Christian Yelich
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Here’s what Sunday means for NL postseason contenders

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The Brewers, Cubs, Dodgers, and Rockies are all headed to the playoffs this fall, but Saturday’s games came and went without clear winners established in the National League Central or the National League West. If all four teams pull ahead with wins on Sunday, they’ll force two tiebreakers on Monday when the Cubs host the Brewers for the NL Central title and the Rockies travel west to meet the Dodgers in Los Angeles for the NL West championship.

The losers of the tiebreakers, naturally, will face each other in the Wild Card Game, with the winner scheduled to face off against the highest-seeded division winner in the National League Division Series. The other half of the NLDS will feature the remaining team against the Braves.

The Cubs entered Saturday with a one-game advantage over the Brewers, but dropped a 2-1 squeaker to the Cardinals early in the afternoon and watched the Brewers defeat the Tigers 6-5 to close the gap at the top of the NL Central. Everything will hinge on Game 162, when the Cubs will send left-hander Mike Montgomery up against St. Louis righty Jack Flaherty at 3:20 PM EDT and the Brewers will hang their hopes on Gio Gonzalez over the Tigers’ Spencer Turnbull at 3:10 PM EDT. Should the Cubs gain the edge over their division rival, it’ll mark their third division title in a row and eighth overall (sixth since moving to the NL Central). Should luck falls to the Brewers, on the other hand, it’ll mark their third division title (second since they moved to the National League in 1998) and first since 2011.

Over in the NL West, the Rockies and Dodgers will try to grab a foothold atop the division as they round out their final series against the Nationals and Giants, respectively. After dropping a 12-2 heartbreaker to the Nationals on Saturday night, the Rockies will send Tyler Anderson out against Washington rookie Erick Fedde at 3:10 PM EDT. The Dodgers, meanwhile, will roll with southpaw Rich Hill against Giants’ lefty Andrew Suarez at 3:05 PM EDT. A win for the Dodgers (and loss for the Rockies) would hand them their sixth straight division title and 17th in the NL West. For the Rockies, a division championship would be even more significant, as they’ve yet to clinch a single title in their 26-year history.

The Astros continue to refuse to take responsibility for the Taubman Affair

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I’m calling it the “Taubman Affair” because writing “the incident in which a top front office executive — Astros Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman — taunted a reporter for her past opposition to the team acquiring a domestic abuser, after which the team lied, aggressively about it, accusing another reporter of fabricating a story, then admitted that they lied but made no apology for smearing the reporter” is too unwieldy for a headline.

If you need catching up on it, though, you can read this, this or this.

The latest on it all: yesterday, after walking back their angry denial that the incident ever occurred and admitting that, yes, Taubman did in fact gleefully and profanely target a reporter for taunting, the team basically went silent and let Game 1 unfold.

Today General Manager Jeff Luhnow went on a team-friendly radio station (i.e. the station that broadcasts Astros games). In the entire segment he was asked only one question about it: “Your thoughts on the SI article, Jeff.” Luhnow said that he would withhold comment, but apologized to “everybody involved,” including the fans and the players, saying “this situation should have never happened.” You can listen to the entire segment here.

He did not, however, make any specific mention of what “this situation” was. Nor did he acknowledge that, actually, it’s at least two “situations:” (1) the initial behavior of Taubman; and (2) Monday night’s team-sanctioned attack of Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein, who reported it. Indeed, at no time in the team’s now multiple comments has anyone acknowledged that, as an organization, the Houston Astros’s first impulse in all of this was to attempt to bully and discredit a reporter for what has now been established as a truthful report to which the Astros have admitted. And they certainly have not voiced any specific regret or offered any form of accountability for it.

Major League Baseball is apparently investigating Taubman’s conduct. But it is not, presumably, investigating the Astros’ disingenuous smear of Apstein. A smear that the Astros likely undertook because they figured they could intimidate Apstein and, what may even be worse, because they assumed that the rest of the press — many of whom were witnesses to Taubman’s act — would go along or remain silent. If they did not think that, of course, releasing the statement they did would’ve been nonsensical. It speaks of an organization that believes it can either bully or manipulate the media into doing its bidding or covering for the teams’ transgressions. That part of this has gone wholly uncommented on by the Astros and apparently will for the foreseeable future. No matter how this shakes out for Taubman, if the Astros do not talk about how and why they decided to baselessly attack Apstein on Monday night, nothing they ever say should be trusted again.

More broadly, everything the Astros are doing now is the same as when they traded for Roberto Osuna in the first place.

In 2018 they wanted to do an unpopular thing — arbitrage a player’s domestic violence suspension into the acquisition of cheap relief help — while wanting to appear as though they were good actors who had a “zero tolerance for domestic violence” policy. To solve that problem they shoveled a lot of malarkey about how “zero tolerance” actually includes a fair amount of tolerance and hoped that everyone would go along. When not everyone did — when fans brought signs of protest to the ballpark or expressed their displeasure with Osuna’s presence on the roster — they confiscated them then hoped it’d all blow over and, eventually, via Taubman’s rant on Saturday night, lashed out at their critics.

Here, again, they want to do something unpopular: retain a boorish and insensitive executive in Taubman without him or the team suffering any consequences for it, be they actual consequences or mere P.R. fallout. Again, it’s kind of hard to pull that off, so to do so they falsely accused a reporter of lying and then circled the wagons when they caught heat for it.

I have no idea how long they plan to keep this up. Maybe they are calculating that people will forget and that forgetting is the same as forgiveness. Maybe they simply don’t care. All I do know is that folks will be teaching the Astros’ response to all of this as a counterexample in crisis management courses for years.