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Astros embroiled in PR fiasco in wake of executive's comments

Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch was left before

Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch was left before Game One of the World Series to address questionable comments from assistant general manager Brandon Taubman toward female reporters after the Astros defeated the Yankees in the ALCS. Credit: AP/David J. Phillip

HOUSTON — The Astros found themselves on the defensive Monday night and into Tuesday regarding a Sports Illustrated story they initially claimed was “fabricated” but eventually did a 180-degree turn on.

The organization came out strong against a Sports Illustrated story posted online late Monday night — on the eve of Game 1 of the World Series against the Nationals — that alleged some questionable behavior by one of their executives, Brandon Taubman, an assistant GM who attended Syosset High School, during the team’s clubhouse celebration after Saturday night’s ALCS victory over the Yankees.

The report alleged Taubman “turned to a group of three female reporters, including one wearing a purple domestic-violence awareness bracelet, and yelled, half a dozen times, ‘Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so [expletive] glad we got Osuna!’ ” during the celebration.

It was in relation to closer Roberto Osuna, whom the Astros traded for while he was serving a 75-game suspension in 2018 for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy.

The report also said “another Houston staffer apologized” to the reporters who heard Taubman’s remarks.

The Astros, who did not comment for the story when asked for one before its publication, then released a statement Monday night calling Stephanie Apstein’s story “misleading and completely irresponsible,” and later in the statement using the word “fabricate” in knocking it down.

Except in the same statement the team tacitly acknowledged the incident had occurred, saying “our executive [Taubman] was supporting the player during a difficult time. His comments had everything to do about the game situation that just occurred and nothing else.”

Osuna had given up a game-tying two-run homer in the ninth to DJ LeMahieu, leading to Jose Altuve’s walk-off homer in the bottom half.

The blowback from that statement caused the organization to release statements from Taubman and owner Jim Crane Tuesday afternoon that did not seem to improve matters for the club.

Taubman’s read in part: “This past Saturday, during our clubhouse celebration, I used inappropriate language for which I am deeply sorry and embarrassed. In retrospect, I realize that my comments were unprofessional and inappropriate. My overexuberance in support of a player has been misinterpreted as a demonstration of a regressive attitude about an important social issue. Those that know me know that I am a progressive and charitable member of the community, and a loving and committed husband and father.”

The statement concluded with: “I am sorry if anyone was offended by my actions.”

Part of Crane’s statement mentioned the Astros having “raised over $300K through our initiatives to help various agencies providing important support for this cause. We fully support MLB and baseball’s stance and values regarding domestic violence.”

Before Game 1, Astros manager AJ Hinch called the incident “unfortunate” and “uncalled for.”

“No one, it doesn’t matter if it’s a player, a coach, a manager, any of you members of the media, should ever feel like when you come into our clubhouse that you’re going to be uncomfortable or disrespected,” Hinch said.

General manager Jeff Luhnow, an occasional presence during Astros BP during the regular season and in the postseason, was not on the field Tuesday. As of Tuesday, the organization had not apologized to the reporter.

Major League Baseball, very much irritated behind the scenes to have to address a story that diverted attention from its premier event, released its own statement.

“Domestic violence is extraordinarily serious and everyone in baseball must use care to not engage in any behavior — whether intentional or not — that could be construed as minimizing the egregiousness of an act of domestic violence,” the statement said. “We became aware of this incident through the Sports Illustrated article. The Astros have disputed Sports Illustrated’s characterization of the incident. MLB will interview those involved before commenting further.”

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