- - Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Houston has been lauded for its acumen in analytics, its ability to gather and dissect data in determining the best moves — on and off the field. The Astros’ new-school approach, once revolutionary, is now commonplace in major-league front offices, largely run by Ivy League grads with degrees in business and finance.

But for all of the organization’s smarts in crunching numbers, poring over video, and analyzing trends, Houston proved fairly dumb this week in handling human relations and crisis communications.

An incident that could’ve blown over with an upfront admission of guilt and sincere apology, instead became an unwelcome storyline and World Series distraction. Major League Baseball has launched an investigation and disciplinary action is expected by week’s end.


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The Astros have no one to blame but assistant general manager Brandon Taubman and themselves, respectively, for committing the original offense and attempting a cover-up.

In case you missed it, Sports Illustrated published an article Monday night that detailed an outburst directed at three female reporters in Houston’s clubhouse Saturday night, after Houston won the American League pennant. “Thank God we got Osuna!” Taubman yelled repeatedly. “I’m so (expletive) glad we got Osuna!”



Taubman was referring to Astros closer Roberto Osuna, who served a 75-game suspension for allegedly assaulting the mother of his three-year-old child in May 2018. Among the three reporters Taubman screamed at, the presumed primary target was a woman who has tweeted frequently about domestic violence in recent years. She was wearing a purple domestic-violence awareness bracelet.

SI reporter Stephanie Apstein was among the trio enduring Taubman’s conniptions. She asked the Astros to make him available, and/or provide a comment from the organization, and they declined … until the story was published.

That’s when they tried whitewashing, claiming in a statement that the story is “misleading and completely irresponsible. 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 … they were also were not directed toward any specific reporters. “We are extremely disappointed in Sports Illustrated’s attempt to fabricate a story where one does not exist.”

The prevarication might’ve worked, too, except multiple outlets responded by confirming SI’s account. According to the Houston Chronicle, citing witnesses, “the three female reporters were approximately eight feet away and one was visibly shaken by the comment. There were no players in the area and no interviews were being conducted at the time.”

Caught in a falsehood, the Astros went to Plan B. Taubman released a weak apology, claiming that his “overexuberance in support of a player has been misinterpreted.” Owner Jim Crane released a statement claiming the Astros are “committed to using our voice to create awareness and support on the issue of domestic violence.”

Whatever.

I’m not here to debate whether teams should sign alleged/convicted abusers, or whether suspensions issued to alleged/convicted abusers are too short. There’s plenty of time for those arguments, and the next case could arrive at any moment. The fact is Houston acquired Osuna from Toronto, via trade in July 2018, and he led the AL with 38 saves this season.

It’s fine if Taubman supports Osuna and believes he deserves the lifeline Houston offered.

But to aggressively and profanely state that position, unprovoked, essentially berating female reporters who might (or might not) feel otherwise, is highly offensive. Even worse is the Astros’ attempt to discredit the reporter who brought Taubman’s abhorrent conduct to light.

Apstein wrote that the incident was so frightening and unsettling, another Houston staffer apologized for Taubman’s behavior. But that’s not enough.

The Astros need to issue a public apology for claiming her story was a fabrication. Maybe that’s what Taubman told his bosses, but they should’ve done their own investigation. Other reporters and observers witnessed the incident and weren’t hard to find.

“I’m very disappointed for a lot of reasons,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said when asked for his reaction Tuesday. “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.

“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.”

You don’t need an MBA to realize that Taubman’s outburst was insufferable and Houston’s response has been reprehensible.

The Astros might be smarter than most organizations. But they’ve been idiots on this matter.

⦁ Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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