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Creech: By saying ‘we were wrong,’ Astros take a step in right direction

Houston Chronicle logo Houston Chronicle 10/25/2019 By Jenny Dial Creech, Staff writer
Jeff Luhnow wearing a suit and tie: Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said he had looked at the team’s original statement that incorrectly accused Sports Illustrated of fabricating a story. © Godofredo A. Vásquez, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said he had looked at the team’s original statement that incorrectly accused Sports Illustrated of fabricating a story.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

WASHINGTON — “We were wrong.”

Those three words carry so much weight.

And they will help make up for a lot of wrongdoing that hung in the air during the first two games of the World Series this week.

It took four days and a lot of mistakes, but the Astros finally got something right.

Thursday afternoon, the team fired assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, who had become the center of controversy after an outburst in the team’s clubhouse directed at three female reporters.

This is a start. But there is more work to be done.

One incident gave a closer look at a franchise that has a culture problem in its front office.

Hopefully, this will force the Astros to start making real change as they move forward.

Taubman was fired several days after a Sports Illustrated reporter wrote about his going off on an expletive-filled tirade in the team’s clubhouse last weekend during the Astros celebration of the ALCS victory.

The initial response to the story was a tone-deaf, erroneous statement issued by the team accusing the SI reporter Stephanie Apstein of fabricating her story.

The statement was irresponsible and uncalled for because it questioned the integrity of a very good writer.

It was also wrong.

As soon as the statement was out, several other witnesses came forward to confirm Taubman’s rant did indeed happen and was directed at the reporters.

So, as the Astros prepared to play the Nationals in the World Series — which they now trail 0-2 — they were also fielding questions about this horrible situation.

According to multiple witnesses, Taubman yelled “Thank God we got (Roberto) Osuna! I’m so (expletive) glad we got Osuna!”

Osuna is the Astros closer who came to the franchise in a trade last July while he was serving a 75-game suspension for domestic violence.

The Astros, who claim to have a zero tolerance policy for violent behavior, have been under fire since Osuna arrived.

The team vowed to bring more awareness to domestic violence after signing Osuna (despite never admitting that he engaged in any acts of it.) The Astros Foundation has given a lot of money and done positive work in the community with several women’s groups. It’s a nice gesture, but it doesn’t erase the fact the team trots out a closer who served a 75-game suspension for abusing a woman he was in a relationship with.

There’s been no transparency, no remorse, no details on what Osuna is doing now in terms of bettering himself to avoid similar behavior in the future.

The Astros approach always has been to ignore the past and point to the work they are doing now instead.

One of the female reporters who was targeted in Taubman’s rant has frequently brought awareness to domestic violence. If anything, the Astros should be thanking her and following her example rather than having one of their employees attack her for it. We should all be doing more to bring awareness to these issues.

Once the SI story ran, Apstein wasn’t believed. Other female reporters who came forward also were doubted.

It took several more reporters (male and female) confirming the story before it was taken seriously. Even then, the Astros didn’t take back their initial statement. Instead, they issued a Taubman statement saying he “was sorry if anyone was offended by my actions.”

It was horrendous. A day before the Astros are set to take on the Nationals in Game 3 of the World Series, general manager Jeff Luhnow addressed the media after firing Taubman.

He claimed the club doesn’t have a culture problem. He also said several people in the organization read and approved the statement, including himself.

That means there is a culture problem.

Thinking Taubman’s outburst was OK and then throwing a reporter under the bus is a big problem.

The saving grace of the club has been manager A.J. Hinch, who has made it clear from the start he was unhappy that an incident like that occurred. He said he wanted everyone in the clubhouse to be comfortable and seemed sincerely sorry that anyone wasn’t.

It’s a shame that he and the players are judged in this situation when it is front office employees who have been the problem.

The Astros need to look at everyone involved in the mishandling of the situation and ask themselves who is helping foster a culture where domestic violence is tolerated, where women aren’t believed, where attacking the media is acceptable and where dealing with people in a fair and respectful manner is not a priority.

After an unacceptable statement, a pathetic “apology” from Taubman and days of letting an incident like this linger while the team has to prepare for the biggest stage in baseball, the Astros organization finally did something right.

But they still have work to do.

Hopefully, this is the first step in the journey of positive change for the organization.

jenny.creech@chron.com

twitter.com/jennydialcreech

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