The Houston Astros are on the cusp of winning their second World Series in the last 3 seasons as they are set to take on the Washington Nationals tonight, with a 3-2 series lead. The current success by this franchise comes on the heels of a substantial rebuild, which transformed the team formerly referred to as the “Lastros” to consistent World Series contenders. However, despite this recent success and the possibility to clinch a World Series tonight, the Astros have been in the spotlight for a much different reason.
Last season, the Astros traded for then Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna, in July, 2018, while he was serving a 75-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy. As reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Osuna was arrested in Toronto for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, who is the mother of their 3-year-old son. He accepted the 75-game suspension without appeal. However, the charges were withdrawn, which is common in high profile domestic assault cases, when Osuna entered into a peace bond in Canadian court last September.
Although Osuna did serve his entire suspension and was not convicted of the charges, sports media, fans, and women’s groups were critical of the trade due to his checkered past. Unfortunately, Stephanie Apstein of Sports Illustrated and two other female reporters were caught in the cross hairs. Astros Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman proclaimed his support for Osuna in the reporters’ direction following a win over the Yankees, which sent the Astros to the World Series.
As reported by the Washington Post, Stephanie Apstein had just completed a story regarding the end of the New York Yankees’ season. Subsequently, she made her way to the Astros clubhouse, where she intended to acquire material for a future World Series piece. Instead, as she stood with the two other female reporters, she said she heard a chant that at first she could not make out, but then it became clear. She realized that Taubman was chanting “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f—— glad we got Osuna!”
On Monday, Apstein returned to Minute Maid Park, the Astros home field, to cover team workouts prior to Game 1 of the World Series. While there, Apstein sought to provide an Astros public relations staffer with her version of the incident. However, the staffer discouraged her from writing about the topic, because she “could not truly know Taubman’s intent.” Initially, the Astros declined to comment and did not make Taubman available for questions. Apstein, after waiting for an apology, decided to write an article articulating what transpired.
Subsequently, the Astros denied that Taubman intended to direct these comments toward female reporters, rather he was just showing support for a player following a win which sent the Astros to a World Series. After other reporters were corroborated Apstein’s description of the incident, MLB and the Astros investigated, and then completely shifted their stance. The Astros then issued an apology stating “We were wrong. We sincerely apologize to Stephanie Apstein, Sports Illustrated and to all individuals who witnessed this incident or were offended by the inappropriate conduct. The Astros in no way intended to minimize the issues related to domestic violence . . . Subsequent interviews have revealed that Taubman’s inappropriate comments were, in fact, directed toward one or more reporters.”
Accordingly, the Astros fired Taubman following the investigation, however this has not stopped the criticism the franchise has received for how the situation was handled. Although opinions may be split whether Osuna or other professional athletes deserve a second chance following a domestic abuse allegation, it is clear that the Astros did not appropriately respond to Apstein’s allegation. Currently, the World Series is set to conclude, however much attention is focused on the Astros and Brandon Taubman regarding this incident, rather than the product on the field. Clearly, Major League Baseball, which has seen a consistent decline in viewership, must reevaluate the investigation process for incidents between reporters and employees of a franchise. Simply put, reporters should never have to feel uncomfortable or threatened, like Apstein or the other female reporters, when they are attempting to increase exposure and generate storylines for the league. Hopefully, the MLB and the Astros can collaborate to implement the necessary actions to avoid similar issues, so we can get back to focusing on the actual games played on the field.