CINCINNATI – A pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies is criticizing some Major League Baseball teams for extending alcohol sales with games running around 30 minutes shorter due to the sport's new pitch clock.
Matt Strahm said Thursday on the Baseball Isn't Boring podcast that teams should be moving the cutoff for beer sales up to the sixth inning, rather than stretching to the eighth or later, since fans will have less time to sober up and drive home.
At least five teams — the Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers — have extended alcohol sales past the traditional seventh-inning cutoff. The Baltimore Orioles had already allowed sales into the eighth.
Other teams haven't ruled out changes.
“The reason we stopped it in the seventh before was to give our fans time to sober up and drive home safe, correct?" Strahm said. “So now with a faster pace game, and me just being a man of common sense, if the game is going to finish quicker, would we not move the beer sales back to the sixth inning to give our fans time to sober up and drive home?
“Instead, we’re going to the eighth, and now you’re putting our fans and our family at risk driving home with people who have just drank beers 22 minutes ago.”
Strahm suggested team owners should re-evaluate whether the extension of beer sales looks out for the safety of fans, or whether it's a “way to make their dollars back.”
Through the first 1 1/2 weeks of the season, the average MLB game time has been down 31 minutes because of the rule changes, particularly the new pitch clock.
That means fans are spending less time — and perhaps less money — at stadiums.
For the nonprofit Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the extension of beer sales doesn't change much. The goal remains keeping drunk people off the road.
“If it cuts off sales in the seventh inning, the eighth inning or the ninth inning, that really doesn’t affect our stance because regardless, we just don’t want people to drink alcohol and then drive home from the game,” Erin Payton, regional executive director of MADD, told The Associated Press in a statement.
Yankees reliever Michael King also believes “there’s a responsibility on everybody” to prevent drunk driving, “regardless if you’re getting served in the seventh or eighth inning.”
The Astros were the latest team to announce an extension of alcohol sales. The team said Thursday fans would be able to purchase alcohol at limited locations through the end of the game.
The Rangers allowed some alcohol sales in the eighth inning last season, but have made that option more widely available in 2023. The team said the move to offer in-seat service to everyone — fans can order on their phones — was done partly in reaction to the pitch clock and the potential of shorter game times so fans would not have to miss extended action waiting in lines at concession stands.
Brewers President of business operations Rick Schlesinger confirmed to MLB.com that their team's move to extend alcohol sales through the eighth was an experiment.
“If it turns out that this is causing an issue or we feel that it might cause an issue, then we’ll revert to what we have done previously,” Schlesinger said.
MLB says it does not regulate when teams sell alcohol. Most franchises have used the seventh inning as a cutoff, at least partly to avoid overserving customers who could then get in their cars and drive home.
But in reality, most teams already had areas around the ballpark where fans could get alcohol after the seventh, even if the concession stands stopped serving. Many parks are connected to restaurants or have VIP areas where the booze still flows.
Freelancer Larry Fleisher contributed.