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Brandon Taubman fired by Astros in wake of incident with female reporters

Brandon Taubman was fired after an incident with female reporters following Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. (Michael Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle/Associated Press)

The Houston Astros on Thursday fired the team official who directed offensive, vulgar comments toward female reporters during the celebration of the team’s American League Championship Series victory five days earlier. In both a statement and a news conference at Nationals Park, on the travel day between Games 2 and 3 of the World Series, the team apologized to the reporters and acknowledged it mishandled the incident.

Assistant general manager Brandon Taubman was terminated for his actions after Saturday night’s win over the Yankees, when he yelled in the direction of the female reporters who were covering the Astros’ celebration, “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so [expletive] glad we got Osuna!” — references to Astros closer Roberto Osuna, who was acquired in a trade in 2018 after being suspended for violating baseball’s domestic violence policy.

After Sports Illustrated reporter Stephanie Apstein, who had witnessed the incident, wrote about it, the Astros, in an initial statement, called the report “misleading” and “completely irresponsible” and accused Apstein of trying to “fabricate” a story. Other witnesses corroborated Apstein’s account, including one who wears a purple domestic violence awareness bracelet and who was the primary target of Taubman’s tirade.

Svrluga: Taubman's behavior was intolerable. The Astros' initial response was reprehensible.

According to a timeline laid out Thursday by Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, Taubman lied to team officials when he was first confronted with Apstein’s claims, saying his comments were directed at a colleague and overheard by the reporters.

Luhnow would not say who wrote the Astros’ initial, caustic statement — saying only it was “many” people — but acknowledged he had seen it before it was released. The statement, Luhnow said, “never should have been sent.” The Astros, he said, “own it as an organization. … It was wrong.”

However, Luhnow would not say whether there would be discipline of the employees responsible for the statement accusing Apstein of fabricating the story.

Luhnow also defended the Astros’ culture, saying, “This is not something that’s endemic. This is not a cultural issue. We have a lot of really good people in our front office, our coaching staff and our team.”

Major League Baseball launched an investigation of the incident and began interviewing witnesses in Houston on Wednesday, but the Astros’ actions appeared to have been made ahead of any subsequent findings by MLB.

Luhnow described his own remorse at having to fire a top lieutenant in the middle of the World Series, saying it was “devastating,” and adding, “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone in this room, just like I wouldn’t wish it on anyone in this room to sit up here and answer these questions, either.”

In their statement Thursday, the Astros said they were “wrong” about Taubman’s intent. “We sincerely apologize to Stephanie Apstein, Sports Illustrated and to all individuals who witnessed this incident or were offended by the inappropriate conduct,” the statement said. “The Astros in no way intended to minimize the issues related to domestic violence.”

Luhnow said Thursday he had yet to reach out to Apstein to apologize in person for the team’s actions. “But I will,” he said, “as soon as I can.” At the time, Apstein was one of the reporters sitting in front of him.

Chelsea Janes contributed to this report.

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