Phil Coke goes from Tigers’ playoff closer to Triple-A

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Phil Coke was one of the heroes of the Tigers’ playoff run last season, taking over for Jose Valverde as the primary closer while allowing one run in 10.2 innings. And now, less than a year later, he’s been demoted to Triple-A.

Coke’s performance this season certainly hasn’t been pretty with a 5.00 ERA in 36 innings, but it’s not that far off from the 4.16 ERA he posted in 227 innings during his first three seasons with the Tigers and a deeper look at his numbers shows a reliever being misused. Coke has always been good against lefties and struggled against righties, but manager Jim Leyland has used him like a traditional setup man rather than like a southpaw specialist.

Coke has held lefties to a perfectly decent .716 OPS, but because righties have knocked him around for an .834 OPS and he’s faced more righties than lefties the overall results have been ugly. And it was the same story last year, as Coke was very good against lefties and very bad against righties while facing an equal number of both. If the Tigers used Coke to his strengths he’d still be in the majors, although Coke has balked at the idea of being a specialist anyway.

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?