Series clincher Matt Cain now gets to go for the big one

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Matt Cain started and won Game 5 of the NLDS against the Reds. He got the ball again in Game 7 of the NLCS versus the Cardinals. Now he’ll try to close out a third straight series for the Giants in Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday evening.

That Cain had to wait until Game 4 to face the Tigers was something of a surprise, and manager Bruce Bochy did indicate that fatigue played some role in his decision. Cain was one of the NL’s top five starters this year, and if he were still throwing like he did in September, there’s little doubt that the Giants would have lined him up to pitch Games 3 and 7 of the World Series.

Cain, though, hasn’t looked like a world beater in the postseason. While he’s come up with the two big wins, he’s lost his two other starts. In Game 7 against the Cardinals, Bochy made the call to remove him with a shutout intact in the sixth inning. In all, Cain has pitched 23 innings in his four starts and amassed a solid 3.52 ERA. However, it’s come with a decreased strikeout rate and four homers allowed. He allowed a homer every 10 innings during the regular season. In 2011, he allowed a homer every 25 innings.

On the plus side, Cain will get to face an ice cold Tigers offense in poor conditions for hitting. The temperature was 47 degrees at the start of tonight’s game, and the forecast calls for a similar Sunday. Plus, he has a pretty rested bullpen behind him after Tim Lincecum took care of business tonight. One imagines the Giants will aim for six innings from Cain in Game 4, with Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo matching up from there. It’s been a winning recipe so far.

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?