Mark Madden: Verlander conflict more interesting than anything he might say |
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All heck broke loose Wednesday when a Detroit baseball writer was briefly barred from the Houston Astros clubhouse because Astros (ex-Tigers) pitcher Justin Verlander perceives a bad history with said writer, whom he labeled “unethical.”

The writer, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, had his entrance to the clubhouse delayed six minutes. By the time Fenech got access, Verlander had finished speaking with the media. Verlander then pointedly refused to speak with Fenech.

Barring Fenech, however briefly, violates the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX and several commandments. It definitely breached the MLB club-media regulations as agreed upon in the collective bargaining agreement.

But rules matter little to multi-millionaires married to supermodels, especially after losing a game where his team was one of the heaviest favorites Las Vegas has ever posted in MLB. (Bet $100 on Detroit, win $435. Maybe Verlander fixed it, and Fenech knows.)

Verlander says he tried to contact the Free Press to give them an opportunity to have someone else cover the game. Cy Young Award winner by night, sports editor by day.

Free Press sports editor Chris Thomas said he had not heard from Verlander, thereby costing Thomas the chance to tell Verlander to go kick rocks.

The Astros defended their decision to deny Fenech access, because this is an era where teams are scared to death of their star athletes.

The subsequent course of action seems obvious: The athletes should only talk to the media when they want to. The media shouldn’t lean so hard on athletes’ quotes.

Verlander is obviously a horse’s backside in this situation. If you label somebody “unethical,” do explain. It sounds like Fenech stole from a Salvation Army kettle.

But Fenech missed nothing by not getting Verlander’s quotes.

Here’s the best of Verlander’s post-game musings: “Solo homers usually don’t hurt you. Tonight they did, unfortunately.” (Verlander allowed two hits, both homers, in a 2-1 loss.) Verlander also said, “The results are the results.”

It’s not hard to imagine finding superior insight, well, almost anywhere. (Maybe not from your typical supermodel.)

Quotes are just filler. Heck, almost everything in every game story is just filler. Everybody’s watched the game, or seen the highlights, and been subject to pithy quotes like Verlander’s on televised interviews conducted by flagship station shills or national media types who kiss butt to maintain access.

If that doesn’t fill ‘er up, check out social media. The athletes represent themselves in a fashion that is often incoherent but dangerously unfiltered.

If athletes didn’t have to address the media, Phil Kessel’s bliss might cause him to sprout wings and a halo, then ascend into heaven (where he still won’t take a one-timer). Those who enjoy talking will indulge us poor wretches. (You would have to wrestle ex-Penguin Ian Cole to the ground to keep him from a media scrum.)

Until the dark nature of Fenech’s lack of ethics is revealed, Verlander is the jerk in this instance. But why should an athlete have to talk with a reporter he doesn’t like, or whom he feels hard done by? (I’ve had two Pirates on my radio show in the best part of a decade. It seems organizational, not personal. It’s the abstract way of banning me from their clubhouse, where I would only go at gunpoint.)

If journalists are denied quotes, does the industry come to an ignominious end? It seems to be doing a decent job of that, even with the quotes.

How often does an athlete say anything that’s truly interesting, especially after a game? Does the reader, viewer or listener lose much if access is denied or limited? I’m appreciative when athletes are on my show. But if that ended, the show wouldn’t go out of business or even see its ratings dip. (That’s despite me being clearly and extremely unethical.)

If Verlander is telling steamy tales of romantic nights with Kate Upton, that’s interesting. But the surprising impact of solo home runs on a given night? Hard pass.

The conflict between Verlander and Fenech is far more intriguing than anything Verlander said, and might say.

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