Latino players vs. The Old Guard

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There’s been a lot of talk about Yasiel Puig’s alleged hot dogging and the Dodgers jumping into the Diamondbacks’ pool. There has been a lot of talk about Brian McCann: Baseball Sheriff and the Braves’ multiple run-ins this year with players they perceived to be acting unprofessionally. Against that backdrop Jorge Arangure writes in Sports on Earth about the impossible-to-ignore fault lines in baseball culture:

Forget about the stats vs. scouts argument: The biggest dissonance in the game right now is between the showmanship of Latino players and the stoicism of the old guard. Some believe it is the fight for baseball’s soul. Some believe that allowing such behavior will irreparably damage the game. It’s a silly argument, of course, but it’s happening.

Arangure argues that, while the culture of baseball and its unwritten rules of deportment are long-standing, they developed in a game dominated by U.S. born players. Mostly white U.S. born players. Given that Latino players now constitute 30% of the baseball population and given that that number is only going up, baseball can and should have to adjust and make room for a different style.

I couldn’t agree more. There is no escaping the fact that almost every controversy about deportment in baseball involves white players explaining to Latino players how to “do things the right way.” Fact is, though, that there is more than one way to carry oneself than the way someone like Brian McCann Chris Carpenter or Tony La Russa believes one should carry oneself. And it’s quite possible to enjoy the game, be exuberant flip bats and do all manner of things that many ballplayers currently consider taboo without also being disrespectful.

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?