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Bill Plaschke: Detroit Tigers, put a cork in the party

October 7, 2011 | 10:00 am

Detroit Tigers' Doug Fister sprays Jose Valverde with champagne after the team defeated the New York Yankees in the ALDS.
Plaschke One of baseball’s strangest traditions was on display again Thursday night, and excuse me if I’m not all bubbly about it.

On the field, the Detroit Tigers did what tough baseball teams do, defeating the New York Yankees, 3-2, in a deciding Game 5 to win the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium.

Off the field, the Detroit Tigers then did what all silly baseball teams do, celebrating the series victory with a raucous, over-the-top champagne party that was far greater than the entirety of their achievement.
Three wins. They were throwing a New Year’s Eve party for three wins. Think about that.

They were spraying each other over wins that could have occurred over the course of a long summer weekend. They were pouring it on each other for wins that totaled less than 12 hours.

The Detroit Tigers just played three good games, yet felt it necessary to celebrate with countless cases of liquor and cigars, and it just makes no sense.

It isn’t just the Tigers who do this, of course, it’s every baseball team after every postseason series win, the constantly popping corks adding to baseball’s reputation as a big fraternity house while diminishing the parties that really matter.

A champagne celebration after qualifying for the postseason? Absolutely. It’s a triumphant end to a six-month marathon and is worthy of a date with goggles and plastic.

A champagne celebration after winning the World Series? Indeed, you are champions of the world, you should act like it.

But champagne celebrations after winning the division series and league championship series? Why? Such parties smack of an excuse for locker-room high jinks by big kids with too much time on their hands, and baseball is the only sport that tolerates it.

When NBA teams win early playoff rounds, they don’t celebrate with anything more than a handshake and a hug. Only the NBA champions will actually break out champagne and cigars, and when they do, it’s memorable and meaningful, as anyone who remembers the puffing and weeping Chicago Bulls will attest.

When NFL teams win early playoff rounds, they may linger a bit longer in the locker room, but nobody parties until they win the Super Bowl, and then they are often so weary, the bash feels more like a giant relieved embrace between those who have been bashed.

This perspective is shared by the NHL, which actually has the best celebrations of all sports, with the players simply lining up and shaking each other’s hands after every series like youth soccer players on a Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl. And, no, there is no champagne until one team can pour it in the Stanley Cup.

So what makes baseball different? The regular season is longer and more strenuous than other regular seasons, but what explains the nuttiness of the postseason parties?

The understated Mike Scioscia once told me that he didn’t mind when his Angels partied after every series because they had worked so long and hard to earn those parties. He noted that baseball was such an unforgiving sport, the players need to find joy whenever they can.

I get that, but do they need to do it by consistently turning the clubhouse into a Friday night kegger? Seriously, how strange and unsettling is it to see a wild-card team dousing itself in champagne after making the playoffs on the final day of the season ... and then doing it again a week later after winning the division series ... and then again a week later after advancing to the World Series?

By the time a baseball team wins a world championship, it will have thrown itself four champagne bashes in a span of about six weeks.  The true postseason MVP is no longer Mr. October, but Mr. Moet.

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-- Bill Plaschke

Photo: Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Doug Fister, right, sprays closing pitcher Jose Valverde with champagne after the team defeated the New York Yankees, 3-2, in Game 5 of the ALDS. Credit: Kathy Willens / Associated Press

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