On Work and Being Found Wanting

We talk about work as a cohesive, coherent thing — I am a writer, your dad is a plumber, these are our jobs — but it isn’t really. Jobs are a bunch of tasks and to-do lists and calendar reminders, wholes made up of discrete parts that add up to our work. Part of the work of covering the Astros involves an honest accounting of Roberto Osuna: The pitches he throws and how they play, and also how he came to be in Houston. It means considering the cost of his acquisition, not just in so many Gileses, and Paulinos, and Perezes, but also in the bits of humanity it denied and disregarded. It involves recognizing that the Astros got to the World Series in part by commodifying one of the worst moments of a human being’s life, and putting that chilly awfulness into the context of a game somehow.

That was and is the work of the three female sportswriters who were in the Astros’ locker room on the evening of Houston’s pennant-winning triumph. Only that night, a new task emerged. Part of their work became now-former assistant general manager Brandon Taubman and his venom, the drumbeat of “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f—— glad we got Osuna!” delivered with cigar in hand. It became locating that venom alongside the purple domestic violence awareness bracelet one of the reporters was wearing, and Taubman’s prior frustration at her practice of tweeting out resources for victims and survivors when Osuna would pitch. These new bits of work added to the queue, one of those reporters, Stephanie Apstein, went about her business, detailing the incident and its context for Sports Illustrated.

And that’s where the trouble started, in this moment when Apstein’s work butted up against Taubman’s notion of his, with his understanding so clearly marking those bits of humanity disregarded as of a different category than Osuna’s fastball. The latter was baseball and the former something else, both not-work for Apstein and the anonymous reporter in the purple bracelet, and a cudgel to wield against these three women. Taubman clearly thought he had gotten the better of a couple of pests, but by denying the validity of these women’s work, women just there to do their jobs, what he revealed was just how much more work the Astros have left to do themselves.

I keep coming back to work because at some point, we have to be counted on to be reliable narrators of our own lives, describers of baseball players and petty men. To faithfully and accurately render a scene; to, in light of the imperfections of human expression, help our readers understand what is meant by something. To report, To know what it is we saw, because that is our work. In turn, we have to be able to count on the harmful actions of others carrying consequences. For the harm to matter more than the intent, even as the contours of that intent necessarily shape the particulars of those consequences. For those who remain after those consequences are rendered to do not just their best, but what is required.

And so, I would have liked nothing more than to have just watched baseball this week, but I couldn’t. I wanted to appreciate José Altuve, enjoy Gerrit Cole; to not wonder if Howie Kendrick’s home run last night wasn’t some divine hand meting out justice. To not want it to be. Baseball is my work, but now this is, too. And of course, it has been my work, and the work of others, for years, to tell this part of baseball’s story. But it feels like a betrayal of all that for someone to be so casually cruel; for Taubman to have deputized another man’s cruelty in service of his own. For his bosses to smear and stumble. To turn this moment, which ought to have been about grit and joy and pushing through into something sour, and marked by malice. To disrespect all this work.

On Saturday, in a letter to Apstein finally retracting the club’s false initial denial of the incident, one that claimed she attempted “to fabricate a story,” Astros owner Jim Crane said, “I assure you that the Houston Astros will learn from this experience.” I hope they do, though I’ll admit to an exhausted skepticism. After all, to demonstrate growth requires a willingness to submit oneself to examination, not only to tell but to show, and to be willing to do so not in the moments that prove convenient, but awkwardly, in-process. Mid-work.

That sort of openness, to expose the squishiness of a lesson not yet fully learned, is the exact sort the Astros have revealed themselves resistant to. They seem, in moments as extreme as Taubman’s outburst but also at times less volcanic but no less loud, to misunderstand this work, theirs and others. They miscategorized the Osuna acquisition, indexing it away from baseball to distance themselves from its more human consequences, and thus displace it from the purview of someone like Apstein as well. They’ll probably want to displace this, too, all this other business, and mark it as un-baseball, but we shouldn’t let them.

Yesterday the World Series ended; the Astros lost. The season is done, and the brass will want to move on. To set about fixing what ailed this team in the end, even as they side-step this other, bigger project. To reinforce the rotation, and find a catcher, and prepare to try again. And that’s fine, but they have to do this hard bit, also. There may be those among you who think it uncharitable to take this moment, when their fans are low, and their players packing up, to ask that we remember Taubman, but this is precisely when we must resist forgetting, in the moments when we and they are vulnerable to all the other things on the to-do list. Before other, potentially flawed men arrive, and have to be properly sized up.

These women were just trying to do their work, after the ALCS was decided and in the days since, and for the Astros to do theirs will require them to look their baseball full in the face, embracing the smarts and spin and data, but also the humanity and failing of those who wear their uniform. It will mean creating an environment of real respect, for those who work for and around them, and building an organization that properly appreciates that to acquire an Osuna is to acquire all of him, perhaps inspiring them to resist acquiring another like him at all. That remembers that discounts come at a cost, and that the accounting of those costs isn’t a task set on the buyer’s timetable. It means being a club that isn’t marked by the mean fuss of the insecure or the petty. That is less enamored with being clever and more concerned with being decent. That takes responsibility and sees itself as responsible for this project, not just yesterday or last Saturday, but tomorrow and next spring. That understands its work.

It starts today, before they forget. Before we do.

We hoped you liked reading On Work and Being Found Wanting by Meg Rowley!

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Meg is the managing editor of FanGraphs, the host of FanGraphs Audio, and the co-co-host of Effectively Wild. Her work has previously appeared at Baseball Prospectus, Lookout Landing, and Just A Bit Outside.

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pramb1234
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Member
pramb1234

What does responsibility look like in your eyes? They fired the moron and apologized for his and their actions with regards to the female reporters. What else is needed? Releasing Osuna?

Brad
Member
Brad

The only reason they actually apologized was because the public pressure was hurting their brand. Yes, they should release Osuna. They never should have traded for him in the first place.

Slappytheclown
Member
Member
Slappytheclown

This is in regards to they should just release Osuna. #1, since he was not jailed he does have the right to work, and his work is baseball. With that said, the Astros, Taubmann and Osuna could have handled the initial trade and subsequent interactions so so much better. This presented a perfect opportunity for the team to mandate community service to Osuna, or perhaps to mandate as a team they have x amount of hours related to womans abuse and/or fundraising as a team and organization. Maybe Osuna will never be rehabilitated and he will always be a woman beater, but the Astros should have tried, they should have openly acknowledged what he did was wrong and attempted more honest community outreach that would have hopefully opened Osuna’s eyes, maybe would have helped other members or the team or organization (like Taubman) and perhaps put an honest positive light on a very important issue while also allowing Osuna to continue to ply his trade. Yes, it’s probably easier just to release him, and that may have to be the outcome at this point in time, but they could have really turned this into something good but chose to really do nothing and almost worst than nothing apparently the lack of empathy or caring from many in the organization about an important issue is quite frankly appalling and quite honestly the complicity of looking the other way is just as bad or worse than the original act itself.

dsalmanson
Member
Member
dsalmanson

Osuna’s work doesn’t have to be baseball. He could just as easily pump gas. I am tempted to call such claims that ballplayers have a right to work in their chosen profession as “the Michael Vick fallacy.” It’s opposite, of course, is the Colin Kaepernick corollary, the idea that having and expressing values that are outside those of the owners (or in the case of the Olympic sports – the funders and hierarchies) are bad for the sport and hurt business despite a lack of evidence to support that position and significant evidence to the contrary. We might also generalize this to the inverse Robinson hypothesis: that seemingly radical acts in men’s pro-sports often lag behind society by decades.

casey j
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Member
casey j

You are right. If Osuna costs the Astros to play him, for reasons besides his skill and market-driven salary to play the game, then he shouldn’t be allowed. AKA: nobody watched less, nobody went to any less games, and nobody bought less Astros hats and jerseys because of Osuna’s actions. The way this article speaks, I am NOT in favor at all. NO to all of it.

You know what? I don’t know Roberto Osuna, but I actually feel bad for HIM 1) Did a bad thing to his wife, that I cant find details on 2) Wasn’t charged 3) Was suspended, ridiculed, demonized, labeled 4) Some douche yells out his name in the locker room, and his name drug back into it again, without him asking for it.

The poster has dehumanized him, because of her agenda. She doesn’t need to care about anyone else’s feelings… not Osuna, not even his wife really, not any of the other players or good people. You missed a great group of men celebrating on the field on Wednesday night, and for what? A grudge? Harm done? People say shitty things and hurt other people, all then time. A little secret I know: Everyone, including Meg, knows how to look past or hurt another person’s feelings with words, because we ALL have done it.

Maybe, instead of imposing all these demands on the Astros org, people should get off their high horse, forgive, and move the hell on. Forgive? What? Crazy, I know. You don’t even know any of these people.

Rational Fan
Member
Rational Fan

You “feel bad” for Roberto Osuna?

Man, this comment section has not brought in the best society has to offer that is for sure.

“The source said that police saw “significant injuries” on the alleged victim, who provided a video statement to officers.

It was the concierge at the front desk of the residence who called police, the source added.”

Hiding behind some excuse that you didn’t see the police report – because Canadian police reports aren’t public information – is shameful.

Get off “their high horse” that expects people not to beat their significant others? My goodness.

Oh and he was charged; he pleaded out. There’s a pretty big difference. I love how you consider Taubman “some douche” while Osuna is “a victim.”

casey j
Member
Member
casey j

I never used the word “victim”. That is not a word that I use, especially since it is a charged word now. So no, I didn’t argue that he is a “a victim”. I just dont think there is a limitless amount of punishment… decided by people who were not harmed by Osuna, nor were they there… that can be heaped upon him.

The way he and others who go through this are treated, makes me thankful of laws. Without them, there are some who would have him stripped of everything. I’m saying, I disagree. I do not trust the benevolence and fairness of the wrath of the average person’s vengeance. So, I’m forced to reject all of it. I dont need to debate it, just casting my vote against y’all.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip

You “feel bad” for Roberto Osuna?

I don’t know anything about him specifically, but I do know that experiencing violence in the past makes one way more likely to commit it in the future. It may be the case that he was a victim before he was a perpetrator. His violence may come from unbearable inner pain. Maybe, maybe not.

It’s not meant to excuse what he did or detract from compassion for his victim(s) but if we really want to stop the cycle of violence it’s not in our interest to make some people “untouchable.”

docgooden85
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Member
docgooden85

“Don’t hit women or you deserve scorn” is not an agenda so much as a universally agreeable statement for non-sociopaths.

casey j
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casey j

I could agree he deserves some scorn, but not that it justifies every move or position or action against him. Yes, all of what constitutes that scorn, and how far it extends, is up for debate, and can receive scorn itself.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip

I just dont think there is a limitless amount of punishment… decided by people who were not harmed by Osuna, nor were they there… that can be heaped upon him.

This is a take too mature for most internet audiences. Most of the “discourse” around this seems motivated by either pure, blind rage at what he did (fair, but not sufficient to enact a just society) or a desire to paint oneself as a Virtuous Defender of Victims of Violence. Not who I want controlling the discourse.

senorbush
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Member
senorbush

you are a moron

Slappytheclown
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Member
Slappytheclown

You are correct, he could pump gas. Of course, taking away something from him (baseball) does not address the problem (female abuse) and may in fact provide some amount of fear to certain men not to do it, but it really doesn’t provide any catalyst for change or learning or understanding. Of course, this is a very grey area as well, don’t get me wrong people like Epstein and Weinstein totally deserve everything thrown their way and more, but in this case it appears to be a singular case of abuse though I am sure there were others…but perhaps given the platform (mlb) it could have been a positive? I see your point though. Well taken.

aschrag83
Member
Member
aschrag83

I don’t think you’re asking this question in good faith, so it may be pointless (at least inasmuch as you aren’t sincerely seeking an answer here) to answer it, but:

Responsibility means facing up to and working to change the organizational culture that (1) allowed Taubman to feel like it was good and cool to act the way he did in that place and moment, and (2) resulted in the Astros responding to the initial reporting the way they did. “Firing the moron” and saying oops about the whole thing doesn’t do that.

In fact, quite to the contrary, Luhnow has been in specific denial that there’s a culture problem in the first place. Which is why anybody taking an honest look at the situation comes away skeptical that the Astros’ apologies (up to and including Crane’s) are driven by anything but their own PR needs.

bjsguess
Member
Member
bjsguess

So let me take an unpopular position.

Did the Astros handle the situation correctly? Absolutely not. Can I understand why they did what they did? Sure. And it’s not that complicated.

They had a trusted employee. One (according to the team) who did not exhibit any tendencies to write off things like sexual assault or domestic violence. The story hits. They go to Taubman. He responds that he didn’t say it. In fact, he presents compelling evidence that the whole thing is fabricated or at least misinterpreted. They interview others, the same thing. The team was faced with he said/she said situation. They chose the side of their trusted employee based on the evidence he and others presented.

Again, the team did not handle it correctly. However, this is poor judgment, not some unforgivable transgression. The whole thing played out over a few days and in the end, the right decision was reached. I don’t believe this reflects that the Astros support a culture of belittling domestic violence issues. They simply believed the evidence coming from trusted sources within the organization over the accusation of a reporter.

What is needed (from both sides) is patience. Sometimes things are misheard. Sometimes things are misinterpreted. Giving time for a thorough investigation is what was needed.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

It’s a possible explanation, and a reasonable one, but it also ignores the context of the acquisition of Osuna in the first place and Luhnow’s bizarre explanation of how it squared with the team’s supposed zero-tolerance policy. Couple that with the abrasiveness of the statement and the fact that the organization looked like it was lying, and it’s very hard to give them the benefit of the doubt and that they’re going to learn from this. They’re going to really have to put their money where their mouth is to prove that they deserve some slack, because they don’t deserve the benefit of doubt.

aschrag83
Member
Member
aschrag83

What “compelling evidence” could he possibly have had — especially given that we now know that yes, he really did and said what was reported? Can’t be audio or video, because again, *he did it.* I can’t think of anything at all, really, other than him simply super-seriously promising he didn’t do it.

It sounds like you’re elevating a flat denial by him (and maybe by his coworkers who were there with him, who of course are subject to their own biases, which seems like part of the problem here) to the level of “compelling evidence.” But his statements (i.e. lies) obviously should not have been compelling, and just as obviously are not the kind of evidence that an organization SHOULD simply choose to credit over the accounts of multiple reporters. Reporters don’t tend to simply fabricate things, but employees who are afraid they’ve done something wrong and gotten caught often do.

casey j
Member
Member
casey j

Unfortunately, you are not right. EVERY category of human being is capable of lying, at any time, especially, when there is agandas involved, and there usually is.

Think about it. NONE of these people talking were harmed by Osuna. I can see being concerned, but many of them actually act like THEY should be apologized to. Lord, its a baseball organization. I just would like to say that no matter how prevalent, I disagree with this way of thinking in its entirety. There is no wife-beating epidemic. There is no bad culture. Most everyone treats everyone cool, most all of the time.

Rational Fan
Member
Rational Fan

There is no domestic violence epidemic? 1/4 women deal with domestic violence while 1/9 men do.

25% of women – hardly “most everyone treats everyone cool” – experience this hardship in their lives at some point. Here are some more statistics about this thing you call not an epidemic:

1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, etc.2
1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. This includes a range of behaviors (e.g. slapping, shoving, pushing) and in some cases might not be considered “domestic violence.” 1
1 in 7 women and 1 in 25 men have been injured by an intimate partner.1
1 in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner. Data is unavailable on male victims.1
1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime.1
1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.

Source: NCADV

casey j
Member
Member
casey j

I dont trust these numbers, the intent or conclusions behind them. Lots of people are in jail for these things, and I doubt you are qualified to make social change outside of the legal system. It has to be change that is good for everybody.

hootiefish
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Member
hootiefish

“I don’t trust these numbers…”
Seriously? Are you just willfully ignorant to the world around you? Perhaps you should volunteer, as my wife does, at a local women’s shelter and see if you trust the numbers then.

kenansummerlager
Member
kenansummerlager

Casey J was very clear earlier. He rejects everything that doesn’t conform to his worldview. His POV begins with the conclusion that the media and those protesting Osuna/Astros are wrong, and therefore anything associated with those parties is not be trusted. A truly sad perspective (in that he isn’t willing to change his priors under any circumstances), but a not surprising or uncommon one – we’ve seen it quite prominently in other scenarios over the past 3-4 years.

casey j
Member
Member
casey j

Im not doing that, actually. Im stating my point of view, but totally willing to change my mind on anything at any time. Especially since… this does not matter a whole lot. I mean, I care but I am not the Astros, I am not Roberto osuna or a member of his family. I dont think the Astros have this massive debt to society that everyone here seems to. My wife is safe, and loved. Everything remains the same. You didn’t describe my perspective accurately. I disagree, but am always willing to talk and be persuaded.

drewsylvania
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Member
drewsylvania

“I don’t trust these numbers”

Why do you think not trusting those numbers means your version is correct?

docgooden85
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Member
docgooden85

“I dont trust these numbers”
If one of those numbers was your girlfriend, feel free to use the numbers minus one. It doesn’t change the argument but might make you less grumpy?

a different brad
Member
a different brad

Why are you on this site if you don’t trust numbers?

greenaway55
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Member
greenaway55

What you seem to be doing here is backing yourself into a position. Rather than allowing data or a new opinion to inform your decision, you seem to be drawing a box around a feeling you hold and then discarding evidence that challenges it.

I do this sometimes too and in retrospect I realize that those are my worst moments and weakest arguments. I try to challenge myself to do better the next time, it’s not easy but I try.

casey j
Member
Member
casey j

Or, I can just not trust the data… then even if the date is accurate, which I doubt, there is the matter of interpreting it. Id put it on you. OK, I’m wrong. About what, exactly?

Nats Fan
Member
Member
Nats Fan

That data is dead on. Sorry dude your just wrong.

Fredchuckdave
Member

Fire the entire front office, all of the scouts, disband all the minor league teams, and the owner commits Seppuku.

docgooden85
Member
Member
docgooden85

They already fired all the scouts a few years ago. Because they just need data, you see. Humans can’t learn anything from watching baseball with their biologically limited eyes, obviously. (sarcasm)

Matt Wallach
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Matt Wallach

jeez, why is the first comment on these types of articles one like this?

drewsylvania
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Member
drewsylvania

On Twitter & Facebook, this happens due to 1) algorithm promoting garbage tweets because they get the most response, and 2) trolls/psyops lying in wait to try to prevent a true, helpful narrative from being established. Not sure why it happens here.

casey j
Member
Member
casey j

It isn’t happening here, and that isn’t what is happening. What is happening is that we are looking at the same set of occurrences and issues, and are looking them differently. You just aren’t comfortable with the idea that people can look at things differently, and calmly, and even have a discussion about it.

You are engaging in “projection”. We haven’t engaged in ANY troll behavior, such as name calling, piling on ect.

Dominikk85
Member
Dominikk85

The issue was not taubman whom they fired but they they tried to spin the fake media thing claiming the reporters lied for several days and only stopped that after several Days and Statements by owner and other front office personnel after they got caught and several witnesses showed up.

They haven’t apologized to this day for this claiming they misjudged the situation (instead of this being a deliberate strategy to destroy credibility which got exposed).

We can pretty much assume that:

-in the end taubman was fired more as a “scapegoat” to quiet the media. Now taubman deserved to be fired but they wouldn’t have fired him if their strategy wasn’t exposed and public pressure came up.

-had there been no witnesses the Astros likely would still stick to their strategy

The taubman situation has been resolved but the trying to silence the media with a lie regarding their credibility hasn’t to this day, as they still deny this was a deliberate strategy and this wasn’t the first time the Astros obstructed critical journalists.