The Houston Astros take on the Washington Nationals in Game One of the World Series Tuesday night, but all eyes are on a different story regarding the team: One published Monday by Sports Illustrated that accuses a team exec of having an "offensive" locker room outburst directed at three female reporters.
- The allegation: While in the locker room after the American League championship ended in the Astros' favor, assistant general manager Brandon Taubman turned toward the reporters, one of whom was wearing a purple domestic-violence awareness bracelet, and yelled the following six times: "Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f------ glad we got Osuna!"
- The player: Roberto Osuna was traded to the Astros in July 2018 after the Blue Jays unloaded him following his May 8 arrest on assault charges involving the mother of his then-3-year-old. The charges were ultimately dropped, but Osuna was suspended by MLB for 75 games for violating the league's domestic violence policy, reports CNN. His suspension ended in August 2018, and he ended this season as MLB's No. 2 closer.
- But on Saturday... He wasn't such a hot closer. He let a two-run homer slip through to tie the game 4-4 at the top of the ninth. Astro Jose Altuve's subsequent two-run homer was the game saver.
- Where SI went: Writer Stephanie Apstein saw a clear motive in Taubman's statement: "By Baseball Reference’s calculations and any intelligent observer’s assessment, [Osuna was] the least valuable Astro that night. So why would Taubman choose that moment, to taunt that demographic? It's not hard to figure out."
- The background: The Houston Chronicle previously reported the trade was contentious from the moment it was announced—and the team's formal announcement didn't go so well. "A statement attributed to the general manager extolled the club’s 'zero tolerance policy on abuse of any kind'—ostensibly contradictory to the deal [GM Jeff] Luhnow had just executed. Pressed on semantics during a conference call shortly thereafter, Luhnow hedged the claim. The policy, he said, did not take effect until a player became an Astro and did not apply to any alleged actions while with another team."
- How the team is reacting now: In a word, denial. Here's part of its statement: "Our executive was supporting the player during a difficult time. His comments had everything to do about the game situation that just occurred and nothing else—they were also not directed toward any specific reporters. We are extremely disappointed in Sports Illustrated's attempt to fabricate a story where one does not exist."
- Corroboration: CNN points out that other reporters have come out to verify Apstein's version, including the Houston Chronicle's Hunter Atkins and Yahoo Sports' Hannah Keyser. The Chronicle separately spoke with eyewitnesses who said a cigar-holding Taubman was about eight feet from the women when he yelled the lines, and "one was visibly shaken by the comment." The eyewitnesses also pushed back at the Astros' assertion that a player was being asked about a difficult outing, saying there were no players in the area nor any interviews ongoing at the time.
- Reaction: At ESPN, Jeff Passan isn't exactly gobsmacked by the Astros' denial. "This is how they operate," he writes of the team. But the implications are bigger. "This is ... an important moment for the league. On the eve of the World Series, one of the key decision-makers for a 107-win team favored to win a championship was revealed as someone who decides to use the success of a baseball team to validate the grossest sort of misdeeds. This is who the Astros are supporting. This is who Major League Baseball is implicitly endorsing every minute it does not discipline him."
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