WASHINGTON -- The Houston Astros dismissed assistant general manager Brandon Taubman on Thursday and apologized to the reporter they claimed had fabricated a story about events that occurred in their clubhouse after they clinched the American League pennant last Saturday night.
Details of the incident emerged on Monday night when Sports Illustrated published a story by Stephanie Apstein that detailed how Taubman aggressively and profanely proclaimed his support for Astros closer Roberto Osuna in an outburst directed at a group of female reporters. Houston acquired Osuna from Toronto in the summer of 2018 while he was serving a 75-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy.
On the night the story was published, the Astros released a statement claiming it was a fabrication. Multiple witnesses subsequently corroborated the reporter’s account on Twitter.
“That original reaction by the Astros was wrong, and we own it as an organization,” Astros general manager and president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow said in a press conference Thursday at Nationals Park. “There were many people involved in reviewing that and approving that, and I'm not going to get into the details of that. It was wrong. It was the Astros' decision, and that's where I'm going to leave that.”
Luhnow did not say whether any additional discipline would take place within the Astros’ organization for the release of the false statement Monday night.
“I don’t know the answer to that, to be honest with you,” he told reporters.
In the midst of World Series events at Minute Maid Park this week, Major League Baseball interviewed several Astros employees and reporters regarding the situation. Luhnow said once the interviews were completed on Wednesday, the Astros decided to take action, ahead of any recommendations from MLB.
"Our initial investigation led us to believe that Brandon Taubman's inappropriate comments were not directed toward any reporter," the Astros said in Thursday's statement. "We were wrong. We sincerely apologize to Stephanie Apstein, Sports Illustrated and to all individuals who witnessed this incident or were offended by the inappropriate conduct. The Astros in no way intended to minimize the issues related to domestic violence. Our initial belief was based on witness statements about the incident.
"Subsequent interviews have revealed that Taubman's inappropriate comments were, in fact, directed toward one or more reporters. Accordingly we have terminated Brandon Taubman's employment with the Houston Astros. His conduct does not reflect the values of our organization and we believe this is the most appropriate course of action. We are thankful to Major League Baseball and to everyone that cooperated in the investigation. As previously stated, the Astros are very committed to using our voice to create awareness and support on the issue of domestic violence. We fully support MLB and baseball's stance and values regarding domestic violence. We will continue to make this cause a priority for our organization."
In his press conference, Luhnow said the apology to Apstein in the latest team statement was for both the incident itself and for the team’s reaction to her story.
Taubman, 34, had been an Astros employee since June 2013 and received a contract extension from the club last month. Luhnow characterized the incident after Game 6 of the ALCS as “not consistent with his behavior in the past.”
“Brandon, I'm sure, has learned a lesson and hopefully will never do anything like that again,” Luhnow said. “And I think everybody that observed it has also learned a lesson. And we as an organization have certainly learned a lesson about taking our time to react and making sure that we don't do anything to make the situation worse, because that's essentially what we did.”
In a statement released earlier this week, Astros owner Jim Crane expressed support of MLB’s stance and values regarding domestic violence.
“The Astros continue to be committed to using our voice to create awareness and support on the issue of domestic violence," Crane said in that statement. "We not only ensure mandatory training annually for all of our employees, we have also created an important partnership with the Texas Council on Family Violence, and have raised over $300K through our initiatives to help various agencies providing important support for this cause.”
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters on Friday that the league continues to look into the matter.