Major League Baseball isn't in the business of telling its players how to react after games, but officials are discouraging teams from shaking hands on the field after postseason series, as the Cardinals and Dodgers did last weekend in Los Angeles.
"I don't like it," MLB disciplinarian Bob Watson said. "We do it at the Olympic level, but we play 162 games and (players) are not going to shake hands. Go ask Nolan Ryan if he's going to shake their hands after they beat you. We play a different game. They do it in hockey (in the playoffs), but that's a tradition.
"More times than not, after big series, teams go behind the scenes. They come by your clubhouse and say 'Way to go.' But not in front of 50,000 people."
Baseball has a rule against fraternization between opposing players on the field before and after games, but it’s seldom if ever enforced.
I'm pretty sure the non-fraternization rule came in the wake of the Black Sox scandal. Baseball became paranoid about anything that could be conceivably construed as players not competing to the best of their ability, and being buddies with opposing team members could make it appear that way. It's nonsense, and given the way players move from team to team these days, it's irrelevant.
Bill Rhoden of the Times takes up the subject as well in an excellent column in which he talks about both the handshake incident, and also some of the nastier things that have happened in recent baseball history. He does talk to Ryan, who tends to agree with Watson, but isn't nearly so harsh about it. (For that matter, Watson doesn't come off nearly as harsh in Rhoden's column, either.) Rhoden's conclusion is that he much prefers what happened on the field after the Cards-Dodgers than what has happened so often between the Yanks and the Sox.
I have to agree with that. I think it's crazy that what was a genuine moment of sportsmanship is being criticized. It was only after the final game of the series. Nobody has suggested that they do it at the end of every game.
I also have to admit I'm disappointed by Watson's comments (at least the first set), because he was a favorite of mine when he played. He's had a truly interesting career. As a young catcher with the Astros, he thought it would be good experience to volunteer to catch Jim Bouton in the bullpen whenever Bouton wanted to work on his knuckleball. One of the pitches broke his thumb. For his pain he gets plenty of mentions in Ball Four. In 1976, he gained notoriety by scoring the one millionth run in major league history. He played for both the Sox and the Yankees. He later became the first black general manager in baseball with the Astros, and he was the Yankee GM when the Yankees began their current run of pennants.
Meanwhile, I have one more reason to like Larry Walker.