Verlander, Astros not above the rules, and their decision to deny a reporter access is a black eye for baseball


If you're reading this story, you're probably a baseball fan. 

Maybe you want to read what the players or managers or general managers had to say or are looking for some news or an opinion on the latest topic of interest.
Imagine for a second no media were there to provide that information. You still could get players' thoughts on Twitter or Instagram or perhaps an essay on the Players' Tribune. But no reporters would be around to ask questions or describe games or write columns.

Could the game survive without reporters?

"That would be difficult because the audience, they always want more," Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks said. "They want more access (to players). They want more stories. That's what you guys are here for, to provide that. We wouldn't be playing if there weren't fans and people interested in the game.

"That has to be part of baseball. The Twitter and all the things we do on our own just adds to it and can make it so we're more in control of what's being said. So that helps. It helps just having a good balance like that."

That balance would disappear if the Houston Astros had their way. The organization on Wednesday decided to go rogue, barring Detroit Free Press beat reporter Anthony Fenech from the clubhouse for several minutes after a Tigers-Astros game while other media were allowed in. The Astros said they kept Fenech away because of an alleged beef between him and pitcher Justin Verlander, a former Tiger whom Fenech covered in Detroit.

The Baseball Writers Association of America protested the decision, calling it a violation of the CBA, while Major League Baseball vice president of communications Mike Teevan conceded the Astros erred.

"Per our club-media regulations, the reporter should have been allowed to enter the clubhouse postgame at the same time as the other members of the media," Teevan said in a statement. "We have communicated this to the Astros."

But Verlander claimed in a tweet that Fenech was "unethical" – without explanation. The Astros defended the decision, saying in a statement: "This course of action was taken after taking into consideration the past history between Fenech and one of our players, Justin Verlander. Verlander's legitimate concerns about past interactions with Fenech, and the best interests of other media members working the game. We chose to prioritize these factors when making this decision."

This is nonsense. No matter the beef, Fenech should've been allowed access with the rest of the reporters.

At the All-Star Game in July, MLB players union director Tony Clark insisted today's players all understand the need to deal with the media despite the recent increase of players who avoid talking to reporters before and after games.

"Our guys, and I'm guessing you (reporters) as well, would be more than open to having a conversation about the best way to make that engagement efficient, whether it's pregame or postgame or whether it's a better structure of how those engagements happen," Clark said. "Our guys understand you have a job to do.
"They also have a job to do, and trying to manage both can be challenging to you guys. But there is no doubt in our mind that our guys know how important the media is to the game, and they understand the responsibility (to talk). I was raised to be available. I was raised to respect the role the media has. Our guys, despite what may be bantered about, understand that."

Well, not everyone. Not Verlander.

Players have had beefs with reporters for over a century and always will. I've had my share, though I've never been barred.

No matter the grievance, it doesn't give teams the right to bar reporters from the clubhouse. Most players understand this, even if the Astros apparently are too thin-skinned to figure it out.

"There's been reporters that have said (negative) stuff (about me), I'm sure," Cubs outfielder Nicholas Castellanos said. "I don't read or pay attention to the media, man, because I know the media has a job to do and their job is to create the most interesting story and grab readers. And sometimes they'll take a message that obviously is perceived one way and put a spin on it solely for the benefit of creating interest in a read.

"So obviously knowing that, why would I pay any attention or waste any energy worrying about someone who has an occupation to create a stir? I'm just here to play baseball, man. I do the best I can to treat everyone with respect, the way I want to be treated, and just hope I get that same thing in return. If I don't, so be it."
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said he has had a couple of occasions in which something he said was misinterpreted or had a misleading headline on it.

"Maybe twice I've said something, and once it was more of a personal issue," he said. "It's part of the gig. On the other side, we are human beings, so if you write A, B or C sucks, it's never fun to hear about that."

Rizzo said he never has felt the need to stop talking to a reporter, even if it's someone he doesn't particularly like talking to.

"You have to," he said. "It's part of what you signed up for, good or bad. It's easy to talk to the media when you're doing well. It's not easy when you have to answer tough questions. But that's part of the deal. A lot of people do a lot of good things from the media side."

Hendricks said there are good and bad reporters, just as there are good and bad players.

"We absolutely know the jobs all you guys have to do, and it's very difficult," he said. "I keep that in mind. If you feel like you said something and it is taken out of context, my personality is I'd confront them and talk to them about it and see what they thought and maybe clean it up that way, or see if (the media-relations department) needs to be involved.

"Other than that, you know me, I don't have many problems. I try to keep it that way. That's my personality. But there are so many different personalities in the clubhouse that everybody handles it differently, and everyone handles it their own way. I think reporters are the same. You guys all have your own personalities and handle things differently. It's a fine line. It's just trying to keep the respect. That's all I try to do."

One general manager told me the Astros should have told Verlander to suck it up and get in the reporter's face if he felt he had to, as long as they didn't deny Fenech access.

Either way, MLB needs to fine the Astros.

As for Verlander, apparently he's above it all and believes the rules other players follow don't apply to him.

The Astros don't need to like reporters or even talk with them.

But they do have to let them in their clubhouse to try to do their jobs and provide information to readers like you.