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SportInside story of the Astros, Verlander and a newspaper

02:20  25 august  2019
02:20  25 august  2019 Source:   freep.com

Verlander allows 2 HRs in 2-hitter, loses 2-1 to Tigers

Verlander allows 2 HRs in 2-hitter, loses 2-1 to Tigers Justin Verlander pitched a two-hitter and lost, allowing homers to John Hicks and Ronny Rodriguez as the Detroit Tigers beat the Houston Astros 2-1 on Wednesday night. Hicks led off the ninth with a tiebreaking blast to left-center field off Verlander (15-5), who leads the majors in strikeouts with 239 but ranks second in homers allowed with 33. The veteran right-hander retired the first 14 batters, with six strikeouts, before Rodriguez homered to the seats in right with two outs in the fifth. Verlander sat down another 10 straight before Hicks connected.

The # Astros have acquired RHP Justin Verlander and a PTBNL or cash from the Tigers. Welcome to Houston, @JustinVerlander It appeared talks hit a snag at the last moment when, Chris McCosky of The Detroit News reported, Verlander wouldn't waive his no-trade clause or the Astros rescinded

Verlander had not won the award since 2012. He twirled a seven scoreless innings against the Twins in 35 degree temperatures last Monday — a 2-0 win that was the second-coldest game in Astros franchise history — before dueling fellow Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon on Sunday.

Inside story of the Astros, Verlander and a newspaper
Inside story of the Astros, Verlander and a newspaper
Inside story of the Astros, Verlander and a newspaper

It was avoidable and inexcusable.

Astros block Free Press from Justin Verlander’s postgame media session

Astros block Free Press from Justin Verlander’s postgame media session The Houston Astros blocked the Detroit Free Press from interviewing Justin Verlander following the team's loss to the Tigers on Wednesday.

Justin Verlander ’s 11 Astros regular-season starts since last September have produced 9-0 record and a 1.22 ERA. It's an old story writ new and large. Four decades ago, a few years before Verlander was born, folks from the Motor City were pouring into Houston by the thousands, seeking

So Verlander continued to go about his off day. On the other side of the country, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow went through countless waves of increasing Hinch texted his coaches. Already asleep by then, Astros pitching coach Brent Strom awoke to the news in the middle of the night.

The Houston Astros knowingly violated the MLB collective bargaining agreement, which actually is designed to protect ballplayers, when the franchise blocked Free Press writer Anthony Fenech from entering their clubhouse with Houston media on Wednesday night.

Justin Verlander, arguably the greatest pitcher in Tigers history and now the Astros’ ace, refused to talk to any reporters with Fenech present.

Players have no obligation to talk to media members in a postgame scrum. They can ignore questions. Or give non-answers.

But the league says reporters must have equal access.

The Astros know this.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America exists to protect credentialed media from such backlash and retribution. And so does the CBA.

Astros defend barring reporter from clubhouse

Astros defend barring reporter from clubhouse Houston puts the ball squarely in MLB's and the BBWAA's court.

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The Astros opened their clubhouse at 9:35 p.m. and as the rest of the assembled media was allowed to enter the clubhouse, Fenech, who has a credential Fenech approached Verlander and the pitcher said: ‘‘I’m not answering your questions.’’ Verlander addressed the situation on Twitter on Thursday

Verlander and Fenech have a checkered past. But that isn’t the issue. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Yet in the interest of clarity and transparency, it’s important to explain how the relationship ultimately soured. And how the Astros’ decision to block access ultimately became a story.

'Unethical' behavior

In a tweet Thursday, Verlander said Fenech showed “unethical” past behavior.

It stems primarily from two incidents, Fenech says.

The relationship began to deteriorate on Aug. 22, 2017, when Fenech joined a conversation Verlander was having with Al Kaline in the Tigers' clubhouse at Comerica Park. Fenech had just finished an interview with Verlander a few minutes prior, and Kaline's name had come up. Fenech began talking to the two men.

During the conversation, which was casual in nature, Verlander talked about his experiences travelling to Tennessee and watching the solar eclipse on Aug. 21. Fenech posted two tweets about the exchange, saying:

MLB says Verlander, Astros barring reporter violates CBA

MLB says Verlander, Astros barring reporter violates CBA Justin Verlander requested the Houston Astros to keep Free Press writer Anthony Fenech out of the clubhouse after the Tigers' 2-1 win

In Verlander , the Astros acquired a pitcher with postseason experience, while the D-backs could challenge the Dodgers if they meet in the playoffs. Angels add offense: The other big winner of the day was the Angels and GM Billy Eppler in acquiring Upton and Phillips. Angels left fielders ranked

“Yeah, I think the goal is to be healthy and to be strong as long as I can,” Verlander , who will start ALCS Game 1 for the Astros on Saturday night at Fenway Park, said Friday in a news conference. “I think as long as I pay attention to my body and I take care of things that typically would creep in and

"Justin Verlander watched the solar eclipse from the Path of Totality. 'It was the most beautiful thing I've seen in my life,' he said."

And ...

"Verlander, an admitted astronomy enthusiast, traveled to Nashville to watch the eclipse in its fullest totality, he said."

That night, a Tigers media relations official told Fenech that Verlander was unhappy with the tweets. The next day, Verlander ripped Fenech in a profanity-laced rant inside the Tigers dugout in front of coaches, saying that his conversation with Kaline  was private.

The next time they spoke, in a postgame media scrum on Aug. 25 in Chicago, Verlander told Fenech, “You should stop,” in response to a question about the mid-game verbal altercation Verlander had with teammate Victor Martinez after a brawl with the New York Yankees on Aug. 24. When Fenech asked a follow-up question, Verlander walked out of the scrum.

Astros defend decision to restrict reporter from clubhouse

Astros defend decision to restrict reporter from clubhouse Amid criticism from Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros on Thursday defended the team's decision to deny a newspaper reporter access to the clubhouse until after ace pitcher Justin Verlander finished his postgame session with the media. MLB said Wednesday night's incident violated its media guidelines and the Detroit Free Press said barring its reporter, Anthony Fenech, was "intolerable." Verlander, who played for Detroit for 13 seasons, had just pitched a two-hitter in a 2-1 loss to the Tigers. The Astros opened their clubhouse at 9:35 p.m.

Executive Access Podcast: How the Astros landed Verlander in '17 Here's the inside story of the transaction of the year, told by the people The Cubs dealt for Jose Quintana of the White Sox early in the month, while Deadline day saw the Yankees trade for the A's Sonny Gray and the Dodgers pull

The Astros lived through three consecutive seasons of 105-plus losses for this October, and they wore the embarrassment of fielding teams that drew literal 0.0 And so when runners were on first and third in the fifth inning of Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night and a

The next issue came on Sept. 12, 2018, during an interview that went on and off the record and ended with a disagreement about the context surrounding the exchange of a phone number.

Fenech had been assigned to ask Verlander about a Bleacher Report story published Aug. 9, 2018, in which Verlander said the Tigers “misdiagnosed” an injury in 2015. The Free Press was the first Detroit media outlet to ask Verlander about the comments.

Verlander later apologized to the Tigers for his characterization of the situation.

Since then, Verlander has refused to talk to Fenech.

In mid-May, when the Astros came to Detroit, Gene Dias, the Astros’ vice president of communications, called Fenech and told him Verlander would not grant him any interview requests.

Then last week on Wednesday afternoon, a day after Verlander ended a media availability before it started because Fenech was present, Dias told Fenech that Verlander wasn’t speaking to him because of the misdiagnosis story published in 2018.

Here’s how Fenech remembers the 2018 interview:

Justin Verlander ejected by umpire Pat Hoberg for complaining about calls

Justin Verlander ejected by umpire Pat Hoberg for complaining about calls Justin Verlander was ejected during the sixth inning of Tuesday’s Houston Astros-Tampa Bay Rays game after taking issue with umpire Pat Hoberg’s strike zone. Verlander was leading 9-0 and facing Tampa Bay’s Tommy Pham with one out. On a 2-2 count, Verlander thought he had struck out Pham on a pitch just off the outside corner. Hoberg called it a ball. Justin Verlander thought he had rung up Tommy Pham on pitch 5. On pitch 6, Tommy Pham hit a double. Verlander went straight at Pat Hoberg after the hit was struck and yelled at him. Hoberg tossed him. pic.twitter.

HOUSTON — Justin Verlander worked 251 innings in 2011. No pitcher has done it since, and it might never happen again. He would like to have challenged himself in an earlier era. “I do often wonder how I would have been back then,” Verlander said on Friday

The Detroit paper isn't sending out a backup reporter to Houston the day of the game because a player on the other team decided he doesn't want one All Verlander has to do is ignore the guy. Instead, he went out of his way to get his team to ban this person from the clubhouse, undercutting his ability to

  • He interviewed Verlander at Comerica Park on Sept. 12 and asked for permission to turn on his recorder. Verlander said yes. It was Verlander's first trip to Detroit since the Bleacher Report story was published. The conversation alternated on and off the record. Given the nature of the conversation, Fenech told Verlander he’d return after the game to verify quotes for clarity, which is not a typical practice. Verlander said, "I appreciate that," according to Fenech's tape of the interview. The conversation ended.
  • After the interview, Dias told Fenech that Verlander was having second thoughts about the interview. Dias also told Fenech that not publishing the story could help Fenech’s working relationship with Verlander in the future. Verlander had deemed the story unnecessary, Dias told Fenech.
  • Fenech returned to the Astros clubhouse to clarify a quote with Verlander, who then said he believed the conversation was off the record. Fenech read the quote to Verlander and said he planned to use it in the story. The quote read, in part: “I’m going to let it lie. No point in dredging up the past anymore. I think the easiest way for me to answer it is, it was initially diagnosed as a tricep and it ended up being a lat.”
  • Fenech handed Verlander his business card and told him that if he needed to add to or clarify the quote, he could call him before the Free Press’ print deadline time. Fenech then told Verlander he wanted to preserve their working relationship. It was during this exchange that Verlander told Fenech he crossed the line. Verlander felt  Fenech was using the situation to gain the pitcher's personal cell phone number. Fenech told Verlander he misunderstood the exchange of the business card. Fenech told Verlander that it wasn't his intention.

On Friday, I reviewed the audio of Fenech's interview with Verlander for the first time. And while it's clear to me that Verlander was on the record, I did discover that Fenech crossed an ethical line when early in the conversation he offered to give Verlander advice on how to respond to the misdiagnosis question: This point has been firmly made to Fenech.

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News broke of a last-minute trade, reported first by Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press and confirmed by FanRag’s Jon Heyman and others. Detroit will also send Houston million in the deal, supposedly to cover some of the guaranteed million remaining on Verlander ’s contract

To be clear, this interaction is not what spurred Verlander to publicly question Fenech's ethics on Thursday. Verlander said, "sure go ahead," before declining the advice, giving his own statement and telling Fenech he "appreciated" the opportunity to clarify his quotes if needed.

Ultimately, the Free Press found that Fenech's attempt to be helpful in an awkward situation had no impact on the veracity of the reporting.

“This was a momentary lapse of judgment intended to build trust with the subject in this particular situation," Fenech said Saturday.

Multiple attempts to reach Verlander's agent, Mark Pieper, were unsuccessful on Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, Dias declined comment and referred the Free Press to the Astros' statement on Thursday, which said, in part, that Fenech's access was delayed because of "Verlander's legitimate concerns" about past interactions with Fenech.

The action was "appropriate," the statement said.

Why this is wrong

There’s nothing in the MLB collective bargaining agreement that would force Verlander to speak to Fenech. The Free Press understands that. And we understand some stories and some comments lead to contention and can affect one-on-one access.

But group access can’t be prejudicial.

When the Astros used three security officials to stand between Fenech and the clubhouse while Verlander spoke to reporters on Wednesday night, it sent a message that the BBWAA is powerless against baseball’s biggest stars. And, that a credentialed media member’s access can be compromised just because a player doesn’t like him.

On Wednesday afternoon, Verlander’s camp reached out to the Free Press. His agent, Mark Pieper, left a voicemail on my office phone to discuss Verlander’s issues with Fenech. Regrettably, I didn’t hear the voicemail until Thursday.

Still, the conversation wouldn’t have changed the Free Press’ stance: Fenech needed to be at Wednesday’s game and Verlander’s postgame media session for two reasons: He’s our beat reporter. And it’s his job.

Smith: Justin Verlander is the last of his kind in MLB

Smith: Justin Verlander is the last of his kind in MLB We already know it will end in the Baseball Hall of Fame. © Vaughn Ridley, Getty Images TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 01: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros celebrates after throwing a no hitter at the end of the ninth inning during a MLB game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on September 01, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. He helped guide the Astros to their first World Series trophy during his initial two months in Houston. And, somehow, Justin Verlander just keeps getting better. He threw 120 pitches Sunday, during a time when respected starters are praised for six good innings.

Share This Story ! And as the Astros faltered, Verlander came on strong, posting a 2.41 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 67 1/3 second-half innings. 31: The Astros acquired RHP Justin Verlander from the Tigers for minor league pitcher Franklin Perez, outfielder Daz Cameron and catcher Jake Rogers.

Disagreements happen in clubhouses and locker rooms all the time. Not all reporters and athletes get along.

Blocking access runs counter to the mission of the BBWAA, which was established in 1908 “to ensure its members have access to players and others in the game so members’ reporting can be accurate, fair and complete.”

Fenech wasn’t asking for a one-on-one interview.

He was asking to be present in a group interview with multiple reporters, who all heard the same comments from Verlander.

The Astros’ decision was inexcusable. Yet in their statement on Thursday, they defended their actions.

The MLB has since contacted the Astros and told them not to be prejudicial in granting access again. The BBWAA also condemned the actions.

But that's not enough.

The Free Press will make a formal complaint to the league. As part of it, we’ll urge MLB to adhere to its collective bargaining agreement.

Not because a ballplayer wouldn’t talk to a reporter.

But because the ballplayer’s franchise did not act professionally.

It’s written in the CBA’s Club-Media Regulations: “Any club whose personnel violate these regulations will be disciplined.”

We’re just asking MLB to put its weight behind this rule like it would any other.

So this never happens again.

Chris Thomas is the sports editor at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bychristhomas.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Houston Astros, Justin Verlander and the Free Press: Here's the story


Smith: Justin Verlander is the last of his kind in MLB.
We already know it will end in the Baseball Hall of Fame. © Vaughn Ridley, Getty Images TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 01: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros celebrates after throwing a no hitter at the end of the ninth inning during a MLB game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on September 01, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. He helped guide the Astros to their first World Series trophy during his initial two months in Houston. And, somehow, Justin Verlander just keeps getting better. He threw 120 pitches Sunday, during a time when respected starters are praised for six good innings.

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