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Ken Giles wins arbitration case against Astros

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Astros right-hander Ken Giles won his arbitration case against the club, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Saturday. Giles initially filed at $4.6 million, which was countered by a $4.2 million offer from the team.

Giles, 27, dazzled in his second season with the Astros. He racked up 34 saves, good for fifth-most in the league, and sported a 2.30 ERA, 3.0 BB/9 and 11.9 SO/9 through 62 2/3 innings in the regular season. The postseason was a different story altogether. The right-hander imploded in three of seven playoff appearances and lost his status as the team’s closer halfway through the World Series with a brutal Game 4 loss and an unsightly 11.74 ERA. That said, Giles’ postseason snafu isn’t expected to have much bearing on his future with the team in 2018, according to comments made by manager AJ Hinch earlier this winter.

The Astros have two more arbitration hearings to resolve before Opening Day. Outfielder George Springer filed at $10.5 million, countered by $8.5 million from the team, while right-hander Collin McHugh seeks $5 million against the $4.55 million the Astros are willing to pony up. So far this winter, five players have won arbitration cases against their respective teams, including Giles, Rays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria ($5.9 million), Marlins first baseman Justin Bour ($3.4 million), Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts ($10.5 million), and Diamondbacks right-hander Shelby Miller ($4.9 million). Two have lost: Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna ($5.3 million) and Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto ($2.9 million).

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?