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Roberto Osuna not ‘remorseful’ and Astros’ claim to the contrary is utter bunk


On Monday, after acquiring reliever accused domestic abuser Roberto Osuna from the Blue Jays, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow offered a statement defending the team for the move. Among his comments included a reference to the Astros’ belief — based on what Luhnow called “unprecedented” due diligence — that Osuna was “remorseful.”

I’m not sure where Luhnow got the idea that Osuna was remorseful, exactly, but it certainly didn’t come from Osuna’s attorney, who is currently still battling in an Ontario court on behalf of his client:

A lawyer defending a client who still faces legal jeopardy saying this sort of thing is not necessarily uncommon or controversial. They save the “remorse” stuff for sentencing. But it sure does highlight just how full of crap Jeff Luhnow and the Astros were when they offered up their justification for acquiring Osuna.

As Bill noted on Monday, Luhnow’s comments were already facially disingenuous, as they referenced the team’s alleged “zero tolerance” policy toward domestic violence which, by simple virtue of acquiring Osuna, was transformed into a “some tolerance” policy. But that reference to “remorse” was likewise bunk.

Who told him Osuna was remorseful? It certainly wasn’t Osuna’s legal team. Was it Osuna? Doubtful, because lawyers of criminal defendants tend not to let their clients talk to people about the crimes for which they are still being prosecuted, especially in order to say stuff that implies their guilt. Doing that runs the risk of creating new witnesses for the prosecution to call.

We need not explore this all too deeply, of course, because it’s obvious what happened here. The Astros found themselves a bargain on a pretty good baseball player. Their calculation of his worth vs. his cost fell into the range of acceptable ratios in whatever matrix they use to assess such things and they made the baseball decision to trade for him. They then, clearly aware that many would take issue with the team acquiring an accused abuser, spit out the requisite Apology And Sensitivity Word Salad, complete with all of the “zero tolerances” and “due diligences” and references to “remorse” they felt were necessary and called it a news cycle.

Osuna’s lawyer, however, isn’t cooperating. Pity that. It makes the team look bad when all they really wanted to do was to get a bargain and have everyone else look away.

At this point commenters usually come in to accuse me of wanting any player involved in any controversy to be banned from baseball or to browbeat teams into shunning them or some such nonsense. That is not true at all. Baseball has a disciplinary framework in place for domestic violence and Osuna is currently serving discipline pursuant to it. I think it’s fine for him to come back to the game and for a team to employ him if it so chooses. I’m not saying anything different here. I’m not saying the Astros should not have traded for him or that they should not play him.

I’m simply asking for teams in the Astros position here to stop shoveling bull when it comes to these sorts of players. Stop providing them with these sorts of character endorsements and offering up this sort of P.R.-speak when they know they are not true. Tell the truth. Say something like “Osuna’s criminal charges make him what we baseball analysts call an ‘undervalued asset’ and we felt it was a great arbitrage opportunity. Indeed, it was quite fortunate for us, from a cost-of-doing-business perspective, that Osuna hit that woman and got into this mess in the first place.”

No team will say that, however, because (a) it would reveal that an unintended side effect of MLB’s domestic violence policy is to benefit teams financially; and (b) it would tarnish that image baseball teams like to cultivate as Community Assets or Community Institutions which make them something bigger and more important than other for-profit companies in town. That’s an image they like, by the way, because it helps them justify tax subsidies and all manner of other civic benefits that, say, a car dealership does not get.

The other thing that image encourages, by the way, is the cultivation of fan loyalty. By being bigger than just some other business, sports teams get you not just to buy their product, but to back them with your own personal passion and loyalty. To serve as a literal billboard for the team, not simply by advertising their product on your person and with your actions, but by getting you to pay for the privilege for doing so. To become a promotor and advocate for the team and the brand in the world at large.

Would you do that as readily if the team was honest with you and, rather than make a case about remorse and zero tolerance, they talked about how trading for a violent guy was simply an exercise in bargain hunting? Would you do that if you knew that, contrary to what the team says, how fans might perceive their favorite team trading for a domestic abuser is not really part of their calculus?

I dunno. Some wouldn’t care. But some would, and that’s why teams in these situations offer the sort of baloney the Astros offered about Osuna.

Former trainers also allege discrimination by Mariners

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Dr. Lorena Martin was recently terminated as the Mariners’ director of high performance. Following her ouster, she alleged that members of the Mariners’ front office and coaching staff, including GM Jerry Dipoto, manager Scott Servais, and director of player development Andy McKay, made bigoted comments against foreign-born players. While the Mariners strongly denied Martin’s accusations, MLB opened an investigation into the matter.

TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that former trainers of the Mariners, based out of the club’s complex in Boca Chica (Domonican Republic), claim the club’s treatment of Latino personnel changed once Dipoto took over as GM. Those trainers, Leonardo Santiago and Jose Valdez, did not speak specifically to Martin’s claims, but did say their experiences with Dipoto and McKay could relate with hers.

Through an interpreter over the phone, Santiago said, “It seemed like Dipoto and McKay would talk to just about everyone who was of American descent and talk to them more personally and try to be involved with them. But never with me.” When asked if it was because he was Latino, Santiago responded, “Under God and before you and in my mind and in my heart — yes. Because I am a Latino of color.”

Santiago continued, “I felt like, ‘Wow.’ They have relationships with all the Americans. They would talk with all of them, but they never came near me. Andy McKay never stopped by, even though he would stop by every other area.”

Furthermore, Santiago commented, “Before Dipoto and McKay came, everything was in order. I didn’t feel discriminated against. Everybody respected everybody from different areas. But when they came, everything changed. In the past,  the previous regimes, the general manager would come and talk with us. They would visit more often, specifically the farm director. Andy McKay never came by my office. He never said anything to me. He never looked for a way to see how I worked, to see if I was good or bad at what I did. He never found a way to talk to me, but he would talk with everybody that was American.”

Per Cotterill, the Mariners apparently found it problematic that neither Santiago nor Valdez were certified. Santiago wondered why his lack of certification was never an issue for the previous 10 years he worked for the Mariners or the previous 15 he’d worked in baseball. The Mariners were paying for his training for certification in physical therapy. He has one year remaining. Valdez also said the club was paying for him to obtain his certification.

Valdez said through an interpreter, “It felt like the relations between the American employees and Latino employees within the club, it felt like they were different. Almost like one was superior to the other.” Though Valdez declined to name specific examples, he said, “It was just [McKay’s] demeanor. He would arrive, see us and not acknowledge us. He wouldn’t want to talk or be with us. He would arrive to the staff meeting and that was it. I never exchanged words with either [McKay or Dipoto].”

To date, neither Martin nor the trainers have provided concrete evidence of the discrimination they claimed happened while working for the Mariners. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and it doesn’t mean the Mariners can’t face some kind of punishment by MLB. You may recall that MLB does not need a convinction in order to levy a punishment against players accused of domestic violence. Martin, in particular, risked a lot for what will likely amount to very little. She has burnt to a crisp her bridge with the Mariners and other organizations, even outside of baseball, will likely view her as a risky hire. She appears to be doing what she thinks is right by her and her former coworkers, which is commendable. Even for Santiago and Valdez, it would be a lot simpler and safer career-wise to stay quiet, which is why we should take these accusations seriously and give them the benefit of the doubt.