HOUSTON — Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred on Wednesday expressed concern over the controversy that has engulfed the Houston Astros at the start of this World Series, shrouding the league’s signature event with questions about sexism and front-office personnel trying to intimidate reporters.
“I’m really concerned at this point about the underlying substance of the situation and what the atmosphere was and how it came to be,” Manfred told reporters before Game 2.
Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman is under fire this week after he confronted a group of female reporters during the team’s American League Championship Series celebration, shouting "Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f------ glad we got Osuna!" That is Roberto Osuna, the Astros closer who was suspended by MLB after a domestic violence arrest last year. The Astros traded for him once the Toronto Blue Jays decided they didn’t want Osuna back.
When the story about Taubman’s action began to circulate the night before Game 1— first in Sports Illustrated and then confirmed by reporters from Yahoo Sports and the Houston Chronicle —it became the biggest talking point surrounding this series.
MLB announced Tuesday it would launch an investigation into the matter, but the investigation is not far enough along, Manfred said, to comment with any specifics. Instead, he spoke about MLB’s values and its concern with what’s been said publicly thus far.
“We pride ourselves on providing an inclusive, harassment-free environment in all of the various aspects of our business,” Manfred said. “I think it’s a core value for baseball and we have to be tremendously concerned whenever we have an incident that attracts this much attention.”
A big part of the controversy also surrounds the Astros’ response to the original Sports Illustrated story. The team released a statement shortly after the story published calling it “misleading and completely irresponsible” and alleged that SI was trying to “fabricate” the story. After other outlets verified the incident in question happened, the Astros changed course.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) October 22, 2019
Taubman and owner Jim Crane each released statements the next day. Taubman, in particular, apologized “if anyone was offended by my actions” and said he is “a loving husband and father.” The Astros still faced criticism for not retracting their attack on Sports Illustrated reporter Stephanie Apstein’s credibility.
Before Game 2 on Wednesday, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow — Taubman’s boss — didn’t help matters when he said on the Astros’ flagship radio station: “What we really don’t know is the intent behind the inappropriate comments he made. We may never know that because the person who said them and the people who heard them, at least up to this point, have different perspectives.’’
There also seem to be different perspectives coming from the Astros and MLB. To that point, Manfred said he expects a sitdown with the Astros in the future.
“There will be a conversation with the club at the end of the investigation,” Manfred said, but also seemed to remind people that Taubman’s job is not the jurisdiction of MLB. “At the end of the day, he is an Astros employee.”
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