After ignoring zero-tolerance abuse policy, it's time for Astros to be remorseful

Tim BrownMLB columnist
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/houston/" data-ylk="slk:Houston Astros">Houston Astros</a> executive Brandon Taubman is alleged to have taunted female reporters on Saturday night in the clubhouse. (Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
Houston Astros executive Brandon Taubman is alleged to have taunted female reporters on Saturday night in the clubhouse. (Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

HOUSTON — It is of course why the Houston Astros got Roberto effin’ Osuna — to win effin’ baseball games, and keep their effin’ jobs, and so they could slosh around in champagne puddles with the real effin’ athletes.

When in July 2018 the Astros traded for the elite closer who was finishing a suspension for violating the league’s domestic-violence policy, a developing euphemism for the worst kind of behavior, the club also skirted its standing zero-tolerance policy against abuse of any kind. Club executives explained then they believed Osuna was remorseful.

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Fifteen months later, an assistant general manager for the team is alleged to have taunted female reporters by repeatedly shouting, “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so [effin’] glad we got Osuna!”, according to Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein, during Saturday night’s post-game, clubhouse celebration.

And so the Astros arrived again at their zero-tolerance policy.

The response was to challenge the reporter, attacking her story — one verified by additional witnesses — as “misleading and completely irresponsible” and “an attempt to fabricate a story where one does not exist.”

Suggesting the reporter behaved badly.

They choose their course, as owners and leaders of the franchise, as regular folks in their community, as — primarily — men. From that insular circle arose the midlevel executive, surrounded by men in various stages of cheerful intoxication, in a beery and testosterone-flexed room meant to honor an American League pennant. This is the environment in which Brandon Taubman reportedly decided his course would be to settle an old score or flaunt his place among the real athletes or ply the advantages of numbers and cigar smoke. You might call that cowardly.

On Tuesday afternoon, Brandon Taubman released a statement in which he apologized for his “inappropriate” language and “unprofessional” conduct. He said he was “... sorry if anyone was offended by my actions.” He said he was a victim of his own “overexuberance” in support of a player.

They live with their course. They defend it. They rally their public-relations staff to it. They win baseball games.

They sort out the details later, if at all.

Yet, there is not a rational person who would construe Saturday night’s scene as described in Sports Illustrated as anything but an intent to intimidate. Same for the statement that followed two days later.

The hope here is that Astros bosses find there is a more constructive course. That they recognize how damaging their own behavior has been. But not to their image. Screw that. To the women in the clubhouse that night. To the next women — any reporters, really — who come through that door. To their employees, who perhaps wonder if this is how they should expect to earn their paychecks. To their own dignity, in a world where I’m sorry still works, where becoming a better person is still an admirable goal, where sympathy for the other person makes everyone a bit more human.

It is not shameful to be wrong. It is, however, shameful to tread upon others’ fears and vulnerabilities, then fail to see how such conduct reveals one’s own fears and vulnerabilities.

By Tuesday afternoon Major League Baseball announced it would seek to speak to witnesses to the event, along with, presumably, Brandon Taubman. The league would restate its aversion to violence and abuse of any kind, as if it needed to be said, and clearly it did.

So, only a day later, the Astros find themselves face to face with their familiar and tested zero-tolerance directive. They answered with a statement that hoped to say just enough. Perhaps it is time for them to follow a new course, one that has served their own self-interest so well in the past. Perhaps it is time to be effin’ remorseful.

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