Theo Epstein: Chicago bar scene has been “an impediment to the Cubs in winning”

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Cubs president Theo Epstein has developed (and will distribute) a pamphlet outlining the way he expects players in the organization to behave. Especially those tempted by the Chicago nightlife.

“It’s been a factor in ruining some careers,” Epstein told the Chicago Tribune. “And I’m sure it’s been an impediment to the Cubs in winning. … The approach we’re going to have is the opposite of laissez faire. We’re not just going to say, ‘Oh, that’s the way it is. This is Chicago. Boys will be boys. I’m sure they’re going to get enough sleep and I’m sure they’ll show up the next day ready to play.’ That’s a failure on the organization’s part. We have to take a very proactive approach in setting a high standard.”

The Cubs still play far more day games than any other team in Major League Baseball. And in a city with 4 a.m. liquor licenses, that can mean rough sleep schedules for athletes who like to go out.

“It’s important for young players to recognize that you need to get your sleep,” veteran outfielder Reed Johnson told the Tribune. “This is your career. This is what you do for a livelihood. You need to treat it that way, especially in our park. You don’t have that extra 10 hours when you wake up in the morning to get ready for that 7 o’clock night game.”

So instead of treating grown-ups like grown-ups and hoping for good decision-making, the new Epstein-led regime is informing players this spring that with a new sheriff comes a new set of expectations.

Astros block Detroit Free Press from clubhouse at Justin Verlander’s request

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Last night a BBWAA-credentialed reporter from the Detroit Free Press was barred from the Houston Astros’ clubhouse by team security following the Tigers win over the Astros. The reporter — who was almost certainly Anthony Fenech, who covers the Tigers — was kept out at the request of Astros starter Justin Verlander. Here’s the scene as described by the Free Press. The article contains a photo, taken by Fenech, of the three Astros officials who blocked the door to prevent him access:

At 9:35 p.m., the Astros opened their clubhouse to credentialed media in coordination with MLB rules. As other media members entered the clubhouse, the Free Press reporter with a valid BBWAA-issued credential was blocked from entering by three Astros security officials . . . The reporter contacted Mike Teevan, MLB vice president of communications, who said he would immediately reach out to Dias regarding the issue. Dias eventually gave the reporter access to the clubhouse at 9:41 p.m., after Verlander’s media session had ended . . . Once inside, the reporter approached Verlander, who said: “I’m not answering your questions.” When asked to comment on Wednesday’s loss, Verlander walked away.

That after-the-fact access for the reporter came only after he called Major League Baseball who, in turn, called Astros officials, presumably, to tell them that they cannot bar credentialed media.

It’s unclear at the moment what the beef is between Verlander and either the Free Press or the reporter. For what it’s worth, I follow Fenech and, while he’s a bit more witty and, occasionally, cutting than your average beat reporter, he’s self-effacing and doesn’t do cheap shots. Though he talks often about former Tigers and has made a point to highlight Verlander’s post-Tigers career whenever relevant, to my knowledge he hasn’t said or done anything specific to tweak Verlander in the past.

I will note, though, that last night, about eight minutes before Fenech was barred access, the Free Press Twitter account sent this tongue-in-cheek tweet out. It’s unclear if he or someone else at the paper wrote it:

Maybe that pissed off Verlander, who is known to be active on social media and is usually pretty aware of what’s being said about him. Hard to say.

What’s easy to say, though, is that no matter what has hurt Verlander’s fragile ego, the Astros barring the reporter from the clubhouse is in blatant violation of the agreement between Major League Baseball and the Baseball Writers Association of America, which ensures access for credentialed reporters. Verlander doesn’t have to talk to the guy — he doesn’t have to talk to anyone he doesn’t want to talk to — but the team honoring Verlander’s wishes to bar access is totally unacceptable and, frankly, about as low-rent as it gets from a media relations perspective.

We’ll probably hear more about this later today.