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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2018 — No. 17: Manny Machado traded before he was traded

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We’re a few short days away from 2019 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2018. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

It was clear from very early on that the Baltimore Orioles were going to trade Manny Machado during the course of the 2018 season. He was in his free agency walk year and, once they dropped five of their first six games, any pretense of a decent Orioles year meant that their big star was going to be on the block.

And, as is always the case when a big star is on the block, there were rumors all late spring and early summer about which teams were interested, who was talking to the Orioles and all of the usual stuff that comes in the runup to the trade deadline. By the time the All-Star Game rolled around in mid-July it was widely assumed that the number of days Machado had left in orange and black could be counted on one hand. And, as a matter of fact, news of his trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers broke on July 18, the day after the Midsummer Classic.

Except, as it turns out, he had already, more or less, had been traded. A deal was in place between the O’s and Dodgers several days earlier. Even before the All-Star Game.

We learned after the trade that the Orioles pulled him out of their final game before the All-Star break in the fourth inning because the deal was struck and the Dodgers didn’t want their new shortstop’s health risked in an actual game. The Orioles lied to reporters about it afterward, telling them that it was because the field was wet. As Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported later, however, the O’s told Machado what the real deal was:

“That’s when they had told me I had been traded,’’ Machado said. “They said they pretty much had a deal done. They just wanted to wait until after the break to get all of the medical stuff done.

It’s hard to escape the inference that part of the delay in announcing it was also to protect the Orioles from looking kinda pathetic during the All-Star break, as Machado was their only All-Star representative and if the trade was announced they’d have no one there.

All of which is rather silly, of course, but maybe the silliest part of it was what reporters were saying in between the time the deal was actually struck on Sunday and when it was announced on Wednesday. During that time there was all of the usual rumor-mongering, complete with tweets about this or that team “being in the race” or “taking the lead” or three or four teams in the “debry” or “sweepstakes” as it entered “the home stretch.” As it turns out, it was like a bunch of track announcers calling a race that wasn’t even being run. Were they being fed bogus rumors or are all trade rumors a lot of vague bunk about which we never find out? No matter which of those it is, it says a lot about how the trade rumor business works.

Ultimately, the manner in which Machado was traded to the Dodgers didn’t matter anywhere near as much as the fact that he was traded. Machado didn’t have anywhere near as good a second half in Los Angeles as he did a first half in Baltimore, but he filled a void for the Dodgers and was part of their September surge which helped them win the National League West and the NL pennant once again.

Now he’s a free agent and the rumors about him swirl anew. Which ones should we believe? Heck, should we believe any of ’em?

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?