Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch on Tuesday criticized the leadership of his own franchise after a series of bungled responses to a report alleging a team executive used a player accused of domestic abuse to taunt female reporters in the celebratory aftermath of the team’s American League Championship Series win Saturday.
Hinch addressed the report Tuesday before leading his team in the first game of the World Series, which the Astros lost. The comments at issue surfaced in a Sports Illustrated story earlier this week and alleged Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman shouted “Thank God we got Osuna!” and made similar remarks several times toward female journalists.
Roberto Osuna, Houston’s closer, was suspended 75 games under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy last season. At the time of the alleged domestic violence incident, in 2018, Osuna played for the Toronto Blue Jays and he was not charged by Canadian police. But the resulting hit to his reputation made him a relatively cheap acquisition for the data-driven Astros.
Hinch said he wasn’t aware of the reported Taubman incident until the story broke. Though Hinch said he hadn’t spoken to everyone involved, he allowed that “we all need to be better across the board, in the industry.”
Houston Astros relief pitcher Roberto Osuna reacts after giving up a two-run home run to New York Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu during the ninth inning in Game 6 of baseball’s American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
“I’m very disappointed for a lot of reasons,” Hinch said. “It’s unfortunate, it’s uncalled for. For me as a leader in this organization down here in the clubhouse, on the field, I take everything that happens in the clubhouse to heart.”
He added: “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.”
The comments from Houston’s manager stood in stark contrast to the organization’s initial response — and subsequent attempts at a cleanup. The Astros first released a statement blasting the Sports Illustrated report as “misleading and completely irresponsible,” but the team backtracked Tuesday as other reporters came out to back up the initial reporting.
Though the team did not apologize or retract the initial statement essentially charging Sports Illustrated with fabricating the story, Taubman released a statement acknowledging the incident in part, and apologizing — somewhat.
“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,” Taubman said.
Astros owner Jim Crane said the team has mandatory training for its employees and “we fully support MLB and baseball’s stance and values regarding domestic violence.”
Major League Baseball said in a statement “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.” MLB added it would investigate the incident and had reportedly dispatched investigators to Houston prior to Game 1.
Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch speaks during a news conference for baseball’s World Series Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
The Sports Illustrated report stemmed from conduct witnessed by several reporters in the Astros clubhouse Saturday night, as the team celebrated its American League Championship Series win over the New York Yankees. During that evening’s game, Osuna allowed a two-run home run to Yankees infielder D.J. LaMahieu in the ninth inning that temporarily tied the score, before Astros second baseman Jose Altuve hit a home run to win the game and clinch the series. Osuna’s previous suspension combined with his failure on the mound Saturday made Taubman’s unsolicited clubhouse comments stand out even more.
Taubman allegedly turned toward a group of female reporters, one of whom was wearing a domestic violence awareness bracelet, and shouted at least six times: “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f—— glad we got Osuna!”
At least three witnesses, including two Houston Chronicle reporters, confirmed the incident to the Chronicle in a separate report.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.