Column: Astros’ silent approach to Roberto Osuna’s domestic violence case shows hypocrisy in reigning World Series champions
Los Angeles Times sports writer Andy McCullough and columnist Bill Plaschke discuss the second half of the Dodgers’ season and if they can make it to the World Series by just hitting.
Roberto Osuna will not arrive at the Dodger Stadium visiting clubhouse until Sunday.
But, in the furrowed looks of the normally joyful Houston Astros, he’s already here.
“I’m sorry, we just can’t say anything, because we really don’t know anything,” said Brad Peacock.
Osuna will not show up until he’s completed his 75-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, a penalty levied after he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend.
But in the silence of the usually talkative Astros, he already fills the room.
“Nope, sorry, I don’t really want to go there,” said George Springer.
When the Astros and Dodgers met for the first time Friday since last season’s monumental World Series, the Dodgers took the lead even before the first pitch.
The Astros traded for Osuna, while the Dodgers wouldn’t touch him.
The Astros acquired the toxic reliever from the Toronto Blue Jays this week while the Dodgers, in far more desperate need of relievers, wouldn’t go near him.
Mere months after members of the Astros organization were awarded championship rings, they have seemingly lost their moral compass. The Dodgers bling isn’t as big, but their judgment is far richer.
“I understand wanting to give someone a second chance, but for domestic violence?” said Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen. “We’ve never experienced that here, and we hope that never, ever happens here.”
Many Astros players are seemingly in agreement with Jansen, but their management obviously is not.
The positives on Osuna? He’s 23, he throws 95 mph, and he was the youngest player to ever reach 100 saves.
The negative? On May 8 in Toronto, he was arrested and charged with assaulting his girlfriend. Although no details were made public, baseball apparently had enough evidence that Osuna was given the second-longest suspension since baseball instituted its domestic-violence policy three years ago. The allegations are pending in court, but Osuna did not appeal the suspension.
As last week’s trading deadline approached, it was clear he would never pitch in Toronto again, and the Blue Jays were just hoping to dump him somewhere.
The Astros were the stunning recipients even though the team was already ranked second in the American League in bullpen ERA and the organization had previously declared a no-tolerance policy in domestic violence cases. In fact, in the spring, the Astros released minor leaguer Danry Vasquez after a viral video surfaced showing him beating his now ex-girlfriend.
At the time of that release, two notable Astros leaders tweeted out their condemnation of the player and the act.
“[Bleep] you, man,” tweeted Justin Verlander. “I hope the rest of your life without baseball is horrible. You deserve all that is coming your way.”
Also tweeting was Lance McCullers Jr., who wrote, “This is the reality of domestic violence. It’s always brutal, always sickening. We must fight for the victims. He should be in jail.”
And now an alleged batterer is in their clubhouse?
“Obviously I’ve said some pretty inflammatory stuff about things like this in the past,” Verlander told reporters after the trade. “I stand by those words.”
Jeff Luhnow, Astros general manager, defended the move in a statement that included the sentence, “We’re confident that Osuna is remorseful, has willfully complied with all consequences related this past behavior, has proactively engaged in counseling, and will fully comply with our zero-tolerance policy related to abuse of any kind.”
Those stunning words constituted a joke that went from bad to worse. First, did he really cite a no-tolerance policy at the same time he was welcoming an offender of that policy? Then, his “remorseful” comments were actually denied by Osuna’s lawyer this week.
“My client is not remorseful of being guilty of any criminal activity,” said attorney Domenic Basile. “He’s obviously remorseful of the circumstances.”
Even though the case has yet to be adjudicated, it is clear that something happened with Osuna and his girlfriend, something bad enough that he was willing to sit out nearly half of a baseball season without pay because of it.
Whatever happened, it was enough for baseball to punish him and, just as important, it was enough for the Dodgers to ignore him.
This is a Dodgers organization that was criticized in this space this week for not acquiring the power back-end reliever that it will need to survive the postseason. During a month when 20 relievers changed teams, the Dodgers scoured the league and came up with only John Axford.
But they didn’t look under certain rocks. When asked if they had any issues with Osuna after backing off from domestic-violence offender Aroldis Chapman three winters ago, General Manager Farhan Zaidi said, “You can draw your own conclusions.”
In a mandate passed down from owner Mark Walter to team President Stan Kasten to baseball President Andrew Friedman and Zaidi, that conclusion is clear.
The Dodgers are not going to employ a player who is linked to a domestic violence incident.
You do remember the case of Chapman, right? It was December 2015, and while the Dodgers were in the middle of acquiring him in a trade from the Cincinnati Reds, he was in the middle of a domestic violence incident that would later result in a 30-game suspension.
The Dodgers backed out of the trade and Zaidi later acknowledged, “We did come to an agreement in principle, but as details came to light, we just weren’t comfortable making the move.”
By the end of the 2016 season, Chapman was helping lead the Chicago Cubs to a World Series championship. But the Dodgers did the right thing, just as they did the right thing this summer in also not trading for the New York Mets’ reliever Jeurys Familia, who was suspended for 15 games.
Meanwhile, the Astros blew it by dropping a ticking distraction into their tight clubhouse, one that could easily tear them apart on the field. Not to mention, the same team that brought the community together in the wake of last summer’s Hurricane Harvey is now surely ignoring the sensibilities of large portions of that group.
“The extra media attention, the questions, the curiosity, the fan reaction, all of that is going to be part of the process ... to deal with this,” said manager A.J. Hinch.
It could all start Sunday at Dodger Stadium, when Osuna could take the mound for the first time since his domestic violence arrest.
Booing him would be like cheering for the Dodgers.
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