Beyond the Scoreboard: Astros Drop Ball in Handling Brandon Taubman Ordeal


When The Fordham Ram newspaper gets distributed on Wednesday, it is more plausible than not that the Houston Astros will be World Series Champions for the second time in three years. The Astros have won the last three games of the fall classic and are in great shape with the final two games at Minute Maid Park.

Regardless of whether or not they ultimately end up hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy in triumph, there will still be a loss waiting for Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow and the entire organization in the clubhouse. Ironic, considering it is the same place from which the problem first emanated.

On Oct. 19, the Astros defeated the New York Yankees in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. As one can imagine, there was obvious jubilation from the players, coaches and those employed by the franchise. Shortstop Jose Altuve belted a game-ending two-run homer off of Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman to punch Houston’s ticket into the World Series. The celebration in the clubhouse post-game was widely entertaining to watch on TV, filled with excited screams and cascading showers of champagne.

However, on the following Monday, we all found out from Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein that not all of the celebration was genuine. She reported that at one point during the festivities, Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman turned to a group of three female reporters and yelled multiple times in their direction, “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f—— glad we got Osuna!”

Taubman was referring to Astros pitcher and closer Roberto Osuna who was suspended for 75 games last year for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. Houston traded for him last season just before his suspension ended, and there is no doubt he has been a vital piece in the team’s postseason run. However, picking the night of their ALCS win to rave incessantly about acquiring Osuna post-game made no rational sense, given the context.

Osuna gave up the game-tying home run in the 9th inning, blowing a potential save opportunity and putting himself on the hook for a loss had the Yankees capped off that comeback bid with a win. Knowing this, Osuna was the last Astros player who should have been commended by anyone with an interest in the team.
Taubman issued an apology the day after the report surfaced, saying, “My overexuberance in support of a player has been misinterpreted as a demonstration of a regressive attitude about an important social issue.”

The rest of Taubman’s apology seemed like the typical template for someone trying to save face. It included that classic line of  “Those that know me know …” and ended with a lazy apology to Sports Illustrated (SI) as a publication instead of a personal apology to Apstein and the group of female reporters who were the targets of his taunts. When you take into account that one of those reporters was wearing a purple domestic-violence awareness bracelet, though, it is clear Taubman’s intent was as calculating as it was demeaning.

To quote the movie “Remember the Titans,” “Attitude reflects leadership.”

After Apstein’s article first came out, the Astros released a statement, calling her report “misleading and completely irresponsible.” The statement also adamantly defended the notion that Taubman’s comments had everything to do with the game, while ending by saying that Sports Illustrated attempted to “fabricate a story where one does not exist.”

Now, how can someone read that and not believe that the Astros organization had zero objectivity in their reaction? They completely denied Apstein’s report and brought her journalistic integrity into question. Instead of saying something along the lines of, “We will be investigating this matter and take any allegations seriously,” the team dismissed Apstein to protect Taubman, burying themselves in the process.

Major League Baseball, along with the Astros, further investigated the incident. Multiple witnesses were interviewed and media outlets like the Houston Chronicle corroborated SI’s reporting. It took five days, but the Astros made the decision to fire Taubman, while issuing another statement. This time, the organization apologized to Apstein personally, while concluding at one point, “We were wrong.”

But even that apology came off a bit insincere. When Luhnow spoke at the Astros press conference following Taubman’s termination, he took no accountability for the Astros initial statement discrediting Apstein, explaining it was the fault of the organization as a whole.

Even worse, he attempted to portray himself as a victim when he said, “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone in this room, just like I wouldn’t wish it on anyone in this room to sit up here and answer these questions either.” The truth is, Mr. Luhnow: you are the GM; and as the GM, it is your job to take responsibility and answer for the actions of those hired under your watch.

When Luhnow was asked if he personally reached out to Apstein to apologize, he responded by saying he had been busy and did not have the time. The worst part: also sitting in that room hearing Luhlow say that, was Apstein herself.

Apstein would later get a letter from Astros owner Jim Crane retracting the team’s original statement, but Luhnow not having the presence of mind to know Apstein was there for his press conference is troubling. If he really cared and sincerely wanted to apologize, he should have taken the time to ask if Apstein was in the room and then apologized directly to her.

This may just be conjecture on my part, yet I cannot help but think that if Apstein was a male reporter and those targeted were a group of males, Taubman would not have lasted a day, much less five. The players may be championship-caliber, but in regards to the Astros front-office — Houston, we have a problem.