Sports Illustrated on Monday night published an account of a scene inside the celebratory Astros clubhouse Saturday after they clinched the American League pennant.
Per SI, most of it was normal. But a key part of most definitely was not: And in the center of the room, assistant general manager Brandon 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!"
Osuna is Astros closer Roberto Osuna. As SI's Stephanie Apstein explains, the timing of the exclamations was odd considering Osuna had given up a game-tying, two-run homer in the ninth inning before Jose Altuve's blast in the bottom of the ninth gave Houston the win.
And the specific direction of Taubman's shouts were both meaningful and uncomfortable: Osuna had been acquired by the Astros in 2018 after MLB had handed him a 75-game suspension for his role in a domestic assault allegation.
SI's story is plausible and credible, requiring only a very basic connecting of the dots to understand.
That is, unless you're the Astros. After the piece was published (for which the Astros declined to comment and didn't make Taubman available for an interview, per SI), the team released a statement calling SI's story "misleading and completely irresponsible" and suggested a different version of what happened: "An Astros player was being asked questions about a difficult outing. Our executive was supporting the player during a difficult time. His comments had everything to do about the game situation … and nothing else."
There are plenty of things to criticize about that statement (and plenty of people jumped on it as soon as it was posted on Twitter), but the biggest problem for the Astros is that the SI story was almost immediately corroborated by multiple eyewitnesses.
Per a Houston Chronicle story that followed the SI report and the statement:
Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman yelled in the direction of a group of female reporters during the team's American League Championship Series clubhouse celebration on Saturday, three eyewitnesses — including two Chronicle reporters — confirmed Monday. … Taubman was holding a cigar and standing with two or three other men when he yelled his comments, two eyewitnesses said. The three female reporters were approximately eight feet away and one was visibly shaken by the comment, the eyewitnesses said. There were no players in the area and no interviews were being conducted at the time.
After the initial wave of reactions came out, I guessed that the Astros and/or MLB would have more things to say about this in the near future, and the hope was that perhaps they would get it right on the second try.
MLB released a statement that read, in part: "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."
And indeed, the Astros did make another attempt at a statement Tuesday afternoon. Unfortunately, it wasn't much better — and was perhaps even worse.
Owner Jim Crane said a whole lot of nothing about the organization's commitment to domestic violence awareness.
Taubman acknowledged his comments were "unprofessional and inappropriate," which was a step in the right direction before he added that his "overexuberance in support of a player has been misinterpreted." His statement ended with a true classic: "I am sorry if anyone was offended by my actions."
At least this whole thing created some clarity among neutral World Series viewers who suddenly became big fans of the Nationals.