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

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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.

UPDATE: Verlander speaks:

This is irrelevant, of course. Verlander can choose not to talk to the Free Press if he chooses not to, obviously. But The Astros are not permitted to bar the paper access, even if their ace pitcher requests it. So now we wait to hear from the Astros on the matter.

UPDATE: And now the Free Press speaks, contradicting Verlander:

The harrowing tale of the end of Bobby Jenks’ baseball career

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Bobby Jenks was a key part of the 2005 world champion White Sox. By 2010, his effectiveness as a closer fell off and he signed with the Boston Red Sox for the 2011 season. He’d pitch in only 19 games that year, suffer a back injury and would never pitch again.

In the year or so after that, we heard that Jenks was arrested for driving under the influence. And then we heard that his back surgery was botched, and his baseball career was over. Then, after years of silence, we learned last spring that Jenks won $5.1 million in a medical malpractice suit against the doctor who performed his surgery.

We did not, however, know all the details until Bobby Jenks wrote about them at the Players’ Tribune this morning. This is must-click link stuff, folks.

Jenks talks about how a seemingly innocuous pitch to Jorge Posada in an early-season Red Sox-Yankees game in 2011 was the last pitch he’d ever throw. He talks about the presumably simple surgery that would supposedly get him back on the field. And then the scary complications in which he almost died due to leaking spinal fluid resulting from the botched surgery. Then, after using painkillers to deal with back pain, Jenks’ fell into drug addiction, all of which culminated in him finding himself half-naked and crazed in a car that didn’t belong to him with police and rescue workers surrounding him.

Jenks got clean but his wife left him. And then he mounted a multi-year lawsuit during which he learned that the reason his back surgery was screwed up was because the surgeon was performing two surgeries at one time, which is an apparently common practice called “concurrent surgery,” that sounds like it totally should NOT be a common practice.

Yet Jenks has survived. He’s been sober for over seven years and he seems to be in a good place. But boy did he have to go through something harrowing to get there. Definitely take the time to read it.