Jameson Taillon
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Pirates name Jameson Taillon Opening Day starter

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The Pirates have appointed right-hander Jameson Taillon their Opening Day starter for 2019, per a team announcement on Saturday. It’s the first such appointment for the 27-year-old Taillon, who will take the mound when the Pirates open the season on the road against the Reds on March 28.

“It’s a big honor,” Taillon told reporters. “I get to kick off the season for the boys, set the tone. Obviously I care about the body of work and stuff, but it is a big honor to get the ball Opening Day. Growing up a fan of baseball, there was a certain stigma around Opening Day starter[s]. I would always look forward to when teams would announce it.”

The decision to go with Taillon comes as a no-brainer after his career year in 2018. According to FanGraphs, the righty was the most valuable starter in the Pirates’ rotation after going 14-10 in 32 starts with a 3.20 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.4 SO/9, and 3.7 fWAR across 191 innings.

He’ll head the rotation again in 2019 with a combination of right-handers Trevor Williams, Joe Musgrove, and Chris Archer behind him. The fifth spot is still up for grabs, but may be nabbed by any one of Jordan Lyles, Nick Kingham, or Steven Brault depending on how things shake out in spring training. Archer, 30, will get the nod for the club’s first home game against the Cardinals on April 1, while Williams and Musgrove are currently slated to fill in the starts between the two openers.

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?