Free hand with alcohol getting a long look

By Marc Topkin
Published May 6, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - The revelation that Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock was drinking before his fatal car accident Sunday has the Devil Rays, like many other teams, reviewing their alcohol policies.

The Rays, as most teams do, or at least have done, provide beer to their players in the Tropicana Field clubhouse, unlimited and unmonitored. There is wine in manager Joe Maddon's office.

On the road, beer (and sometimes more) is provided by the visiting clubhouse staff (except in Oakland, where the A's banned all alcohol and the Rays brought in their own). Beer, wine and liquor are freely available on team charter flights, though the liquor soon may be dropped.

Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said the discussions will be ongoing.

"On one side of the coin, these guys are all adults and are very capable of making their own decisions and we do not want to get into a Big Brother situation, " Friedman said. "That being said, we also want to be smart about it and not invite it. So it's a delicate balance and something we'll take a long, hard, critical look at."

Especially what they do in their home clubhouse. The Cardinals, Mets, Pirates and Yankees have banned alcohol, and others are talking about it. It is the area under most review because players often leave the stadium and get behind the wheel of their vehicles, whereas on the road they usually ride the team bus to the hotel or use a cab or car service.

Friedman said ultimate responsibility rests with the players.

"You have to exercise the exact same judgment you would if you went to a bar, " he said. "Obviously if there's an excessive case of drinking in the clubhouse, it's something that we would take control of. ...

"It's something we educate them to at least twice a year in formal discussion. Hopefully the awful incident with Hancock has opened some more eyes and made people even more sensitive to it. And it's certainly going to have us continue to look at it. But these guys are adults and need to take responsibilities for their actions."

TRUE FRIEND: How important was it to Casey Fossum to attend Thursday's memorial service for Hancock, his close friend and former roommate? He got up at 3:45 to catch a 6 a.m. flight to Memphis, drove 100 miles to Tupelo, Miss., spent the day with Hancock's friends and relatives, drove back to Memphis for a 6 p.m. flight, connected in Atlanta, landed in Tampa shortly after midnight, then drove back to his Bradenton home.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: One reason ticket sales for the May 15-17 Disney games vs. Texas are so low? The cheapest actual seat is $35, though there are bleacher ($25, $33) and lawn ($15) spots. ... Is the Trop now part of a decibel-testing experiment? Or a Ryan Seacrest act-alike contest? ... Wouldn't you think the injury-riddled A's would call the Rays about Jonny Gomes? Or the Mets, missing 2B Jose Valentin, would asked about Jorge Cantu? ... In the April 30 Sports Illustrated, LHP Scott Kazmir answers two of life's biggest questions - he shaves "once a month" and sleeps "butt naked."... Waking up Tuesday, B.J. Upton and younger brother Justin (with Arizona's Class A Visalia team) both had .365 averages through 22 games. ... Former Rays boss Vince Naimoli recently toured Kuwait and the African port city of Djibouti with a defense department group.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8801. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays.