What took so long?

Trevor Bauer

Trevor Bauer waited as long to go on administrative leave for abuse as  Hector Santiago waited to get grounded ten days for actual/alleged naughty sauce. What’s wrong with that picture? Plenty.

Get caught with legal rosin mixing with your own natural sweat? You baaaaaad boy! No going out to play for you for ten days, Hector Santiago.

Take rough sex too far and leave a woman bruised, undergoing CT scans, and finally filing a restraining order against you this week, under penalty of perjury? You’re still starting in regular rotation, Trevor Bauer . . . on the Fourth of July. In Washington, yet.

At least, you were, until MLB did Friday what it should have done on Wednesday, when the details came forth, and put you on seven days’ administrative leave.

Until then, it looked as though Santiago took heavier immediate consequences for actual or alleged naughty sauce than Bauer did leaving a woman with head and facial trauma, a partial basilar skull fracture, and blood around where she accuses him of trying a back door slider while she was out cold and in no position to allow it.

You can run the entire history of professional baseball and find players disciplined quickly and heavily for behaviour a lot less grave that what Bauer’s accused of having done to the lady. But then you can also still find too many people learning about Babe Ruth’s penchant for partying with gangsters and hookers and thinking it’s still just part of the big lout’s appeal.

Maybe the Dodgers couldn’t discipline Bauer unilaterally at once, as Sports Illustrated‘s Stephanie Apstein noted Thursday afternoon. But there was no law saying manager Dave Roberts couldn’t decide to hand the ball to another pitcher to start in Bauer’s place, especially on the anniversary of a declaration saying we’re entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The pursuit of happiness isn’t supposed to leave a woman’s head resembling a boxing gym’s speed bag. Not even if she was looking for just a little rough and wild sex.

Unless I’ve been led down one or another primrose path, even a little rough and wild sex isn’t supposed to end in head and face trauma, a partial basilar skull fracture, and blood on the seat God provided the human anatomy. Compared to that, The Thrilla in Manila (Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, the brutal Act III) was a dance contest.

Baseball’s domestic violence policy, Apstein reminded us, includes that baseball’s government can put an accused player on paid administrative leave up to seven days while investigating the accusations. MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association can extend that period by mutual agreement, she observes.

“Perhaps MLB is waiting until Sunday so as not to start the clock,” she continued. “If they wait, that would keep him out of action until after the All-Star Break. That may make sense legally. It is indefensible morally.”

These people are so consumed with technicalities that they can’t be bothered to do the right thing. “We are not going to start Trevor Bauer on Sunday.” Not “We are going to take away Trevor Bauer’s money.” Not “We are going to suspend him.” Not “We are going to release him.” Not “We are going to throw him in prison.” Just “We are not going to offer this man the privilege of striding out to a mound in front of tens of thousands of people who paid for a nice afternoon.”

Let’s remember the word “privilege.” That’s what playing professional, major league baseball is. It’s not a basic human right. You won’t find any clause in the Supreme Law of the Land declaring you have the absolute right to any particular line of work.

The document over whose anniversary baseball and the nation is about to make a red, white, and blue racket—the like of which probably hasn’t been seen in long enough, after last year’s pan-damn-ic rudely interrupted such things—doesn’t say, “We hold this truth further, that you have the right to your particular chosen job, period, no matter what criminal behaviour you might commit while thus employed.”

Apstein said commissioner Rob Manfred—a man who normally points the way to wisdom by standing athwart it—should have put Bauer on administrative leave immediately. She also said the Dodgers’ administration should have ordered Roberts to hand the Fourth of July ball to anyone but Bauer, instead of Roberts telling reporters he’s still giving Bauer the ball.

While she was at it, she zapped that brass for leaving Roberts out to answer press questions by himself.

“Instead,” Apstein continued, “fans of the Dodgers and of the sport and of civil society have to wait days to learn whether a man accused of breaking a woman’s skull will get to pitch on the Fourth of July in the nation’s capital.”

The Athletic‘s Dodgers reporter Fabian Ardaya tweeted Thursday afternoon that Roberts also said the team’s “direction” was to do nothing “until they get guidance from MLB.” Since when does a team need guidance from baseball’s government to just take the ball from one pitcher and hand it to another?

The Dodgers have their guidance now. It took only two days from The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli’s and Katie Strang’s running down the literally gory details in the restraining order filing to get it. It shouldn’t have taken that long.

MLB was still a little too slow on the proverbial uptake. So were the Dodgers. They should have gotten ahead of it and changed Fourth of July pitchers at minimum to open. This is a look about which “ugly” would be an understatement for the team half a game out of first in the National League West.

Why did Manfred and his office wait so long to put Bauer on administrative leave? When former Cubs shortstop Addison Russell was first accused of abuse against his then-wife in 2018, MLB put him on administrative leave at once. When Yankee pitcher Domingo German was accused likewise in 2019, MLB put him on administrative leave likewise.

Both were suspended in due course, but the players’ union approved extensions of the administrative leaves first. What on earth was the hesitation now?

The presumption of innocence? Legally, that’s in a court of law. Morally, you don’t surrender it when you remove a pitcher from duty whose mind is occupied by matters more grave than trying to sneak fastballs or breaking balls past Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner, and Juan Soto on the Fourth of July.

“Would the union fight a similar extension with Bauer?” another Athletic writer, Ken Rosenthal, asked. Then, he answers at once: “Perhaps, if it believed the league was acting unfairly. The union, after all, exists to defend and assert the rights of the players. But based on the details in the domestic violence restraining order against Bauer, the union also might view a prolonged investigation into his conduct as warranted.”

Somehow, it’s still impossible to believe that a pitcher caught with his sweat mixing to legal rosin and ending up in his glove—which, by the way, MLB turned out not to have inspected—almost faced heavier immediate consequences than a player under legal restraining order over leaving a woman injured, feeling abused, and more than a little afraid.

“[H]ow ridiculous would it look for MLB to dock Santiago and not even buy time with Bauer, whose alleged offense is far more serious?” Rosenthal asked. “What exactly would Manfred’s trepidation be here?”

I’m still a little too trepiditious to ask. A baseball commissioner who’s already threatening to set records for terrible looks took two days to do what he had to do this time. “Terrible” isn’t the word for that look.

Beyond mere misogyny

Trevor Bauer

Somehow it was easier on the insides when Trevor Bauer was a mere misogynist.

Before Trevor Bauer signed with the Dodgers in February, there were signs enough that the Mets might bring him aboard. And alarms enough that Bauer’s penchant for social media misogyny might require extraordinary pre-emptive strikes to contain potential fallout.

That was a month after the Mets fired general manager Jared Porter over sexual texts and images he sent a female reporter while working for the Cubs in 2016. And, around the time former Mets manager Mickey Callaway got suspended—and, eventually, fired as the Angels pitching coach—over several years’ unwanted pursuit of women around baseball.

A New York Post baseball writer, Joel Sherman, thought the last thing the Mets should consider under those circumstances was signing a pitcher to whom mere misogyny seemed second nature to anything longer than a single-year deal:

Bauer’s behavior does not rise near the malfeasance that Porter copped to and is alleged against Callaway. But Sandy Alderson hired both Porter and Callaway. He said in the aftermath of both disturbing revelations that had he known prior, he would not have hired Porter or Callaway. He knows what he knows about Bauer. Now. Today.

The Mets lost out to the Dodgers in the Bauer hunt. In letting Bauer become the Dodgers’ signing splash and migraine, the Mets may not have dodged just a bullet but a nuclear warhead.

On Monday, a 27-year-old woman filed a domestic violence restraining order against the 30-year-old righthander with pitching smarts to burn and a paleozoic personality to match. The Athletic‘s Brittany Ghiroli and Katie Strang got a look at the details inside the 67-page filing.

They almost make the sadomasochistic1963 novel whose title later became the name of a legendary rock band, The Velvet Underground, resemble The Enchanted Cottage. I can only imagine the sickenings to their stomachs Ghiroli and Strang felt.

“The alleged assaults described by the woman, which are extremely graphic in nature, happened during what she said began as consensual sexual encounters between the two,” Ghiroli and Strang wrote Wednesday.

According to the woman’s declaration attached to the request and obtained by The Athletic, she suffered injuries as a result of the second encounter, including two black eyes, a bloodied swollen lip, significant bruising and scratching to one side of her face. In the woman’s declaration, signed under penalty of perjury of California state laws, she said that her medical notes state that she had “significant head and facial trauma” and that there were signs of basilar skull fracture.

She also said that, in one of those incidents, while unconscious, Bauer penetrated her anally, which she did not consent to in advance.

“I agreed to have consensual sex; however, I did not agree or consent to what he did next,” she says. “I did not agree to be sexually assaulted.”

The two Athletic reporters reached out to Bauer’s side and got no comment beyond a statement from Bauer’s agent, Jon Fetterolf. The statement says, essentially, that Bauer and the woman began “a brief and wholly consensual sexual relationship” which she began, meeting twice, with Bauer leaving quietly but the two continuing to message in “friendly and flirtatious banter.”

But Fetterolf also acknowledged she sent Bauer photographs accompanied by a note that she sought medical treatment for a concussion, to which Bauer responded “with concern and confusion” while the woman was “neither angry nor accusatory.”

Mr. Bauer and [the woman] have not corresponded in over a month and have not seen each other in over six weeks. Her basis for filing a protection order is nonexistent, fraudulent, and deliberately omits key facts, information, and her own relevant communications. Any allegations that the pair’s encounters were not 100% consensual are baseless, defamatory, and will be refuted to the fullest extent of the law.

One of the lady’s own attorneys, Bryan Freedman, had a statement of his own to share with Ghiroli and Strang:

Without going into detail for the benefit of both my client and Mr. Bauer, the pictures evidencing the unconsented abuse do not lie. Any suggestion that she was not the victim of assault is not only false and defamatory but, in fact, perpetuates the abuse. Our client truly wants Mr. Bauer to engage in a medically appropriate therapeutic process where he can receive the treatment he needs to never act this way again.

“If he is willing to meaningfully participate in a process directed by appropriate professionals,” Freedman continued, “it will go a long way toward allowing her to feel safe and resolving this matter. But, regardless, she cannot allow this to happen unknowingly to anyone else.”

The woman accuses Bauer of choking her just enough into unconsciousness. She said in the filing that she awoke disoriented but also to him trying to have rough anal sex with her, “which I had never communicated that I wanted, nor did I consent,” and that the morning after he made a little light of the entire thing before he left an hour later.

The pair continued messaging each other, though. They met again in mid-May. That time, the woman’s filing says, instead of trying a little rough sex after choking her unconscious Bauer basically beat her head in for her—and, after she was fully conscious, told her she was safe and he “would never do those things to you if it wasn’t sexually.”

“As part of the request to the court,” Ghiroli and Strang wrote, “the woman also provided text messages and screenshots of voicemails she said Bauer sent to her inquiring about her well being and checking in with her to see what he could do; in one message, Bauer offers to deliver groceries to her.” What a guy.

The filing also mentions the woman went for two medical exams off that second “encounter,” including “rapid CT scans” for face, neck, and brain. She also met San Diego police detectives, downplayed the whole thing as just “rough sex,” and didn’t drop Bauer’s name then for fear of public repercussion.

“I was afraid what Trevor would do if he found out,” Ghiroli and Strang quote her filing. “I remain afraid that Trevor will find me and hurt me for going to the hospital.” They also quote from a conversation between herself and Bauer under the Pasadena Police Department’s direction: “I said, ‘Thank you for acknowledging what you did to me.’ Trevor acknowledged it and asked how we could move forward and asked if he could still reach out.”

The Pasadena PD is still investigating. Another attorney for the lady, Marc Garelick, said in a statement he and his client both expect criminal action against Bauer. MLB is also investigating and may sanction Bauer under the sport’s domestic violence policy.

“Let the balance between Bauer’s talent and his headaches be on the Dodgers’ heads,” I wrote when Bauer signed that three-year, $102 million deal with them. “The Dodgers may be deep enough that Bauer’s headaches wouldn’t make a huge impact, but they could leave the Dodgers with as many migraines off the field as their presence on it will leave for the rest the National League West, at minimum.”

If all Bauer gives the Dodgers now is a mere migraine, it would be a substantial improvement.

Wild rough sex is one thing. Forgive me if I have an impossible time believing that battering a woman like her head is a boxing gym speed bag, or giving her a back-door slider while she’s out cold, is any kind of erotic for either partner.

“One of the last text messages I sent him,” the lady’s filing said, “was, ‘I appreciate all of your offers to help, but the best way you can help me is to never do that to anyone else ever again.’ To this, Trevor responded, ‘I would never do anything to hurt anyone. That includes you’.”

What a guy.

Dyson drydocked for domestic violence

If Sam Dyson was stunned by surrendering Jose Bautista’s postseason-advancing bomb, imagine how stunned his former girlfriend was by his attacks upon her and her pet.

Until today, relief pitcher Sam Dyson was probably known best as the co-catalyst for one of the Show’s most ridiculous brawls, half a year after he surrendered the postseason home run that provoked it. Today he says goodbye to baseball 2021, having been suspended for the season for violating the Show’s domestic violence policy.

When Dyson hit free agency in November 2019, The Athletic revealed a pair of social media posts by his former girlfriend provoked a baseball government investigation. Athletic writers Ken Rosenthal and Katie Strang unearthed that her posts in which she didn’t name the assailant referenced Dyson after all.

At the time, Alexis Blackburn wrote on social media about receiving violent haranguing and objects thrown at herself and her cat. Today, Strang shared a statement from Blackburn to herself on Twitter:

I had the strength and courage to come forward so other women and victims know they aren’t alone, that this isn’t healthy, that you’re worth more than the bruises on your body and the bitch you’re referred to . . . We fought hard and we were validated by one of the largest sports organisations in the world.

The Athletic‘s initial expose included quoting Blackburn writing on the Instagram account she kept on behalf of her cat, Snuckles. “No one deserves to be intimidated, scared, worthless, and hopeless.”

Once upon a time, Dyson himself could actually be thought of as believing likewise.

We take you back to 14 October 2015, when Dyson as a Ranger squared off against Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays in Game Five, bottom of the seventh, in an American League Division Series. With two on and two out, and a 1-1 count, Dyson—himself a one-time Blue Jay—threw a fastball toward the inner half of the plate and up the middle. Uh-oh.

Bautista hit a monstrous three-run homer off the rim of the upper left field deck. Punctuated by a whirlybird of a bat flip as Bautista strode out of the box to run it out. The blast turned a three-all tie into a 6-3 Jays advantage that held up to send them to the American League Championship Series.

The worst thing Dyson did or said then was misintepret Edwin Encarnacion’s gestures calling for fans to quit throwing things around the stadium and engage in a brief argument. The second worst came after the game when he changed into his Fun Police uniform.

“Jose needs to calm that down, just kind of respect the game a little more,” Dyson told reporters afterward. “He’s a huge role model for the younger generation that’s coming up playing this game, and I mean he’s doing stuff that kids do in Wiffle ball games and backyard baseball. It shouldn’t be done.” That’s how many kids playing Wiffle ball who grow up to hit postseason-advancing skyrockets?

Fast forward now to the 2016 regular season series between the two teams.

Dyson faced Bautista in the first game of a May set between the two in Toronto. If he or the Rangers wanted a little revenge for that October blast flip, this was the time to seek it. But Dyson never once made any move against Bautista. Neither did any other Ranger—until the final game of the season between the two teams, in Arlington, 15 May 2016.

Bautista whacked a three-run double off Rangers reliever Tom Wilhelmson in the top of the sixth. The next Jays batter, Encarnacion, got drilled on the first pitch. After the Rays loaded the bases on him in the top of the seventh, Wilhelmson yielded to Matt Bush, who surrendered a sacrifice fly but nothing else to make the game 6-3, Jays.

Then Bautista led off against Bush—freshly returned to baseball after his imprisonment for manslaughter when his motorcycle ran over an elder man who subsequently forgave him for the crime—in the top of the eighth. Exactly why Bush did what he did with the first pitch still escapes, since he wasn’t even part of the Rangers organisation when Bautista hit the postseason-advancing blast.

But Bush drilled Bautista on pitch one. A fly out later, Justin Smoak grounded to third for a double play. Bautista slid hard into second baseman Rougned Odor, straight over the pad, with Odor on the relay throw looking very much like he was more interested in trying to decapitate Bautista than in finishing the double play.

“I could have injured him, but I chose not to,” Bautista said after the game. “I tried to send the message that I didn’t appreciate getting hit.” Especially not seven months after the fact, in the latest innings of the final contest between those two teams for the rest of the year, when any Ranger pitcher had six previous 2016 occasions to send Bautista a message about going interstellar and celebrating the launch so ostentatiously.

“Having failed [decapitation], and apparently ignorant of how in the wrong Bautista wasn’t,” I wrote at the time, and I haven’t changed my mind almost six years later, “Odor watched Bautista spring up preparing to defend himself, knowing Odor looked as though he had further mayhem on his mind. And then it came. First Odor shoved Bautista. Then, when Bautista extended an arm in a very obviously defensive position, Odor swung and landed that right cross.”

Just what did Odor expect to receive at second base after Bautista got drilled by Bush so late, if Bautista was given the chance—a dozen roses with a singing telegram? If your team is cowardly enough to wait until Bautista’s last possible chance to face you all year to send a seven-month-old message, you might want to consider yourself grateful that a hard slide into second base was all you got before you decided to throw a punch or two.

Both benches emptied. The umpires may have figured Bush threw the driller under orders because he wasn’t ejected, though he was fined. Odor and Bautista got ejected posthaste, with Odor getting eight games suspended plus a fine and Bautista getting one game—because the slide was illegal under the Utley Rule but nothing worse. Appropriately.

As I noted further at the time, “Funny how all the so-called ‘old schoolers’ canonizing Odor forgot Bautista answered that unwarranted plunk the old-school way. Throw at Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Willie Mays, Duke Snider, and if they got the chance on a followup grounder they’d have sliced and diced the nearest middle infielder on the play at second.”

The real-life law-enforcement Texas Rangers motto, legendarily, is: “One riot, one Ranger.” The baseball Rangers left themselves after that set with a likewise indelible image: One Ranger, one riot.

All throughout that early-year season series, up to and including the scrum Odor’s idiocy (and that of whomever ordered the hapless Bush to throw the Bautista driller) provoked, Dyson was one Ranger who behaved like a complete professional.

Somewhere along his travels to come, from the Rangers to the Giants, from the Giants to the Twins, before right shoulder capsule surgery looked to bench him for 2020, Dyson in whatever frame of mind he was decided his girlfriend deserved violent bawlings out and target practise a few too many times for her comfort and his professional good. And in that order.

His frame of mind isn’t an excuse. This isn’t a soldier or a Marine in the early grip of post-traumatic stress syndrome, having violent nightmares about the death and destruction he’s lived, trying to injure his wife while dead asleep and unaware of what he’s doing.

It’s entirely possible for couples in any kind of love, to disagree and debate without exchanging thoughts and feelings for loud, lewd insults and self-propelled objects at each other’s heads and bodies.

There are indeed worse things a man can do than surrender a monstrous, ultimately postseason series-winning home run. Dyson went from there and from professionalism in refusing to seek vengeance seven months after the fact to taking whatever out violently on his one-time girlfriend and her pet. For making them victims like that, there’s only one appropriate word.

The word is disgust.

Commissioner Rob Manfred’s statement upon announcing Dyson’s suspension read, “Having reviewed all of the available evidence, I have concluded that Mr. Dyson violated our policy and that discipline is appropriate.”

How about saying, “I’ve seen the evidence. Eff our ‘policy,’ what he did to her’s a crime.  This guy’s lucky that a year off without pay is all I can give him. What’d be appropriate is me throwing things at him to see how he likes it.”

Objections overruled

2020-01-05 DomingoGerman

Slapping his girl friend at CC Sabathia’s charity gala last fall means Domingo German won’t be pitching in Yankee pinstripes again until early June.

Domingo German’s 81-game suspension under baseball’s domestic violence policy is only the fourth longest such drydocking among players. Former Braves pitcher Hector Olivera beats him by a game in that regard, Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera lost the final 85 games of 2019, and Padres pitcher Jose Torres lost 100 games in 2018.

None of which stopped the word “unprecedented” from circulating around it or some Yankee fans from screaming “We object!” To the suspension, not the act that provoked it. The general gravamen among that subset of Yankee fans is that, since German wasn’t hit with any criminal charges after all, he should therefore face nothing but spring training and the 2020 season. The general problem with that view is that there’s a major league policy in place saying oh no he shouldn’t.

The actual policy allows baseball’s commissioner to put a suspected player on administrative leave for up to seven days while investigating the accusation, and it covers domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse alike. There’s no minimum or maximum punishment involved formally, though the commissioner can suspend, reinstate, or defer judgment until after criminal proceedings are done.

Which means commissioner Rob Manfred was within his rights under the policy to suspend German even though the September 2019 incident in question—German was seen slapping his girl friend, who happens to be the mother one of his children, after a charity gala by retiring pitcher CC Sabathia—ended up not going to criminal charges. The incident itself was bad enough without the witnesses perhaps including someone from the commissioner’s office.

Likewise was Manfred within his rights to think as he seems to have done that further such incidents forward after, say, Addison Russell’s to get him a 40-game suspension (2018-19), or Roberto Osuna (75 games, 2018), or to Giants chief executive officer Larry Baer (almost four months last year), haven’t delivered the message yet that there are some things baseball as a franchise employer simply refuses to suffer gladly.

Formal legal criminal charges or no, neither the Major League Baseball Players Association nor the Yankees objected to German going on administrative leave from the day after his final 2019 mound appearance through the end of the postseason. Yahoo! Sports columnist Hannah Keyser says the team and the union aren’t expected to appeal the final suspension, either.

German’s suspension will take him out of the 2020 season’s first 63 games since it was made retroactive to the administrative leave onto which he was placed 19 September 2019. And while the pitcher’s missing the rest of the regular season and the entire postseason didn’t exactly help the Yankee cause, it tells you something when you fear those Yankee fans hollering against the suspension seem oblivious to its provocation.

One such response, specifically to Keyser’s column, went like this: “I have no objection to a player being suspended for domestic abuse. But I do object to it when a player was never even charged and there is no real proof that they did anything.” As if the point of witnesses having seen German slap his girl friend now equals, “It depends on what your definition of ‘witness’ is.”

It’s something comparable to saying no, you don’t object to a president of the United States being impeached for abuse of power, but yes, you object when he hasn’t been charged according to criminal law construct. Therefore, whether the House impeaching the president or baseball the employer enforcing its behavioural rules, they done you wrong, somehow. I say it that way because sports fans in their most extreme moments take certain things personally and regard them as crimes of another sort.

Let their team lose a key game down the stretch and they just about would treat it not as a hard loss but, rather, a bloody crime for which heads must roll. Let a pitcher surrender a potential game, set, and pennant-losing home run, and it’s not that the hitter was the better player in the moment but that the pitcher committed the heinous act of throwing the pitch that got bombed.

Those are bad enough. But when some Yankee or other fans all but demand baseball lighten up about suspending domestic abusers in such cases as don’t even go to court (German, fellow Yankee pitcher Aroldis Chapman in 2015, Russell) or become resolved without further ado in court (Osuna), they suggest an employer has no business disciplining an employee merely because his misbehaviour didn’t result in a court case at all, never mind a conviction or time behind bars.

The Astros fired assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, after almost a week worth of the team administration trying to cover up and smearing the reporter who revealed he’d thanked God they’d [fornicating] gotten Osuna within earshot of three female reporters one of whom wore a domestic violence awareness bracelet at the time. If a team can fire an executive over seeming to ignore if not applaud domestic violence, why can’t a team or baseball’s administration suspend someone for committing it?

It’s to baseball’s credit that it says domestic violence is intolerable among those who make the game their profession. And it should be thus elsewhere in sports, as said another respondent to Keyser’s column: “As a Dad, and yet a lifelong Yankee fan, I know domestic violence cannot and should not be tolerated. That is a given. Yet in other sports, the punishment seems to be somewhat less. Time for the other pro sports, or even college sports, to step up and take a stand also.”

All that’s accomplished by those Yankee fans saying baseball done them wrong by suspending German is to make their breed look even worse than they already look to a lot of baseball fans. A lifetime’s experience with the breed (I’m Bronx born, Bronx and Long Island bred, but a Met fan since the day they were born) informs that the main reason it’s uncomfortable to think nice things about the Yankees is their fans.

If the truest cliche about the Yankees is that they don’t like to lose, the truest about Yankee fans is that they think their heroes are entitled (underline that) to be in every postseason, if not to win every World Series, and that if they don’t get either it’s either grounds for a complete housecleaning or somebody else’s fault. But even that is bearable compared to the pockets of extremes that make even normal Yankee fans quake.

Last October came three grotesque examples from that small contingent of Yankee fans who travel first crass. Two happened in Game Three of the American League Championship Series. When Edwin Encarnacion was beaten on a slightly off-line throw forcing Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel to a spinning sweep tag on Encarnacion’s shoulder, fans in Yankee Stadium’s right field stands threw debris on the field. When Yankee reliever Luis Cessa unintentionally hit Alex Bregman with an inside pitch, there was only too audible cheering.

The third, as Game Four was about to get underway, made those two resemble accidents. A group of Yankee fans above the visitors’ bullpen in left field taunted the Astros’ Game Four starter, Zack Greinke, over his known enough battle with anxiety and clinical depression, and the medications he’s prescribed to control those very real conditions. Rather diplomatically, Greinke said after the game that he didn’t hear the taunts, which makes them no less inexcusable.

Some of the taunts exposed the miscreants in question as further half-witted and baseball dumb, namely those taunting Donald Zachary Greinke for going by his middle name as many people do. Clearly they’d forgotten if they ever knew such Hall of Famers as Henry Louis Gehrig, James Hoyt Wilhelm, George Thomas Seaver, and Lynn Nolan Ryan, for openers. Not to mention a one-time Yankee prospect who ended up traded and beating them thrice in one World Series, one Selva Lewis Burdette, Jr.

Taunting Greinke concurrently over his mental illness and his preference to go by his middle name was merely grotesque. Objecting to German’s suspension, never mind that slapping his girl friend with witnesses present damaged her and cost the Yankees his arm the rest of the stretch, the postseason, and for two months plus to open 2020, knocks on the door of degeneracy.

The Yankees aren’t baseball’s only team with a contingent of fans about whom degeneracy applies. And more Yankee fans know and shiver over it than you might think. One such fan—he didn’t identify himself as such, but his avatar is a piece of an ancient tile identifying a Lexington Avenue subway station (the el train running behind Yankee Stadium just before ducking into a tunnel is known officially as a Lexington Avenue Express)—responded to Keyser and knocked the degeneracy contingent among his brethren over the center field fence:

MLB is not a court of law. It can discipline its employees and coaches how it sees fit with input from players union, who did not contest the suspension. If a player doesn’t like the ruling, find another place to play baseball.

There are also those who think baseball’s domestic abusers should be suspended longer, like for an entire season and postseason to follow. That’s not exactly unsound thinking.

Goodbye, good riddance, good luck

2019-10-25 BrandonTaubman

Now-former Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman.

Some time during the 1980s, I remember picking up a magazine story and seeing a university president quoted from a board of trustees meeting. Exactly how it came up escapes my memory, but his remark doesn’t. He told his board that, dammit, he wanted a school his football team could be proud of.

It’s not unreasonable now to think it’s possible that those who play baseball in Astro uniforms might like a front office their players can be proud of. One that knows better than to shoot the messenger who exposed an assistant general manager as clueless about domestic violence.

Astro fans are in the discomfiting position of rooting for their team while clutching their stomachs over the Brandon Taubman affair. Much the way they were when the Astros acquired relief pitcher Roberto Osuna while he was still under suspension for a domestic violence incident that was yet to be resolved legally at the time of the deal.

They don’t have Taubman to trouble their stomachs any longer, at least. Perhaps getting ahead of baseball government’s investigative curve, the Astros fired Taubman on Thursday.

All that remains of the affair now, seemingly, is for the Astros’ administration to fire those in the team’s public relations department who decided upon initial exposure of Taubman’s brain damage that it was all the fault of the Sports Illustrated reporter who exposed it in the first place. And, for that administration to learn at last that winning doesn’t sweep some things under the proverbial rug.

In a near-empty Astro clubhouse, following their surrealistic pennant clinch last Saturday night, and with no Astro players known to have remained at the moment, three female reporters including SI‘s Stephanie Apstein stood adjacent to Taubman when he let fly with, “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so [fornicating] glad we got Osuna!”

Osuna was rocked in the top of the ninth of American League Championship Series Game Six when Yankee first baseman D.J. LeMahieu hit a two-run homer off him to tie the game at four. Astro second baseman Jose Altuve won the pennant in the bottom of the ninth with a more electrifying two-run homer—ironically enough, off Aroldis Chapman, the Yankee closer with his own domestic violence history.

A team executive looking to console or brace up a pitcher humiliated in a moment like Osuna’s on the mound wouldn’t necessarily thunder like that but, rather, take the pitcher aside privately to reassure him how glad the team was to have him. Or, say it while his teammates were still in the clubhouse celebrating the pennant win.

Such an executive wouldn’t wait, as Taubman did, until he was almost alone with three women doing their jobs, one of whom (who insists her name be kept out of coverage of the affair) wore a purple domestic violence awareness bracelets worn by lots of people to whom domestic violence is a grotesque crime, to holler that kind of remark about a player who was guilty of it at the time the Astros acquired him.

Apstein was one of the women on the job. And to her credit, she first sought comment from others in the Astros’ front office apparatus before writing her original story about it. Only after getting none did she publish her story early this past Monday, the day before the World Series began.

A formal team statement played the fake-news card at once, calling her story “misleading,” “completely irresponsible,” and written by someone trying to “fabricate” it. But as radio host Larry Elder would say, the fit hit the shan not just from the moment Apstein’s story hit the Internet running but from when it transpired that others aside from the three women reporters happened to be there, happened to see, and happened to hear.

Including two Houston Chronicle reporters, Chandler Rome and Hunter Atkins. “The three female reporters were approximately eight feet away and one was visibly shaken by the comment . . . eyewitnesses said,” wrote Rome. “There were no players in the area and no interviews were being conducted at the time.” Atkins pounced on the original Astro denunciation after the “fabricate” accusation emerged. “I was there,” he tweeted. “Saw it. And I should’ve said something sooner.”

The Astros hit the damage control button faster than Altuve’s pennant-winning homer flew off the barrel of his bat. The office of commissioner Rob Manfred jumped immediately into investigating the Taubman incident, as well it should have considering the game’s domestic violence policy in place since 2015 and the controversy when the Astros dealt for Osuna in the first place at the July 2018 trade deadline.

Finally, come Thursday, the Astros had no more choice. Their formal statement probably has no better description than that by Deadspin‘s Gabe Fernandez:

While the statement offers a meager apology to Apstein, and acknowledges that the organization was wrong with its initial response, noticeably absent is any explanation for why Houston released a strongly worded comment decrying the legitimacy of the Sports Illustrated report, allowed an employee to pull the “as a father of daughters” card while offering a non-apology of his own, and based these decisions on an investigation whose conclusion proved to be far from reality. Who were those “witnesses” who lied to smear Apstein and the other reporters present as fabulists? Who crafted that first statement? What consequences will they face?

Osuna was available in the first place because the Blue Jays couldn’t wait to be rid of him when he was hit with his domestic violence suspension, involving an assault on the woman with whom he has a now four-year-old son. Astro players, particularly ace pitcher Justin Verlander, were not exactly comfortable with the acquisition when it happened.

What a surprise. Verlander himself thundered on Twitter after Astro minor leaguer Danrys Vasquez was shown on video attacking his girl friend on a staircase, for which the Astros released him post haste. And now the Astros dealt their own beleaguered closer Ken Giles to acquire Osuna?

And, yes, Chapman caused a few temperatures to run the scales when the Yankees first acquired him, then dealt him to the Cubs in 2016 (for Gleyber Torres), then re-signed him as a free agent, all after Chapman’s incident with his lady that prompted the Dodgers to back away from a deal acquiring him during winter 2015-16.

Before you suggest that the Astros simply had no choice considering Giles’s ongoing troubles with the team creating the immediate need for an available reliever who could close, be reminded that they actually had a choice if they wanted it, at or just before the 2018 non-waiver trade deadline. (The deadline is now a single one, waiver and non-waiver alike, for all season.)

Giles’s frustrations in the 2017 World Series carried over into the 2018 season and the Astros needed to move him for his own and the club’s sake. At the same time, the Orioles going into rebuild mode were shopping Zack Britton, rehorsing after forearm issues bothered him in 2017.

The same Zack Britton who pitched to a 1.91 regular-season ERA this year and performed respectably in five ALCS appearances against the Astros, surrendering no runs to them despite walking five batters while still striking five out. Compare that to Osuna’s 2.63 ERA this season, his 3.60 ALCS ERA, and getting credit for the Game Six win as a gift from Altuve despite surrendering the game-tying bomb.

The Yankees would acquire Britton instead. Osuna’s ERA was 2.63 when the Astros traded Giles to get him from the Jays. Britton’s was 3.45 when the Yankees dealt for him, but he actually looked closer to his old self in his final eight gigs as an Oriole—his ERA in those eight single-inning gigs was 0.00. And he’d had only two appearances thus far in which he surrendered any runs all season until the trade.

The Astros could have dealt for Britton easily enough without any baggage, domestic violence or otherwise, instead of Osuna whose domestic violence case was far enough from being resolved in the Canadian courts when he finally signed a legal document in which he agreed to have no contact with his victim for a full year to follow.

But they went for Osuna. He was a “depressed asset,” as so many stories about l’affaire Taubman have described. Making the Astros look to too many people as though they, too, put baseball ahead of moral and ethical considerations. Verlander was put in the discomfiting position of straining to be diplomatic about the deal, and it was also known that the Astro front office wasn’t exactly unified about the deal, either.

There were Cub fans uncomfortable with the idea of Chapman having a role in their staggering World Series run. There remain Yankee fans uncomfortable with his presence now. But no Cub or Yankee executive was ever heard, so far as is known for certain, to have thanked his Maker for acquiring a woman beater, in listening range of any reporters.

And the Cubs were caught completely flatfoot after shortstop Addison Russell’s wife, with Russell’s domestic violence suspension carrying from the end of the 2018 season into the beginning of the 2019 season, gave a December 2018 interview in which she described the gory details of what she’d suffered at his hands.

They stood by their man regardless, though with a few qualifiers, and looked just as ridiculous. And Russell’s 2019 season, identifiable by injuries and less than stellar performances when he did play, may end up making him an ex-Cub after all. Not exactly the same thing as sending a powerful message against wife beating.

Remember: there’s no inherent, God-given right to play professional baseball. And there’s no concurrent obligation for any baseball team to tolerate crimes like domestic violence for the sake of winning, whether committed by a player or appearing to matter little to those who hire him.

Firing Taubman only begins resolving the Astro dilemna. The front office isn’t anywhere near off the hook yet. And with the Astros about to face World Series Game Three in Washington and in the hole 2-0 to the Nationals, the absolute last thing the organisation needs is a front office that looked for too long this week as though domestic violence was just a nuisance instead of a very real issue.

And, like it or not, Osuna is still an Astro. Even though the way the Series has transpired so far he hasn’t poked his nose out of his bullpen hole once yet. It’s still possible that the Astros won’t go down to the Nats without a battle, and that Osuna will yet be seen loosening up in the pen for a late-game entry.

And, that Astro fans will be torn as they didn’t have to be between rooting for their team with Osuna on the mound and wishing the front office didn’t lack the common sense God gave a turnip when dealing for a woman abuser when they could have had a late-game reliever who wasn’t one.

“It would be great if this was a case of the Astros committing to an organizational overhaul in response to not just what Taubman did, but also what others around the ballclub did to protect this employee,” Fernandez observes of the Taubman firing. “But considering how much blowback had to occur before anything of substance happened, the Astros’ delay in acting responsibly should be remembered at least as much as the fact that they eventually did.”

Should be? It probably will be. Especially by Astro fans who wish with all their hearts that they had a front office their team can be proud of.