Burnt last winter, A's threaten to sit out free agency

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Let down by Jason Giambi, Orlando Cabrera and Nomar Garciaparra last winter, the A’s plan to sit out free agency this time, GM Billy Beane told MLB.com on Wednesday. Instead, he wants to go the trade route.

“We’re going to look at young players to fill spots, first and foremost,” Beane said. “If those players we’d like to acquire aren’t obtainable, we’ll consider bringing in guys who can hold the positions down. We’re going to stay disciplined and try to do everything we can to fill those spots with young players.
“So the next step is to continue to bring guys like Andrew [Bailey] up here. That’s our responsibility, and I know the deal. To sign a couple free agents and have three or four press conferences during the winter doesn’t get it done. We’re going to be disciplined.”

With the Angels certain to be in the mix again and both the Mariners and Rangers coming on in a big way, the A’s are certain to need some reinforcements to succeed next year. As things stand now, they’re likely looking at the following lineup:
CF Rajai Davis
RF Ryan Sweeney
LF Scott Hairston
DH Jack Cust
C Kurt Suzuki
3B Eric Chavez
2B Mark Ellis
1B Daric Barton
SS Cliff Pennington
There is some nice outfield depth in the form of Aaron Cunningham, Travis Buck and Eric Patterson, but that’s a lineup without a lot of punch and the team will have to bring in a quality alternative to Chavez at third base in the event that free agent Adam Kennedy departs.
The rotation has Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and a bunch of question marks. Trevor Cahill is a top talent, but he might need some additional minor league time. Vin Mazzaro and Gio Gonzalez both had ERAs in the mid-5.00s last season. Josh Outman probably won’t be an option until the second half following Tommy John surgery.
The bullpen will remain a strong point, especially if Joey Devine makes it back, and the defense should be very good if Cust can be limited to DH duties for the most part. The A’s, though, simply must bring in a couple of quality players if they hope to challenge for the AL West. As is, it looks like they’re in for a rebuilding season. Fortunately, they’ll finally shed Chavez’s contract after next year, potentially putting them into pretty good position for 2011.

Astros defend barring reporter from clubhouse

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As we wrote about this morning, last night the Houston Astros, at the request of Justin Verlander, barred Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech from the clubhouse during Verlander’s media availability following the Tigers-Astros game. After Verlander was done talking to the press in the scrum setting — and after a call was placed to Major League Baseball about the matter — Fenech was allowed in.

As we noted, this was done in violation of agreements to which Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros and the Baseball Writers Association of America are parties. The agreements are meant to ensure full access to BBWAA-accredited reporters as long as they have not violated the terms of their credentials.  In no case do the clubs — and certainly not the players — have the right to bar access to BBWAA-accredited reporters. Indeed, the whole point of the BBWAA is to ensure such access and to ensure that teams cannot bar them simply because they are unhappy with their coverage or what have you.

This morning Verlander tweeted, obliquely, about “unethical behavior” on the part of Fenech that led to his request to the Astros to bar him. As we noted at the time, such an allegation — however interesting it might be — is of no consequence to the admission or barring of a reporter. If Fenech has acted unethically it’s a matter between him and his employer and, potentially, between him and the BBWAA. At the very least, if Verlander has a specific concern, it would be incumbent upon him or the Astros to take the matter up with either the Free Press or the BBWAA.

In light of all of this, it’s hard to make a case for Verlander’s request and the Astros’ honoring it. A few moments ago, however, the Astros released as statement on the matter which, basically, says, “so what?”

Which is to say, the Astros have made a decades-long agreement between the BBWAA and MLB regarding reporter access optional, because a player does not like a reporter who is covering him.  Someone without the power to alter the BBWAA-MLB relationship has just done so unilaterally. And they have done so in such a way that any player, should they decide they don’t like a reporter, will now presumably rely on as precedent. And, it should be noted, in doing so they gave at least some tacit credence to Verlander’s thus far unsubstantiated and unspecified allegations of unethical behavior on the part of Fenech.

It’s your move, Major League Baseball and BBWAA. Whatcha gonna do about it?