Associated Press

The Yankees and Indians cross paths once again

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One upon a time, there was a 12-year stretch when the New York Yankees won the American League pennant ten times. The team that interrupted that run in both 1948 and 1954: the Cleveland Indians.

Another time, much later, there was a seven year stretch when the Yankees went to the playoffs in seven straight years, winning the pennant five times. The team that won it the other two times: the Cleveland Indians, who won it in 1995 and 1997.

Which is not to say that the Yankees and Indians are rivals, as such. The Yankees have been good far too often and the Indians bad far too often for that to be the case. But they have certainly trod over the same ground at roughly the same time on a number of occasions in baseball history, making for some fun historical connections (and that’s without even mentioning the midge game back in 2007). As such, it’s appropriate for these old American League teams to meet up in the playoffs once again. Not as rivals — if they ever were actual rivals, today’s unbalanced schedules preclude that from being the case now — but as fellow contenders, once again bumping in to one another while on the same path.

This time it feels more like those 1990s encounters, as the Indians are the stronger team, fresh off of an AL pennant while the Yankees are on the rise. They’ve met a few times this year, of course, with the teams splitting four games in Cleveland and the Indians sweeping a three-game series in the Bronx in August. The Indians won 11 more games than the Yankees overall this year. But even if the Indians seem to have an edge, there are similarities between the clubs that seem poised to make this series a great one.

The most obvious similarity: the shutdown bullpens. Each of these clubs boast dominant relievers, with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen anchoring the Tribe’s corps, backed by Danny Salazar and Mike Clevinger. The Yankees have already showed off the depth of their pen in their reliever-heavy Wild Card win, with Chad Green and David Robertson going long and Aroldis Chapman going short. Dellin Betances is down there as well, with a fresh arm, giving Joe Girardi all manner of options if his starters falter. Which, given how things have gone so far in the postseason, is more likely than not.

On offense, there is no more powerful team than the Yankees. They led all of baseball with 241 homers, 52 of which came off the bat of Aaron Judge. Only one club scored more runs than the Bombers did. No team was stingier in allowing homers than the Indians, however, with a league-low 163 hit against them. Indeed, Cleveland featured the best pitching staff in the entire game, allowing a major league-low 3.48 runs per contest. Corey Kluber, who the Yankees will face in Game 2 and, if necessary, a Game 5, is the favorite to win the Cy Young Award.

The oddsmakers have the Indians as favorites to win the World Series, but this is a far more even matchup than the odds and the records suggest. The Indians were dominant late in the year, with an AL-record winning streak stretching from late August and through most of September, but New York played .605 ball in the second half themselves, winning 20 of 28 in the month of September. As they showed on Tuesday night, you can’t keep them down, even if you jump on them early.

Two franchises with a lot of history between them face off in the ALDS starting tonight. All signs point to an historically good series.

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

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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.”