The MLB must acknowledge domestic violence

Jack Dunn is a senior sports management major. He is a Campus News Editor for the Newswire from Wilmette, Ill.

On Oct. 30, the Houston Astros were defeated by the Washington Nationals in Game 7 of the World Series. While D.C. will celebrate its first World Series in 95 years, the Astros will be heading into the offseason with a lot of questions about what could have been done to prevent losing all four games at home.

But perhaps the organization should consider using its time to reflect on how it handled the aftermath of Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman’s comments toward a group of three female reporters.

If you are not familiar with what happened, Taubman shouted “Thank God we got (Roberto) Osuna! I’m so f——- glad we got Osuna” six times in the direction of the three women, one of whom was wearing a purple domestic violence awareness bracelet.

Osuna was suspended for 75 games on May 8 2018, for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy. Osuna was arrested on suspicion of assaulting the mother of his 3-year-old child.  He did not appeal the suspension.

Taubman’s comments strike me deeply. He was clearly targeting these women because one of them was wearing that awareness bracelet. Osuna, at that moment, did not deserve the praise that he was being given. The Astros were up 4-2 going into the top of the ninth inning when Osuna eventually gave up a two run home run to the Yankees, allowing them to tie the game. He was bailed out by his teammates in the bottom of the ninth, but it’s not exactly a performance that deserved that kind of praise.

While Osuna’s actions could merit an opinion piece all its own, I would rather look at how the Astros responded to this situation. After Sports Illustrated writer Stephanie Apstein wrote about the scene that she had witnessed, the Astros’ immediate response was to call into question the accuracy of her reporting. The team accused Sports Illustrated of “attempting to fabricate a story where one does not exist.” After the account was backed up by not only the publication, but also other sportswriters from other outlets, the Astros had to back track. They eventually came out with another statement saying they had gotten it wrong from the start, fired Taubman and had owner Jim Crane write to Apstein personally apologizing and retracting the first statement.

I personally don’t think this is good enough. I think this is something teams have gotten wrong ever since the Ray Rice situation in 2014. They just don’t do a good enough job of addressing the fact that there is a problem in sports surrounding domestic violence. At the very least, they don’t seem to conceive that there is even a slight possibility that a member of their organization could do this. And it always comes back to bite them when it matters.

Teams need to start getting it right on the first try. Acknowledge the account of what their members are being accused of and take it seriously. They do not need to agree to it as a fact. They should just take the matter seriously and not immediately defend the actions of the accused. Even if it turns out that the situation turns out to be nothing, teams should still take the time to address the overall issue of domestic violence in the league instead of acting like it couldn’t possibly happen again.

Teams seem to care more about a player’s on-field production than what he does off the field. It seems to me that the policy agreed upon in 2015 to act as a deterrent has not had the effect that the MLB hoped it would. The suspensions have never been harder or more frequent than now, yet we still see players engage in acts of domestic violence. Teams are willing to look past these incidents as long as the players get on the field results.

Perhaps it’s ironic, then, that the two pitchers who faced each other in that fateful Game 7 were two players who had served domestic violence suspensions. While Osuna gave the Yankees a chance at a comeback on his side of the ball, it was Aroldis Chapman (who served his own 30-game suspension in 2016 for violating the same policy as Osuna) who gave up the walk-off home run to the Astros. Perhaps this lack of results will have teams reconsider putting themselves in difficult situations when taking on these players.