Astros fire Brandon Taubman

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The Houston Astros announced late this afternoon that they have fired Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman.

In the statement announcing Taubman’s termination the team admitted that their initial denial of Taubman’s acts — an aggressive denial which cast Sports Illustrated reporter Stephanie Apstein’s report as “misleading and completely irresponsible” — was wrong, and offered a specific apology to Apstein. “We were wrong,” the team said, and confirmed that Taubman’s comments following last Saturday night’s ALCS victory were aimed at “one or more reporters.” Notably, they did not specifically say why they were apologizing to Apstein (i.e. that they accused her of fabricating the story). I guess they’re still trying to figure this out.

Those comments, you’ll recall, were “Thank god we got Osuna! I’m so [expletive] glad we got Osuna!” Referring to Astros reliever Roberto Osuna. They came after Taubman had reportedly made multiple complaints about the reporter taking issue with the Astros’ acquisition of Osuna in the wake of his domestic violence suspension last year. The Astros said “[Taubman’s] conduct does not reflect the values of our organization and we believe this is the most appropriate course of action.”

The fact that it took this long to get here — and, really, that even got this far at all — is quite remarkable.

If, in the wake of the incident being reported on Monday night, the Astros had simply said that they, as an organization, do not endorse the values reflected in the report and that they intended to investigate the matter, there’s a pretty good chance it dies down and Taubman keeps his job with, perhaps, a suspension or a fine.

The fact that the team, instead, lashed out at Apstein as it did placed a gigantic magnifying glass on the matter and made a heck of a lot more people pay attention to it than otherwise might have. When they did, it caused many to relitigate the acquisition of Osuna and the Astros’ comments around that time and to the present day. As late as today there even were articles being written scrutinizing the team’s owner, Jim Crane, and his past as well, casting a harsh light on virtually all aspects of the organization. Such a thing never would’ve happened if this had been merely about Taubman rather than the Astros and their bizarrely aggressive response on Monday.

And, to be sure, I don’t think this settles the matter completely. Who was behind that response on Monday night anyway? Who approved going after a reporter in an effort to ruin her career by accusing her of fabricating a story. I’ve read a lot of team statements in my time and I can tell you that that was not the sort of thing that would be casually issued by a mid-level media relations employee. Someone high up no doubt decided that the aggressive tack — and now, confirmed, false tack — was the best move. If it was someone other than Taubman, they too should be accountable. If it was Taubman, the question remains why the subject of a controversy was allowed to author the team’s response to the controversy.

But we are here and, thankfully, the Astros have finally done at least part of what they needed to do a couple of days ago: hold Taubman accountable for his conduct and apologize for the team’s conduct in falsely accusing a reporter of fabricating a story. However broadly and vaguely they did it.

Here is the team’s statement:

Rich Hill keeps Cardinals off balance into 7th, Pirates complete three-game sweep with 2-1 victory


PITTSBURGH – When he’s on, Rich Hill‘s pitches still dance. They still dart. They go this way. Then that way. They can baffle hitters with their movement, particularly the ones that don’t come close to breaking the speed limit on most interstates.

In a game that seems to get faster each year, Hill is a throwback. A survivor. At 43 and 19 years into a career he figured would have been over long ago, the well-traveled left-hander knows he’s essentially playing on borrowed time.

Hill is in Pittsburgh to show a young staff how to be a pro while occasionally showing the kids he can still bring it. That example was on display in a 2-1 victory over St. Louis on Sunday that gave Pittsburgh a three-game sweep of its longtime NL Central nemesis.

Knowing the bullpen needed a bit of a break, Hill (5-5) kept the Cardinals off balance for 6 2/3 innings, expertly weaving in and out of trouble with a series of curveballs that hover around 70 mph offset by a fastball that can touch 90 mph but plays up because everything else comes in so much softer.

Hill walked three and struck out six while giving up just one run, a seventh-inning homer by Andrew Knizner that drew the Cardinals within one. He allowed the leadoff hitter to reach in the first four innings and stranded them all as the Pirates pushed their winning streak to five.

“He threw the pitches he wanted to throw,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “They didn’t swing at them. The fact that he’s able to just bounce back and continue to execute shows how savvy he is as a veteran.”

Ji Hwan Bae‘s two-run single off Miles Mikolas (4-2) in the first provided all the offense Hill would need as Pittsburgh swept St. Louis for the first time in five years. Ke'Bryan Hayes singled three times and is hitting .562 (9 for 16) over his last four games after a 3-for-32 funk dropped him to seventh in the batting order.

David Bednar worked the ninth for his 13th save and third in as many days, striking out Knizner with a 98 mph fastball that provided an exclamation point to three days of tight, meaningful baseball, the kind the Pirates haven’t played much of for the better part of a decade.

“We know we have a very good team,” Hill said. “We’ve had meetings in here and we talk about it and reinforce it and just continue to go out there and give that effort every single night and understand that (if) we continue to put in the work, it’ll start to show every night on the field.”

Tommy Edman had two hits for the Cardinals, and designated hitter Luken Baker picked up the first two hits of his career after being called up from Triple-A Memphis early Sunday.

The middle of the St. Louis lineup – Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Gorman and Nolan Arenado – went a combined 0 for 11 as St. Louis lost for the fifth time in six games. The Cardinals left 27 men on base at PNC Park over the weekend to fall back into last place in one of the weakest divisions in the majors.

It’s a division the Pirates – coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons – are managing to hang around the top of for a solid two months. The bullpen has evolved into a strength, with Bednar at the back end and a series of flashy hard throwers like Dauri Moreta in the middle.

Moreta came on for Hill with two outs in the seventh and struck out Goldschmidt with the tying run at first while Hill was in the dugout accepting high-fives, already thinking about his next start, likely on Saturday against the New York Mets. It’s a mindset that has kept Hill around for far longer than he ever imagined.

“Every time he picks up a baseball, I know he feels blessed to be able to continue to throw baseballs for a living,” Pirates catcher Austin Hedges said. “I think that’s one of the best things he can teach our young guys.”


Cardinals: Continue a six-game road trip in Texas against the Rangers on Monday. Adam Wainwright (2-1, 6.15 ERA) faces Martín Pérez (6-1, 4.43 ERA) in the opener.

Pirates: A season-long nine-game homestand continues on Monday when lowly Oakland visits. Johan Oviedo (3-4, 4.50 ERA) gets the start against JP Sears (0-3, 4.37 ERA).