Yadier Molina
Getty Images

Yadier Molina makes splash in Japan All-Star Series

5 Comments

While the 2018 MLB season has officially come to a close, thanks to the Red Sox’ championship win last month, there’s no shortage of baseball to watch these days. The Arizona Fall League is still in full swing, with no plans to wrap up until next Saturday, and over in Tokyo, the MLB All-Star team is taking on Samurai Japan in the seven-game Japan All-Star Series.

Cardinals backstop Yadier Molina made a big impact for the team on Sunday, collecting three hits en route to the MLB All-Stars’ first win of the series. He led with a base hit off of right-hander Shinsaburo Tawata in the first inning, then returned in the fourth to leg out another broken-bat single. In the fifth, however, he hit his stride with a powerful three-run homer, scoring the Dodgers’ Kiké Hernández and Royals’ Whit Merrifield to boost the team to a 5-1 lead.

It was a triumphant follow-up to a strong season for the 36-year-old catcher, who completed his 15th campaign with the Cardinals in 2018. While his best days are well behind him, he turned in an All-Star worthy performance after batting .261/.314/.436 with 20 home runs, a .750 OPS, and 2.2 fWAR through 503 plate appearances.

Following a four-run rally in the fifth, helped along by both Merrifield’s go-ahead bunt single and Molina’s home run, Reds third baseman Eugenio Suárez and Mariners right fielder Mitch Haniger tacked on a pair of back-to-back RBI hits in the seventh. In the bottom of the ninth, Japan staged a rally of their own with two run-scoring doubles off of the Cardinals’ John Brebbia, but couldn’t quite catch the MLB All-Stars as they coasted to a 7-3 win.

With three games left to play, the series will pick up again in Hiroshima on Tuesday before concluding with its final two games in Nagoya. Samurai Japan currently leads 2-1.

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

Getty Images
12 Comments

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.