HOUSTON -- The least-surprising thing about the Houston Astros isn't that their assistant general manager stood in the clubhouse immediately after they clinched a World Series berth and taunted a group of female reporters by bragging about the acquisition of closer Roberto Osuna, who last year was suspended 75 games for violating Major League Baseball's domestic violence policy. It's that the Astros organization stood behind him. This is how they operate.
The Astros' response Monday night to a Sports Illustrated report that Brandon Taubman, an assistant GM, repeatedly yelled, "Thank God we got Osuna! I'm so f---ing glad we got Osuna!" wasn't just tone deaf. It was stupid. It was insulting. It was demeaning. It also was false, as other reporters who witnessed the incident soon confirmed.
The immediacy with which the organization backed Taubman comes from the same strain of hubris that fueled Osuna's acquisition in the first place. The absurdity of the statement cannot be overstated. In it, the Astros confirmed that Taubman made the comments but said they were in support of an Astros player. "His comments had everything to do with the game situation that just occurred and nothing else," the statement said.
The game situation was simple: Osuna had given up a home run and blown a save that would have clinched the pennant. So of all the times for Taubman to say, "Thank God we got Osuna!" and of all the moments to repeat, "I'm so f---ing glad we got Osuna!" he chose the night that Osuna frittered away a lead? And it just so happened to be in the presence of a group of women, including one who was wearing a purple bracelet for domestic violence awareness?
Consider what the Astros are trying to sell. That Brandon Taubman is an extraordinarily supportive person and that his comments were earnestly meant in support of Osuna. In what universe does that sort of person shout them in a clubhouse celebration for everyone to hear? Particularly with the knowledge of how polarizing Osuna's presence on the team is in the first place? Taubman is an assistant general manager. He aspires to run a team someday, like his predecessors in the role, Milwaukee GM David Stearns and Baltimore GM Mike Elias. If he wanted to offer support for Osuna, he would tell Osuna, not yell it in front of reporters and cameras.
No, this was something darker. Arrogance, intimidation and a contemptible sort of nastiness. Something the organization easily could have disavowed. Instead, it tried to spin it -- and whirled itself into a corner from which there is no extrication.
This tack is not new, of course. Although the nature of Osuna's case never was made public and charges in Canada were dropped after the woman refused to testify, the league still had enough evidence to levy its third-longest domestic-violence-related suspension since the institution of the policy in 2015. From the moment they traded for him while he was still serving his nearly half-season-long suspension, the Astros have attempted to reap the benefits of a man sanctioned for a domestic violence arrest without suffering the scorn. Even as a number of officials in the organization were appalled by the deal, sources said, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was telling reporters that the team had a "zero-tolerance policy" when it came to domestic abuse. Last October, more than two-and-a-half months after the Astros traded for Osuna, the organization announced a partnership with local organizations to help combat domestic violence.
"We quickly learned our response could be through volunteers, through resources, through financial support," Twila Carter, the executive director of the Astros Foundation, said on the day the partnership was announced, "but most importantly, our voice."
The Astros' voice was heard loud and clear Monday. And it was made no better by a pair of statements released Tuesday afternoon. In one, Taubman said he was "sorry if anyone was offended by my actions" and said he was "deeply sorry and embarrassed" for using "inappropriate language." He continued to contend that his words were "overexuberance in support of a player." Jim Crane, the Astros' owner, highlighted the $300,000-plus the organization has raised for domestic-violence awareness and said "(t)he Astros continue to be committed to using our voice to create awareness and support on the issue of domestic violence."
The equivocating in the follow-up statements did nothing to erase the dual realities the statements created. Taubman spoke the words he did. He will wear those. But the Astros -- the organization -- aligned themselves with them, too, when they went on the offensive and tried to smear the story as a hit job, and nothing in either statement addressed the original lies they chose to tell.
This is a low moment for the Astros and 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 that it does not discipline him.
Domestic violence is a scourge, one that has existed for too long because people are unwilling to hold accountable not only those who perpetrate it but also those who look past it. That Brandon Taubman happened to say what he said now is sadly fitting. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.