word back from the Kaiser, things could get confusing.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 10, 2011 at 4:24 PM

      Boo for all the thumbs down on a great Simpsons reference

      • kopy - May 10, 2011 at 4:45 PM

        I was saying Boo-urns!

  6. kopy - May 10, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    Rules is rules. Baseball is perfect the way it is and should never be changed. Now get off my lawn!

  7. airedale1950 - May 10, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    Personally I really enjoyed the Gregg Nettles Carlton Fisk Thurman Munson hate fests in the ’70s. That was back when real men played the game, played it hard and had the backs of their team mates.
    Now, everybody stands around the batting cage and sings ‘Kumbaya’ together.

    God forbid you should take out the rival shortstop on a close play….

    • professor59 - May 10, 2011 at 2:15 PM

      Especially if they share the same agent. You’d be safer taking out the rival shortstop’s sister.

    • BC - May 10, 2011 at 2:18 PM

      Throw Lou Piniella in there too. He had a great brawl with Fisk one time.

    • spudchukar - May 10, 2011 at 2:28 PM

      Hard-nosed highly competitive game playing is not mutually exclusive from exchanging pleasantries prior to the “Play Ball” bellow.

  8. dandygallows - May 10, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    To me, the lack of true rivals makes temporary rivalries that much sweeter. Last season’s Reds-Cardinals beef comes to mind.

    But ESPN’s constant hyping of the “old rivalry renewed” between the Yanks-Sox, that doesn’t do anything for me.

    • airedale1950 - May 10, 2011 at 2:25 PM

      ESPN BB broadcasts don’t anything for anybody! At least before they fired Joe ‘I love my own ass’ Morgan, I had something entertaining to laugh at….

    • mogogo1 - May 11, 2011 at 10:03 AM

      There are ESPN execs who are unaware there are other rivalries outside of Yanks-Sox.

  9. cogitobaseballergosum - May 10, 2011 at 4:48 PM

    In his excellent book, “The Umpire Strikes Back”, Ron Luciano talks about that rule and tells the story of when the enforcement lightened up. He tells about having to monitor the field before the game and write up any players caught talking to opponents. He says it was Reggie Jackson’s refusal to abide by it, and the league’s apparant reluctance to fine him for it, that led to the relaxing of the enforcement. Great read, I highly recommend it.

  10. mogogo1 - May 11, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    The very nature of baseball makes player rivalries different than what you see in other sports. It’s basically a pitcher-hitter rivalry with the occasional collision along the base paths. Guys get along because there’s no negative interaction to sour things. I bet 80% of feuds in the NFL trace directly back to action on the field. In baseball I bet it’s 80% personality conflicts off the field.

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