Cliff Pennington lands on disabled list with sprained bat

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Well, technically it’s with a sore elbow, but no one is buying that excuse.

The A’s placed Cliff Pennigton on the disabled list after his latest 0-for Thursday. He had gone hitless in four straight games, taking his average down to .197 for the season. That comes with just 17 extra-base hits, 16 RBI and 23 walks in 284 at-bats, so he’s been a huge drag on the offense. He ranks dead last in the majors in OPS among qualified batters:

156. Pennington: .541
155. Dee Gordon (SS LAD): .562
154. Justin Smoak (1B Sea): .600
153. Jamey Carroll (INF Min): .606
152. Cameron Maybin (CF SD): .615
151. Robert Andino (2B Bal): .617
150. Jordan Schafer (CF Hou): .617
149. Jemile Weeks (2B Oak): .619
148. Brandon Crawford (SS SF): .623
147. Placido Polanco (3B Phi): .627

Eric Sogard was called up to replace Pennington and will share time at shortstop with Brandon Hicks. The A’s are in the market for an upgrade, with Yunel Escobar and Stephen Drew serving as possibilities.

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 it as precedent. Finally, it should be noted that in issuing this statement, the Astros have given at least some tacit credence to Verlander’s thus far unsubstantiated and unspecified allegations of unethical behavior on the part of Fenech, which seems less-than-ideal at best.

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