Suzyn Waldman’s baseball season ended the night the Yankees were walked off by the Astros, the team’s ALCS ouster bringing Waldman’s 33rd year as a broadcaster to a close. Like most years that finished a playoff round or two short of a title, Waldman headed home with every intention of watching the World Series, appreciating the history being made in Washington, even rooting for the many people she’s grown to like in the Astros organization.
But this year is different.
This year, Waldman hasn’t turned on a TV.
“I haven’t watched one second of this World Series,” the Massachusetts native and broadcasting pioneer said over the phone on Friday. “I can’t, because of this. Everyone is just smiling and talking about baseball like none of this happened.”
“This,” if you haven’t been paying attention, is the series of egregious missteps taken by the Astros’ front office that began when their young, brazen assistant general manager, Brandon Taubman, verbally taunted three female reporters in the waning hours of Houston’s locker room celebration after eliminating the Yankees. The offense, which centered around the presence of Roberto Osuna on the Astros’ roster, should have been enough to get Taubman fired for cause, rooted as it was in some toxic combination of misogyny, hubris, superiority, and anger.
But when the Astros chose instead to defend Taubman right away, when they didn’t simply back his version of the story but attacked Sports Illustrated reporter Stephanie Apstein’s written account of it and accused her of a reporter’s ultimate sin, fabricating the entire thing, they proved themselves untrustworthy, unreliable, and ultimately, unworthy of our praise or attention.
That’s what Waldman has been feeling these past few days, and for that, I empathize. I only wish the Astros cared.
But for every step forward the franchise has made in outside-the-box baseball thinking, the Astros’ attitude about media in general, and specifically women in the media who dare to object to Osuna’s presence on their roster, is prehistoric.
Do you really believe they are repentant?
“My brother is a teacher and as he used to say to the kids when they’d say sorry: ‘You’re not sorry, you’re caught.’ There’s a difference,” Waldman said. “I think I’m more upset at a culture that circles the wagons and turns this into Watergate. They lied about the whole thing.”
As we know to be true, Taubman had repeatedly screamed in the direction of the three reporters, saying, “Thank God we got Osuna. I’m so [expletive] glad we got Osuna.” Osuna is the closer Houston acquired last year despite his 75-game suspension for what Major League Baseball deemed a credible domestic violence accusation. One of the three writers Taubman targeted was wearing a purple domestic violence awareness bracelet, and she has often tweeted out a hotline number for domestic violence victims when Osuna pitches in a game. Apstein, also one of the three, wrote about it. The Astros, declining her offer to comment for the story, attacked her after it posted instead, fueled by anger at the messenger for daring to bring up a message they didn’t like.
“Listen, they did what they did [signing him], and Osuna did what he did,” Waldman said of the domestic violence case that wasn’t prosecuted when the victim declined to return from her home in Mexico to testify. “He’ll pay for it in a way. He’s never going to see that child or whatever. The [Astros] did what they did. I understand it. I don’t like it, but I understand it. The problem is lying, trying to cover up something that is so hideous anyway, then blaming it on a young woman and trying to ruin her career. That’s the part I can’t look her in the face.
“What they did was worse than Taubman yelling at her, which is vile enough. They tried to ruin a young woman’s career. How do you come back from that?”
The Astros fired Taubman on Thursday. Nearly every one of our media colleagues (gratefully) called out Astros GM Jeff Luhnow for the lies during his painful news conference that day, eager as they were to expose both arms of Houston’s malicious conduct: Taubman’s actions and the team’s response. Luhnow had no real explanation or defense for either. He did, however, express how difficult it was to “separate” from a longtime employee he did not want to fire so much he was unable to even use the word. And he did put responsibility of authorship for that knee-jerk statement on the entire franchise, even though he was among those who reviewed before it was disseminated.
In other words, his belated apologies, and an insistence Taubman’s outburst was “not representative of who the Astros are and our culture and what we stand for,” have been continually disproved by actions.
But beyond those two salient points, we must return to the preceding and even bigger one, the one Apstein so bravely addressed in the first place, how the Astros don’t want to be reminded of the Faustian deal they made in acquiring Osuna. They don’t want to be held accountable, no matter how much they told us they would be when they signed him, back when Luhnow, with a straight face, posited that the trade for Osuna could actually help erase the scourge of domestic violence by bringing more attention to it.
How has that worked out?
“There are signs in every ballpark, in all the women’s rooms, about ‘We will believe you’ and information about domestic violence,” Waldman said. “In every stall, and this is what they do? Don’t tell me it’s not endemic.”
Here we are, during baseball’s signature week, talking about this rather than the games.
Here we are, after Houston earned the right to host the first and second games of its own Fall Classic, with the Astros getting blown out in both. Here we are, with Waldman’s sentiments underlying those that are clearly being felt across the country: Let’s go, Nationals.
Here we are. Where does baseball go now?