The Houston Astros announced Thursday that assistant general manager Brandon Taubman had been fired in the middle of the club's World Series bid after he reportedly yelled at three women reporters about a pitcher suspended for domestic violence.
"Subsequent interviews have revealed that Taubman's inappropriate comments were in fact, directed toward one or more reporters," the team said in a statement. "Accordingly, we have terminated Brandon Taubman's employment with the Houston Astros."
Taubman had been referring to relief pitcher Roberto Osuna, who served a 75-game suspension for allegations of domestic violence last year.
"Thank God we got Osuna! I'm so f------ glad we got Osuna!" Sports Illustrated said Taubman yelled near the reporters — one of them wearing a domestic violence awareness bracelet — following Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.
Taubman's outburst, which he reportedly made while looking at the women reporters, had been especially troubling since Osuna had a subpar performance during the game, allowing a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Sports Illustrated reporter Stephanie Apstein published a story on the outburst, which generated a strong rebuke from the Houston team, despite the fact that other reporters in the clubhouse confirmed the incident.
The team initially called the report "misleading and completely irresponsible," and defended Taubman, saying he had been supporting a player during a difficult outing. But on Thursday, the team reversed course after facing heavy criticism.
"Our initial investigation led us to believe that Brandon Taubman's inappropriate comments were not directed toward any reporter," the team said. "We were wrong."
The Astros decision also came a day after Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters he was "really concerned, at this point, about the underlying substance of the situation and what the atmosphere was, how it came to be."
On Tuesday, Taubman issued a statement apologizing for the outburst, saying he "used inappropriate language."
"My overexuberance in support of a player has been misinterpreted as a demonstration of a regressive attitude about an important social issue," the statement reads. "Those that know me know that I am a progressive and charitable member of the community, and a loving and committed husband and father."
Reporters who witnessed the outburst, however, backed Sports Illustrated's reporting that Taubman appeared to have targeted the three reporters, and that he had brought up the pitcher even though no one had asked about him.
Apstein reported that after the outburst, another staffer for the team apologized, but Taubman was not made available for an interview.
While playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, Osuna was suspended by the league after allegedly assaulting Alejandra Román Cota, the mother of his 3-year-old daughter, in 2018. The relief pitcher refused to testify in the incident and went to Mexico.
Prosecutors decided not to file charges, but Osuna agreed not to have contact with Cota for a year.
The Astros had been able to acquire Osuna under what was seen as a bargain trade. Osuna has been considered one of the best relievers in the league, but other teams balked at the idea of bringing him onto their roster because of the possible public backlash, given his history.
In her report, Apstein called out the Astros decision and their unwillingness to meaningfully deal with Osuna's domestic violence case.
"The Astro's front office acts as if it is tired of being yelled at about this subject," Apstein wrote. "They want to be allowed to play their baseball games and pop their champagne without being forced to think about anything that happened away from the ballpark."
Three days after the initial report was published, the Astros issued an apology to the reporter.
"We sincerely apologize to Stephanie Apstein, Sports Illustrated, and to all individuals who witnessed this incident or were offended by the inappropriate conduct," the team said. "The Astros in no way intended to minimize the issues related to domestic violence."
Hours after announcing Taubman's firing, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told reporters that the initial statement from the Astros responding to the Sports Illustrated story "should have never been sent," but would not answer questions as to who wrote the statement or approved it.
Luhnow was then asked if he had reached out to Apstein, or any of the other reporters, who were targeted by Taubman's comment.
"I have not, I have been traveling up here," Luhnow said during a press conference in D.C. "I had to have a pretty tough conversation this morning with someone who has worked with me for a long time, but I will as soon as I can."
Apstein was in the room, for the press conference, at the time.