Associated Press

Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #15: The Jose Bautista-Rougned Odor Fight

11 Comments

We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

Most baseball fights are pretty lame. They’re more shouting matches than fights these days anyway. Rarely is true violence done. Rarely are real punches thrown, let alone landed. We had a pretty good one back in May, though. At least by today’s standards. And we got a pretty good picture out of it too.

The roots of the fight grew out of last year’s ALDS between the Blue Jays and Rangers, which was highlighted by Jose Bautista‘s famous bat toss following his famous three-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 5. The Rangers didn’t much care for that toss, and they no doubt stewed about it all winter.

On May 15 the clubs met again. In the eighth inning, Rangers pitcher Matt Bush hit Bautista with a fastball that sent Bautista to first base and earned both teams a warning. Later in the inning, against pitcher Jake Diekman, Justin Smoak hit an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play. Bautista slid late into Rougned Odor. Odor was not happy about it, so he took a few swings at Bautista. One of the punches hit Bautista square in the jaw, sending the outfielder’s sunglasses flying off of his face, as captured in that photo above. Both benches emptied and chaos ensued. The next inning, Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Chavez drilled Prince Fielder with a first-pitch fastball. The benches emptied again but peace was quickly restored.

Fourteen players and coaches were either fined, suspended, or both as a result of fracas, led by Odor’s eight-game suspension for throwing that haymaker.

The aftermath of it all was kind of dumb. Jose Bautista claimed, as the losers of all fights do, that if he wanted to he could’ve hurt Odor but he held back. He also claimed that Odor was looking for a fight that day long before the slide. For his part, Odor later admitted that he respected Bautista and that maybe he shouldn’t have punched him. To the extent he had any real contrition, though, it seemed to be more about the fact that he got suspended than the fact that he thew the punch. The dumbest reactions, of course, belonged to the media. They dumbest reactions ALWAYS belong to the media.

But hey, it was all far more entertaining than guys just sort of yelling at each other, right?

Report: Astros’ assistant GM yelled ‘Thank God we got Osuna!’ at female reporters

Mike Stobe/Getty Images
16 Comments

Last year, then-closer for the Blue Jays Roberto Osuna was arrested in Toronto on an assault charge. He allegedly assaulted the mother of his then three-year-old son. The charge was eventually withdrawn in exchange for a peace bond, but Major League Baseball still suspended Osuna for 75 games without pay.

Due to the off-the-field ugliness, the Astros were able to acquire Osuna on the relative cheap, sending Ken Giles, David Paulino, and Hector Perez to the Blue Jays. Osuna has been mostly great for the Astros since the trade, finishing the 2018 season with 12 saves, a 1.99 ERA, and a 19/3 K/BB ratio in 22 2/3 innings in his new uniform. This year, Osuna racked up an American League-high 38 saves with a 2.63 ERA and a 73/12 K/BB ratio in 65 innings.

With the Astros holding a 4-2 lead in the top of the ninth in ALCS Game 6 against the Yankees, manager A.J. Hinch called on Osuna to get the final three outs to send his team to the World Series. He ended up allowing a leadoff single to Gio Urshela, then a game-tying two-run home run to DJ LeMahieu. Nevertheless, the Astros won it in the bottom of the ninth thanks to José Altuve’s walk-off two-run homer off of Aroldis Chapman.

In the postgame celebration, Stephanie Apstein of Sports Illustrated reports that Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman yelled towards a group of three female reporters, “Thank god we got Osuna! I’m so … glad we got Osuna!” Taubman repeated the phrase half a dozen times. One of the reporters was wearing a purple domestic violence awareness bracelet.

The Astros declined to comment on the issue and did not make Taubman available for an interview. That shouldn’t come as a shock because the Astros have organizationally failed repeatedly to meaningfully address Osuna’s behavior. GM Jeff Luhnow released a poorly thought out statement last July about Osuna, claiming that the Astros’ due diligence was “unprecedented,” and citing that Osuna is “remorseful” and “willingly complied with all consequences,” despite pleading not guilty and not having had his day in court yet, thus no consequences. The Astros released another statement in August defending their belief that “Roberto deserved a second chance.”

Later that month, Osuna went after his critics, saying, “Everybody is judging me for things they don’t know. I don’t like that.” In the postseason, teammate Ryan Pressly defended Osuna from a heckler, telling the fan, “You can talk all the sh– you want. Just don’t bring that stuff up.”

The Astros also kicked out a fan who protested Osuna’s presence by holding up a sign displaying a domestic violence hotline number. After receiving plenty of criticism for that, the Astros decided to display flyers, featuring the National Domestic Violence Hotline number, in women’s restrooms at Minute Maid Park.

Taubman’s behavior is not the first strike for the Astros on this issue. Acquiring Osuna was strike one. Luhnow’s statement and the club’s subsequent statement were strikes two and three. Osuna’s backlash was strike four, Pressly’s defense of him was strike five, and the whole issue over the DV hotline sign was strike six. The Astros are in danger of having the side strike out on this issue.

It’s also worth mentioning that Luhnow worked for McKinsey and Company, a management consulting firm, before getting into baseball. McKinsey has been consulting for the Astros since 2017, The Athletic’s Evan Drellich reported in July. McKinsey has, ahem, a checkered past.

The Astros have clearly and intentionally thrown ethics to the side in order to run a baseball-related business. That they have repeatedly mishandled a very serious domestic violence issue within the sport shouldn’t come as a surprise, and it shouldn’t be surprising that the Astros are hoping the issue goes away with the World Series set to begin on Tuesday.

Update: The Astros released a statement. Via Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle:

The story posted by Sports Illustrated 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 that just occurred and nothing else — they were also not directed towards any specific reporters. We are extremely disappointed in Sports Illustrated’s attempt to fabricate a story where one does not exist.

The Astros had an initial chance to respond to the story before publication and didn’t take Sports Illustrated up on it. They also didn’t deny that Taubman said what was reported. They’re disputing the context and the intended audience, but that doesn’t really make them look that much better. Perhaps an organization with a less spotty history would get the benefit of the doubt, the Astros certainly haven’t earned it.

Furthemore, Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle and Hannah Keyser of Yahoo Sports both confirmed Apstein’s report. Atkins tweeted, “The Astros called this @stephapstein report misleading. It is not. I was there. Saw it. And I should’ve said something sooner.”