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Jeff Luhnow’s statement on Roberto Osuna rings hollow

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The Astros just acquired reliever Roberto Osuna from the Blue Jays in exchange for Ken Giles and two minor league pitchers. The 23-year-old Osuna is towards the end of his 75-game suspension which he received for a domestic violence issue nearly three months ago. According to Jon Morosi, the Blue Jays had decided Osuna would not pitch in the majors for them again, so the Astros jumped on the low-price bandwagon and plucked him from the Jays.

Astros GM Jeff Luhnow released a statement on Osuna following the trade. Luhnow said, “We are excited to welcome Roberto Osuna to our team. The due diligence by our front office was unprecedented. We are confident that Osuna is remorseful, has willfully complied with all consequences related to his past behavior, has proactively engaged in counseling, and will fully comply with our zero tolerance policy related to abuse of any kind. Roberto has some great examples of character in our existing clubhouse that we believe will help him as he and his family establish a fresh start and as he continues with the Houston Astros. We look forward to Osuna’s contributions as we head into the back half of the season.”

Let’s start with that “zero tolerance” bit. If the Astros’ truly have a “zero tolerance policy related to abuse of any kind,” the club never would have even considered acquiring Osuna. To use it now is incredibly disingenuous.

Furthermore, the Astros say that Osuna “has willfully complied with all consequences related to his past behavior,” but he still has a court date scheduled for August 1. According to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Osuna plans to plead not guilty. There is no way for the Astros to say that Osuna “has willfully complied with all consequences related to his past behavior” when he hasn’t had his day in court yet.

In fairness to the Astros, they’re not the only ones who look bad in this whole Osuna ordeal. The Jays look bad for hanging on to him as long as they could get other players in a trade, rather than cutting him immediately.  (Remember, MLB and its teams don’t need to wait for a guilty verdict to respond to players accused of domestic violence.) The whole thing about him not pitching in the majors for them was only mentioned after the fact. Major League Baseball looks bad because (accused) domestic abusers are eligible for the postseason despite a suspension while players who are suspended for the use of performance-enhancing drugs are not eligible for the postseason.

This has not been a good two weeks for Major League Baseball. Between inaction regarding players who have used hateful language in the past (Josh Hader, Sean Newcomb, Trea Turner) and the Osuna situation, the league keeps sending the message to fans from marginalized communities that they don’t matter. If MLB truly valued them as fans, the league’s tolerance of the Osunas, Haders, Newcombs, and Turners (and Aroldis Chapmans and Jose Reyeses and… ) of the world would be lower than it actually is.

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.