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Astros retract statement, apologize to Stephanie Apstein


The Brandon Taubman saga has finally, mercifully come to a conclusion as Astros owner Jim Crane personally issued an apology to Sports Illustrated reporter Stephanie Apstein and retracted the club’s statement which impugned her credibility. Crane’s letter to Apstein read, “On behalf of the Astros organization, I want to personally apologize for the statement we issued on Monday October 21st. We were wrong and I am sorry that we initially questioned your professionalism. We retract that statement, and I assure you that the Houston Astros will learn from this experience.”

The saga began when the Astros walked off against the Yankees to clinch a World Series berth thanks to José Altuve’s two-run home run. Closer Roberto Osuna had blown a save opportunity the half-inning prior, serving up a two-run homer to DJ LeMahieu. In the post-game celebration, Apstein reported that assistant GM Brandon Taubman targeted a group of three female reporters, one of which was wearing a purple bracelet for domestic violence awareness, yelling, “Thank God we got Osuna!“. Osuna was arrested in Toronto last year and charged with assault against the mother of his son. The Astros acquired Osuna from the Blue Jays two and a half months later, just ahead of the trade deadline.

The Astros responded to Apstein’s report by calling it “misleading and completely irresponsible,” and accused Sports Illustrated of attempting to “fabricate a story where one does not exist.” However, Apstein’s story was vouched for by several other journalists. Taubman himself even admitted the story was true. He was fired shortly thereafter, but it took almost a full week for the club to issue a retraction and an apology to Apstein and Sports Illustrated.

Crane claims the Astros “will learn from this experience.” Nothing the club has done since Jeff Luhnow took over suggests the organization should get the benefit of the doubt, but any improvement in behavior will be welcome.

In the meantime, the Astros are looking ahead to Game 5 of the World Series, which is now Max Scherzer-less.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: