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Francisco Cervelli leads ballplayers in joining Venezuelan protests

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Venezuela has nearly ground to a halt over the past several weeks as opponents of President Nicolas Maduro have taken to the streets to demand his removal from power. They have good reason to protest too, as Maduro and his party have mounted a virtual coup, working to bypass the results of elections which gave his opponents a legislative majority and to fend off a referendum aimed at ousting Maduro himself from office.

All of this comes as the country finds itself in an economic crisis which has led to severe food and medicine shortages. Violent crime has spiraled out of control and blackouts have become a daily occurrence. The protests themselves have turned violent as well, with hundreds injured and thousands have been arrested. Maduro stands defiant, employing the military to hold on to power and crack down on his opponents.

While most of us don’t tend to think all that much about what happens in Venezuela, there are over 70 major league baseball players from the country and many more minor leaguers. They all have family and friends down there, many of them suffering and in danger. Yet they still have to find a way to go about their business every day, playing a game, while their country burns.

Many of them are not simply trying to put it out of their mind. As Stephen Nesbitt of the Post-Gazette reports, many are lending their support and joining in protests of Maduro and the deteriorating situation in Venezuela from afar. Leading the charge: Pittsburgh Pirate and Venezuela native Francisco Cervelli:

Before the Pirates played the Milwaukee Brewers on May 5, Cervelli spoke with Hernan Perez during batting practice. They started to hatch a plan. They got together after the game and began contacting some of the 70 other Venezuelans currently on active rosters. They called. They texted. They asked players to send videos voicing their support of the protesters.

Three days later, Cervelli posted a video on his Instagram page, which has more than 181,000 followers, that featured messages from 13 players from three teams. The caption, translated, read, “THAT’S ENOUGH! THE CRIES OF MILLIONS OF VOICES FOR VENEZUELA.”

Nesbitt talks to Cervelli and shares his words and those of other Venezuelan players who are not content to remain quiet and stick to baseball while their homeland is in crisis.

The article is definitely worth your time and their efforts are definitely worth our admiration.

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?