Astros engulfed in World Series controversy after executive reportedly confronts female reporters

Houston Astros closing pitcher Roberto Osuna throws the ball during a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Roberto Osuna allowed a game-tying home run in Game 6 of the ALCS. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Amid the celebration of the Houston Astros advancing to the World Series for the second time in three years, an executive in the organization was loudly confronting a group of three female reporters over closer Roberto Osuna, according to Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein.

Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman reportedly yelled, half a dozen times, “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f---ing glad we got Osuna!” The confrontation occurred with the obvious context of Osuna’s past domestic violence allegation and subsequent 75-game suspension.

One of the reporters was apparently wearing a purple domestic-violence awareness bracelet, and Taubman had complained about her past tweets on Osuna and domestic violence, according to NPR’s David Folkenflik.

Taubman was holding a cigar and standing with two or three other men at the time, eyewitnesses told the Houston Chronicle.

A Houston staffer reportedly apologized for Taubman’s conduct afterward. The Astros declined comment to Sports Illustrated, and also declined to make Taubman available for interview.

Yahoo Sports’ Hannah Keyser, who was in the clubhouse at the time, confirmed the confrontation took place.

Astros’ claim that SI fabricated story contradicted by multiple reporters

The Astros released a statement after Sports Illustrated published its article, claiming the story was “misleading and completely irresponsible,” saying Taubman was “supporting the player during a difficult time.” It did not explain why the second staffer felt the need to apologize, nor why it declined initial comment to Sports Illustrated.

Houston Chronicle reporter Hunter Atkins disputed the Astros’ account of the incident, saying Sports Illustrated’s report was not misleading.

Two additional members of the media anonymously confirmed Apstein’s account to The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan, with one even contradicting the Astros’ claim that Taubman was defending a player by saying he didn’t remember any players being in the area at the time.

From The Athletic:

“I didn’t get a good look at whether Taubman stared at them. But he was loud and obnoxious and he said what he said,” said one witness, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “He definitely was not defending Osuna based on the bad game Osuna had. It was very clear.”

Taubman’s pride in acquiring Osuna came shortly after the closer yielded a tying home run to New York Yankees infielder D.J. LeMahieu in Game 6 of the ALCS.

The Astros later bailed Osuna out of a blown save with Jose Altuve’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth against Aroldis Chapman, who has also been suspended for domestic violence.

Astros, MLB release additional statements

The Astros released two additional statements on Monday afternoon from Taubman and team owner Jim Crane. Neither statement addresses the team’s initial Monday night statement that accused Apstein of fabricating the entire incident.

Brandon Taubman:

“This past Saturday, during our clubhouse celebration, I used inappropriate language for which I am deeply sorry and embarrassed. In retrospect, I realize that my comments were unprofessional and inappropriate. My overexuberance in support of a player has been misinterpreted as a demonstration of a regressive attitude about an important social issue. Those that know me know that I am a progressive and charitable member of the community, and a loving and committed husband and father. I hope that those who do not know me understand that the Sports Illustrated article does not reflect who I am or my values. I am sorry if anyone was offended by my actions.”

Jim Crane:

“The Astros continue to be committed to using our voice to create awareness and support on the issue of domestic violence. We not only ensure mandatory training annually for all of our employees, we have also created an important partnership with the Texas Council on Family Violence, and have raised over $300K through our initiatives to help various agencies providing important support for this cause. We fully support MLB and baseball’s stance and values regarding domestic violence.”

MLB also released a statement about the incident, saying it plans to interview those involved.

“Domestic violence is extraordinarily serious and everyone in baseball must use care to not engage in any behavior — whether intentional or not — that could be construed as minimizing the egregiousness of an act of domestic violence. We became aware of this incident through the Sports Illustrated article. The Astros have disputed Sports Illustrated’s characterization of the incident. MLB will interview those involved before commenting further.”

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America released a statement welcoming the news that MLB would investigate the incident, and demanded an apology from the Astros for the conduct of Taubman and the team’s public relations department. It called the Astros’ initial denial of the story an “unethical and intentional fabrication” designed to discredit its members.

Astros acquired Osuna despite domestic violence suspension

Osuna, then a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, was arrested in May 2018 on a domestic assault charge for an incident involving the mother of his child.

The charges against Osuna were later dropped after the alleged victim, who wanted to continue co-parenting her child with Osuna, declined to cooperate with the investigation. Osuna agreed to a peace bond in Toronto court and was later given the 75-game suspension.

Despite Osuna’s suspension and their stated zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence, the Astros still felt they could reinforce their bullpen for pennies on the dollar by trading for the pitcher. The team was blasted for the move, but remained defiant that it was giving Osuna a second chance.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow went so far as to say the situation could create some positives “down the road” because Osuna would help with domestic violence awareness in the organization. Seriously. Osuna’s new bullpen-mate Ryan Pressly also profanely defended the closer against a heckler for bringing up the matter.

Above all, the Astros have wanted the world to forget why Osuna was suspended and focus on his play on the field, which has remained effective. The closer will likely be key in the team’s World Series matchup with the Washington Nationals, even after one of its own executives seems to have done his best to remind the world how the Astros got the reliever in the first place.

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