It was avoidable and inexcusable.
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.
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.
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.