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Houston Astros have an abuse problem

Ryan Stieg

Clinching a spot in the World Series would normally be a time for an enthusiastic but sane celebration.

Last weekend, Houston Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman decided to celebrate by being a disgusting, insensitive jerk.

After Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, while the players decided to toast their success in typical ways with cigars, champagne and just happily interacting with each other, Taubman turned to a group of female reporters and voiced his love for relief pitcher Roberto Osuna.

Taubman yelled out at the women “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f–king glad we got Osuna!” If you didn’t know the background, you’d think he was just thrilled the Astros picked up the star closer.

Except Osuna was arrested and accused of domestic violence against the mother of his child in May 2018 and one of the female reporters in the clubhouse was wearing a purple domestic violence awareness bracelet.

Not only was this outburst disturbing, it was bizarre. Osuna had given up a game-tying two-run homer to the Yankees in the top of the ninth inning and if teammate Jose Altuve hadn’t hit a walk-off dinger of his own in the bottom of the inning, Osuna would’ve been seen as the losing pitcher.

The only reason that comes to mind on why Taubman said what he said was to send a message and that was he was happy with having an accused domestic abuser on the team, and by in large, so were the Astros.

Well, technically, the team already did that when they signed Osuna in the first place. At the time of his arrest, Osuna was considered one of the best closers in the majors and was playing for Toronto.

The charges were eventually dropped and he agreed not to have contact with the woman he was accused of abusing for a year. Major League Baseball suspended him 75 games for violating its domestic violence policy, but despite the public backlash that would presumably happen, Houston decided to trade for Osuna anyway.

Now, in a way to save face after the trade, the Astros said they had a zero-tolerance policy toward domestic violence and made more than $200,000 in donations to different shelters.

As Sports Illustrated pointed out, Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow even said at the time that getting Osuna might “actually turn out to be a positive down the road” as it would help “raise awareness” of the problem.

The things teams will do to try to spin terrible decisions never cease to amaze me.

That statement was dumb, but what the Astros said after Taubman’s outburst was reported by SI was, somehow, even more stupid. After a team representative apologized for what Taubman said, Houston decided to be insensitive and mindbogglingly unaware by issuing a statement claiming the SI report was “misleading” and “completely irresponsible.”

The Astros also said that Taubman was “supporting the player during a difficult time” and that SI was trying to “fabricate a story where one does not exist.”

Let’s dissect this statement for a moment.

In what way was Taubman, dubbed “the executive” in the Astros’ statement, helping Osuna during a difficult time? His team just won the ALCS and earned its second trip to the World Series in three years. He also just got bailed out from a bad performance by Altuve and in the future years of history, most people will probably forget that Osuna even gave up the game-tying homer. All they’d remember was Altuve’s clutch at-bat.

Second, the Astros’ spin that the SI article was misleading was ridiculous as other reporters backed up what SI said, including ones from the Houston Chronicle and The Athletic. SI also backed up what the reporter, Stephanie Apstein, wrote in her article, so the Astros’ attempt at a defense-and-attack strategy was quickly shut down and their image worsened.

Not satisfied enough with that stupid idea, Taubman and Astros owner Jim Crane then released their own statements, which were predictably terrible. To his credit, Taubman admitted he said what he said and apologized.

However, he then decided to say how great of a person he is by saying that he’s a “progressive and charitable member of the community” as well as a “loving and committed husband and father.” Well, bully for you sir, but you being progressive and charitable as well as being a loving family man have nothing to do with you being insensitive lout.

Crane tried a similar tactic, trying to shift the focus away from Taubman’s actions toward what the team does for the community in regard to domestic violence awareness and support.

He also talked about the mandatory training employees goes through, the amount of money they raise to support the cause and the Astros’ “important partnership” with the Texas Council on Family Violence.

Again, congrats on doing that, but that doesn’t have much to do with the matter at hand.

Two things are missing. One, an apology from Crane or an acknowledgement that Taubman did what he did. Crane was basically saying “look how great we are.”

The second is an apology to Apstein or SI in regard to Houston’s accusation that the article was misleading or a fabrication. Major League Baseball at the same time seems to be backing the Astros that they “disputed” what SI said and that it will “interview those involved before commenting further.”

I could understand that kind of statement if you were trying to determine a penalty or a punishment for the Astros, but the league could’ve at least condemned what Taubman said.

Seriously, it’s incredible how bad the Astros and the league are handling this.

It took until Thursday for the Astros to try to fix this public relations disaster. Houston fired Taubman and issued a statement saying that interviews revealed that Taubman’s comments were “directed toward one or more reporters” and so they ended Taubman’s tenure with the franchise.

The Astros also admitted they were “wrong” in their original belief that Taubman’s comments weren’t directed toward any reporters and they apologized to Apstein, SI and all the individuals “who witnessed this incident or were offended by the inappropriate conduct.”

Well, better late than never.

The bottom line, though, is this — domestic violence is a huge and serious problem that seems to be shrugged off by professional teams and college programs around the country as long as a player is talented and could be useful. In most other professions, Osuna, Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and other accused domestic abusers would have a hard time getting another job.

Taubman and the Astros showed earlier this week that they accept that mindset, and Taubman decided to showcase it during a time when the team should’ve been toasting its victory.

Now they’ve turned a good chunk of baseball fans toward Houston’s World Series opponent, Washington, turning some fans away from the team.

The Astros have two problems on their hands. The first was that they were down 2-0 in the series heading into Friday night, but they also have a much more serious problem as their public image has been tarnished due to their dismissive views toward domestic violence.

They’ve already done the right thing by apologizing to Apstein and firing Taubman, but now, Houston has to show it truly takes the problem seriously.

And the best way to do that is to not sign any more abusers.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.