Prior to Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night, the Astros had played 169 games. A 169-game journey to get to the place they are now, playing under the lights on baseball’s biggest stage. The World Series is supposed to be the grand payoff of those grueling 169 games, where everything else fades away and the sole focus is winning four more games.
Instead, this otherworldly talented Astros team has been forced to field as many questions about the behavior of an assistant general manager as their play on the field. The situation is a blemish on the entire World Series, but perhaps more deeply troubling than the incident itself has been Houston’s response since.
On Saturday night, after the Astros walked off on the Yankees to win the AL pennant, the Houston players and front office were deservedly celebrating wildly in the locker room. Amidst the chaos, assistant general manager Brandon Taubman turned to three female reporters–one of whom was wearing a purple domestic violence awareness bracelet–and repeatedly exclaimed, “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f– glad we got Osuna!” Roberto Osuna is Houston’s closer and is generally regarded as one of the best in the game. In 66 appearances this season, he pitched to a 2.63 ERA and a league-best 38 saves.
In May 2018, Osuna, then a member of the Blue Jays, was arrested by Toronto police after he allegedly assaulted the mother of his 3-year-old child. The charges were eventually dropped after the victim refused to return to Toronto and testify, but in June, he was suspended by MLB for 75 games in violation of its domestic abuse policy. A month later, the Astros traded for him.
In other words, Houston has already shown a repulsive readiness to turn a blind eye. Taubman’s comments were awful enough, but the front office’s response in the following days was even more disturbing.
The following day, the Astros released a statement claiming that the story was “fabricated” and “misleading and completely irresponsible”–as if Houston is in a place to judge what is irresponsible. Instead, Houston claimed that the comments “had everything to do with the game situation and nothing else.”
I’m sorry, what? Perhaps this rationalization would make some sense if Osuna had just finished some spectacular nine-out save performance. No, he had actually done quite the opposite, surrendering a game-tying two-run home run in the ninth. In other words, he had failed to do the one job he was expected to do. And Taubman was celebrating the “game situation?”
But the front office took it one step further by saying that the story was an “attempt to fabricate a story where one does not exist.” After the statement was released, several other reporters who witnessed the outburst corroborated the story. In a world where domestic violence victims often don’t report the crimes at the fear of repercussions or not being believed, the Houston front office’s first reaction was to question the validity of the reporter’s story.
Since that initial statement, Houston has modified its story, offering a sorry excuse of an apology and calling the comments simply “unprofessional.” On Wednesday, general manager Jeff Luhnow attempted to further excuse Taubman’s actions, saying, “What we really don’t know is the intent behind the inappropriate comments he made.”
An already vile situation has been made worse by Houston’s demeaning and dangerous reaction. Think of the precedent that the organization is setting. What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room? We shouldn’t trust the words of female reporters in a male-dominated sport? We should support domestic abusers because they’re good at baseball?
Roberto Osuna should not be in the MLB. And if you think I’m just a salty Yankees fan, Aroldis Chapman shouldn’t be either.
Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein, the reporter in the locker room that night who courageously broke the story, wrote in her piece, “In truth, the Astros’ front office acts as if it is tired of being yelled at about this subject. They want to be allowed to play their baseball games and pop their champagne without being forced to think about anything that happened away from the ballpark.”
We can no longer afford to ignore players’ off-the-field actions because of their on-the-field importance. In the locker room that night, Taubman was fully aware of Osuna’s past, he was fully aware of the female reporters standing there and he was fully confident that he, like Osuna, is invincible because of the value he brings to a baseball team.
Houston’s response to the situation should have been a no-brainer. Taubman should have been promptly relieved of his duties; a sincere, if insufficient, apology should have been offered, and we could have attempted to enjoy the World Series despite being reminded of an alleged domestic abuser in one of the dugouts.
Yet inexplicably, Taubman is still employed by the Houston Astros. Even more inexplicably, the Astros’ front office has universally chosen to stand behind him and downplay the despicable nature of his words.
If the Astros organization is too spineless to take action, I sure hope Major League Baseball, which has launched an investigation into the story, takes matters into its own hands. Taubman should be out of a job and given their shameful response, it’s fair to wonder if the entire Houston front office should face the same fate.
Andrew Morrison is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. He tweets @asmor24.