Players are concerned their routines will be messed up as a result of pace of play changes. Well, tough.

37 Comments

Jayson Stark of ESPN has a story about how players are concerned that their voices will not be heard in the ongoing discussion about increasing the pace of play in Major League Baseball. Yes, the union is involved and the union asks players about such things, but no players are on the committee which is discussing possible rules changes.

At the outset, yes, I agree: players should be at the table, not just Tony Clark. If it were just about their rights being protected, fine, let the union deal with it. But if it’s about the actual mechanics of the job, the people who do the job probably have better insight about all of this than anyone. Or at least should be in the conversation when the way they do their job is being changed.

That said, the players’ complaints, as told to Stark, don’t exactly move me. Among them:

That too much of the blame for slowing the game — and most of the responsibility for fixing it — seems to have been placed on players. Players complained that Selig has made a number of comments about how “aggravated” he is with hitters who step out of the box after every pitch and start “adjusting all the crap [they] have on.” That tone, said one player, “isn’t helping.”

I hate to break it to you guys, but you are the reason games are slow. Yes, commercial breaks are a bit longer than they used to be, but it’s the batter and pitcher interaction — and lack of action — which is what is slowing everything down. Maybe pointing that out “isn’t helping” insofar as your ego and your hurt feelings go, but addressing that is the primary way to help speed things up.

Indeed, the other things players mention as culprits — commercial breaks, sabermetrics encouraging batters to take more pitches and more pitching changes happening — deal directly with the finances of baseball, the strategy of baseball and the rules of baseball, respectively, and making changes to those things would be far more problematic than simply having players, you know, step on it a bit.

There is one funny bit here, however. One of the changes on the table — a change which is being tested in the Arizona Fall League right now — is the pitch clock, which would be visible on the outfield wall and behind home plate and which would, in theory, ensure that pitchers deliver the ball in a timely manner when no runners are on base. Curtis Granderson muses:

“You could have a situation where there are 10 seconds on the clock, and fans are yelling, ‘3-2-1,’ and messing the pitcher up. … And the next thing you know, the hitter and the pitcher are both rushing to the clock because they don’t want a violation.”

Am I crazy, or wouldn’t that be pretty cool? This is no different than “Hey batterbatter saaaawiiiiing batter!” This isn’t tennis or golf. Suck it up.

Most of the players complaints here boil down to “man, don’t mess with our routines.” Welp, sorry. Your routines are way easier to mess with than rules which would fundamentally alter the game. And your routines are the primary problem. You should totally be in the conversation dealing with all of that, probably in a more active role than you currently are, but ultimately the burden of change is going to fall on the guys who actually play the game.

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

Getty Images
18 Comments

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.