Best Clubhouse Environments in MLB
Playing for a stuffy, conservative, monolithic franchise like the New York Yankees carries certain advantages. Not only does the team set the goal of a championship each season, but if you're married to a Yankee—like the wife of recently acquired starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy—you may benefit from your husband having to shave off his beard.
However, compulsory beard-shaving seems like an antiquated team policy in 2014. While the Yanks ensure their pinstripes are ironed and pressed, other teams around Major League Baseball know how to let loose and have some fun.
Cultivating a good clubhouse environment can be integral to fostering a winning atmosphere around a team, especially considering the rigors of a 162-game regular season. These five squads know how to relax once the final out has been recorded, whether that involves locker room pranks, amazing bobbleheads, wrestling chants or donning retro comfort wear en masse.
The Cleveland Indians are a ragtag group of players cobbled together with enough moxie and hidden talent that they just might go out there and win the whole darn thing. Yes, that's the plot of Major League, but it also describes the current Indians team.
The Tribe's dynamic is so positive, Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall have somehow become two of the finest hitters in the league, although the latter got squeezed out of an All-Star appearance.
The roster includes aspiring player-coach Jason Giambi, Carlos "Not the Musician" Santana, Nick "Aw Man, That's Just Awesome Man" Swisher and affable Irishman David Murphy. The organization even boasts a "T-Plush" (Nyjer Morgan) and a "T-Hush" (recent call-up Tyler Holt).
This Indians have so much swag that they can turn a twice-challenged 7-2-4 triple play. So when exactly did they become good again for the first time since Albert Belle?
Back in 2011, the Boston Red Sox collapsed in stunning fashion with Terry Francona at the helm. That year, the BoSox lost 18 of their final 24 games, becoming the first squad to have a nine-game lead in September and fail to make the playoffs.
The Boston Globe's Bob Hohler detailed an unruly clubhouse atmosphere, which ostensibly led to the team choking down the stretch because Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey drank too much beer, ate too much fried chicken and played too many video games in the locker room. The ax fell on Francona, and things got so bad that general manager Theo Epstein voluntarily left to go to the Chicago Cubs.
As it turned out, none of that was Francona's fault, and he's actually a great manager—a "player's manager," to be sure, but one who gets results nonetheless. If you care to offer a different opinion, try explaining it to Tito's 2013 Manager of the Year hardware. He inexplicably guided the Tribe to 92 wins and a playoff berth behind a pitching staff of Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister.
It's just a shame that former closer Chris Perez went a little too chicken-and-beer. In 2013, he had several ounces of marijuana shipped to his family home under the name "Brody Baum," cleverly addressing it to his dog and appending his wife's maiden name. Perez accepted a $250 fine and, eventually, a new job with the L.A. Dodgers. Francona can't have bumbling tokers in the clubhouse after the 2011 debacle in Beantown.
Mark Mulder recently tweeted that, contrary to the movie Moneyball, Oakland A's players never had to pay for their own sodas with change at the vending machine. However, the key to that myth was its believability.
No. We never paid for drinks from a machine in clubhouse.— Mark Mulder (@markmulder20) July 3, 2014
While the A's identified undervalued players, they still had tens of millions of bucks at their disposal, though that sabermetric system never produced a championship. However, that could be set to change this season as the team has demolished its competition and had plenty of fun in doing so.
Through 88 games, the A's sit at 55-33 with a plus-135 run differential, more than 60 runs above the next-best team. They also traded for both of the Chicago Cubs pitchers on the trading block, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, snatching valuable assets away from other deadline buyers.
While some lay fans would be hard-pressed to name a single player on the team, they're loaded with rising All-Stars, including catcher Derek Norris, corner-infield sluggers Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson, plus sensational Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. This team even made an All-Star out of Scott Kazmir!
As if being loaded with All-Stars wasn't enough, they also boast Coco Crisp, owner of the best "Bernie lean" in baseball, and pro-wrestling fanatic Josh Reddick.
This is how Reddick dressed when using Ultimate Warrior's walkup. How does he dress for Careless Whisper? pic.twitter.com/E90qMd3GEP— Casey Pratt (@CaseyPrattCSN) May 13, 2014
San Francisco Giants
San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh likes to query his team: "Who's got it better than us?" The answer is, "Nobody!" While it comes from an old Harbaugh family motto, the proclamation may not yet apply to those Niners, as the Seattle Seahawks would likely argue that they "got it better" than San Fran.
However, at least one team on that side of the bay can confidently state that they've got it pretty darn good. Quick quiz: Which is the only MLB team with multiple championships in the past six seasons? Nope, not the Boston Red Sox. It's the San Francisco Giants.
Tim Lincecum's second career no-hitter (both against the "offense" of the San Diego Padres, though the stats still counted) put the camaraderie in the Giants' clubhouse on full display. The pitcher, known as "The Freak," celebrated his feat by wearing a U.S. men's soccer jersey (before the squad got knocked out of the World Cup by Belgium) and leading his team in WWE wrestler Daniel Bryan's "Yes!" chant.
YES YES YES! https://t.co/yMF5RvhzGU— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) June 25, 2014
Sweet moment, as soccer should learn more moves from wrestling, but from the ensuing celebration, you would have thought that the Giants had won another World Series instead of lulling the lowly Padres to sleep.
At least "Big Time Timmy Jim" has found comfort in soccer, wrestling chants and no-hitters instead of his teenage-Joseph Gordon Levitt hair and the wacky tobacky he used to favor.
The Detroit Tigers' team chemistry can be summed up in one word: Zubaz. After the Tigers finished sweeping the Boston Red Sox in a mid-May appearance on Sunday night baseball, the weary victors tried to embark on the next leg of the road trip by heading to Cleveland.
Unfortunately, as noted by MLive's James Schmehl, the Tigers' plane was busted. Fortunately, the team had plenty of early-'90s comfort wear to keep players at ease.
As any savvy traveler would, many Tigers wore the most comfortable thing available—in this case, dated, stripy, retro pajamas—and posed for a truly fierce photo together to pass the time. And that streak of Tigers was led by the alpha males: Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, All-Universe hitter Miguel Cabrera and fountain-of-youth discoverer Torii Hunter:
The clubhouse attendant in the background certainly seemed bemused about why Zubaz was back in vogue. Verlander posted that photo to his Instagram and even one of him wearing a Zubaz necktie!
Cabrera eschewed the gaudy top in that group photo, but he showed off an even better collector's item: a team-branded "Turn Down For What" shirt. If he's not too busy, Lil John would surely be a great clubhouse guy in Detroit.
Even when they're not posing during prolonged travel delays, at least the team looks eminently comfy, as demonstrated on Rajai Davis' Twitter account:
And this is not the Tigers' only foray in such fashion, as the team had previously promoted a "Zubazpalooza" event.
More importantly, when the elder Price Fielder was on the Tigers back in the day, his son, former Tiger and current Texas Ranger, Prince Fielder, chucked the ball around the infield while wearing Chicago Cubs Zubaz pants (bonus points for the New York Giants shirt):
Happy birthday, Prince Fielder! Every RT = a wish that Prince wears those pants in tonight's game! pic.twitter.com/eIKJTaHrID— MLB (@MLB) May 9, 2013
Wait, Cubs have Zubaz too?
Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles: Great city, great weather, plenty of money and a few wacky guys in blue. Aside from the traffic on the 405, what more could a player ask for? Between the always entertaining on-field antics of Yasiel Puig and the mischievous pranking of Hanley Ramirez, dull moments come few and far between for the L.A. Dodgers.
Puig's exploits between the chalk lines have been documented carefully by historians so that future generations can understand the depth and breadth of his thrilling ability. Aside from mashing the ball at the dish, flipping bats like Jack McDowell flipped birds and occasionally getting caught in a bone-headed baserunning error, Puig has some sort of anti-aircraft weapon where his throwing arm should be.
Even when he misplays a ball, as happened in the eighth inning on July 5 in a tight game against the Rockies, the results are spectacular, transforming a double into a double play.
However, when the Dodgers really want to have some fun, they merely turn to Ramirez. The star infielder clearly knows how to get the jump on Juan Uribe as shown on "HanRam's" Instagram (account required).
During spring training, Ramirez pulled the crude-but-classic prank of hiding inside Uribe's locker behind a bunch of clothes. The team had a good laugh at that, but to really strike fear into the heart of a teammate, sometimes a fake reptile is required. Proving he's in midseason form, Ramirez planted a fake snake in Uribe's shoe. Then again, Uribe can't be too afraid of snakes seeing as he sports a partially snakeskin glove.
And if clowning on Uribe gets tiresome, the Dodgers just turn to the classic "hot foot" prank, which can be as simple as a wad of matches wrapped around a cigarette and ensconced in chewing gum. Then you just have to stick it onto Scott Van Slyke's heel and let Vin Scully narrate the action.
As if that hilarity wasn't enough, Clayton Kershaw has mowed down opposing batters with the efficiency of previous Dodgers hurlers like Orel Hershiser and the legendary Sandy Koufax. Oh, and Dee Gordon has the chance to be the first player to steal 80 bases since 1988.
To paraphrase the Geto Boys: "Damn it feels good to be a Dodger."