The Houston Astros' front office ought to be talking about World Series preparations after a thrilling win brought them the American League crown. Instead, the team is dealing with one of its executives verbally accosting women journalists.
Hours after the team trashed a Sports Illustrated report accusing assistant general manager Brandon Taubman of yelling at three women during the team's Saturday postgame celebration, Taubman himself conceded he used inappropriate language and was embarrassed by his behavior.
Previously, the team had called the Sports Illustrated article -- which was backed up by journalists from two other news outlets -- "misleading and completely irresponsible."
The Astros sent CNN a statement Tuesday morning refuting accounts that Taubman, in comments directed at the women, emphatically celebrated the signing of relief pitcher Roberto Osuna. The Astros acquired Osuna from the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018, weeks after Major League Baseball handed him a 75-game suspension for violating its domestic violence policy.
By Tuesday afternoon, however, Taubman was acknowledging his inappropriate remarks, though he attributed them to "overexuberance in support of a player" and said they should not be miscast as a "regressive attitude about an important social issue."
"This past Saturday, during our clubhouse celebration, I used inappropriate language for which I am deeply sorry and embarrassed. In retrospect, I realize that my comments were unprofessional and inappropriate," his statement said.
"I hope that those who do not know me understand that the Sports Illustrated article does not reflect who I am or my values. I am sorry if anyone was offended by my actions."
Team owner Jim Crane also released a statement touting the team's mandatory domestic violence training and the work the organization has done to raise money and awareness for the cause.
Game 1 of the World Series, between the Astros and Washington Nationals, is scheduled to begin Tuesday night in Houston.
Astros: Story is 'completely irresponsible'
According to Sports Illustrated's Monday report, the team was celebrating its Game 6 ALCS win over the New York Yankees when Taubman homed in on three women in the locker room, one wearing a bracelet promoting domestic violence awareness, and said six times, "Thank God we got Osuna! I'm so f***ing glad we got Osuna!"
An editor's note atop the Sports Illustrated story said the Astros declined to comment before publication but denied the allegation after the story was published.
The statement, which CNN obtained Tuesday, said reporters were questioning a player about a "difficult outing" when an executive expressed support for the player. The statement names neither Taubman nor Osuna.
"The story posted by Sports Illustrated is misleading and completely irresponsible," it said. "(The executive's) comments had everything to do about the game situation that just occurred and nothing else -- they were also not directed toward any specific reporters. We are extremely disappointed in Sports Illustrated's attempt to fabricate a story where one does not exist."
Osuna had had a difficult outing. With his team up 4-2 in the ninth inning, the Astros brought in their star closer, only for the 24-year-old to blow the lead, giving up a two-run homer to the Yankees' DJ LeMahieu. The Astros' Jose Altuve would answer in the bottom of the ninth with his own two-run homer, a walkoff to save the series.
MLB learned of the allegations via the Sports Illustrated article, whose account of the event the Astros dispute, the league said in a statement. The league is withholding further comment until it can interview those involved, it said.
"Domestic violence is extraordinarily serious and everyone in baseball must use care to not engage in any behavior -- whether intentional or not -- that could be construed as minimizing the egregiousness of an act of domestic violence," the MLB statement said.
'Can confirm,' reporter says
As the Astros' front office denied that Taubman taunted the women in the locker room, at least two other journalists -- the Houston Chronicle's Hunter Atkins and Yahoo Sports' Hannah Keyser -- said they witnessed the exchange. The Chronicle said another one of its reporters, who it did not name, also saw it .
"Can confirm," Keyser said, retweeting the Sports Illustrated article.
Atkins, meanwhile, took issue with the Astros claiming the report was misleading, tweeting, "It is not. I was there. Saw it. And I should've said something sooner."
The Astros awarded Taubman a multiyear contract extension last month, according to reports. He left the finance industry to join the team in 2013, according to an Astros bio. He oversees analytics, scouting departments and administrative functions.
Court withdraws charge; MLB disciplines
Osuna joined the Astros in July 2018, after spending three seasons with the Blue Jays, who shipped him south in a trade two months after his May 8 arrest on assault charges stemming from an incident involving the mother of his 3-year-old son.
The Astros signed him after investigating the incident and Osuna's background and determining he deserved a second chance following his completion of a league domestic violence program, the team said. The decision was difficult, the statement said, but it provided a chance to raise awareness about domestic violence.
"We believe that Roberto will not let us down. If there is any type of issue in the future, we will take immediate and decisive action -- it will not be tolerated," the statement said.
An Ontario court withdrew the assault charge the following September, but not before Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Osuna for 75 games without pay, saying the available evidence showed he had violated the league's domestic violence policy, according to MLB.com .
"The Houston Astros look forward to Roberto continuing his commitment to be a productive and caring part of our community," a September 2018 statement said. "The Astros remain committed to increase our support regarding the issues of domestic violence and abuse of any kind."
Osuna issued a statement through the team saying, "I am pleased and relieved by today's court decision. Now I can begin to put these allegations behind me and focus on baseball."
The Astros placed Osuna on their active roster August 5, 2018, the day after his suspension ended. He finished this season with 38 saves, tops in the American League and the second-most in the majors.