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Astros Fire Team Official Over Comments To Reporters


The Houston Astros have fired an assistant general manager. Brandon Taubman is out after an incident in which the details are everything. The team was celebrating reaching the World Series the other day when Taubman shouted that he was glad the team hired a key pitcher, but that pitcher had once been suspended for violating baseball's domestic violence policy. And his shouting was directed at female reporters, one of whom frequently commented on the issue of domestic violence and who wore a purple domestic violence awareness bracelet. NPR's David Folkenflik has been covering this and joins us now. David, good morning.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So how did this unfold?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, the firing unfolded after a lot of public pressure. You know, as you mentioned, after they clinched the American League Championship on the weekend, there was a lot of partying, a lot of celebrating in the clubhouse. And after, you know, a lot of the interviews died down, Taubman, the assistant general manager, was near this cluster of reporters. He turned to them and unloaded this profane rant. I want to be clear. It was intense. It was pointed. It was at this cluster of three women written about by Sports Illustrated Stephanie Apstein, who was one of the three reporters.

But our reporting showed that actually it was really directed at one of her colleagues nearby for another outlet, who, as you mentioned, wore this bracelet and who had tweeted about this reliever, Roberto Osuna, that Taubman was talking about. She'd tweeted in response to his entering the games last year after his rival at the Astros with information about domestic violence. And this really irked Taubman. It was something he complained about to one of her journalistic competitors.

INSKEEP: So when we say the details are everything, that's what we mean. He did not specifically word for word say that he is glad that this player triumphed over the domestic violence allegations, but there seemed to be a message there because of the context.

FOLKENFLIK: Very clearly that he was proud that the Astros picked up this player that who, because of his - the accusations in Canada against him of beating the mother of his child, was a very controversial pickup.

INSKEEP: So why is he just being fired now?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, Major League Baseball had announced that the incident was under investigation as a result of the column that Apstein wrote for Sports Illustrated. I think that reporting by NPR and others that - had essentially said that the Astros' account of this was not true. The Astros had accused Apstein of fabricating her account. They said that Taubman was responding in an exuberant way in defense of a player in response to questions. According to my reporting, according to the reporting of others, nobody had asked Taubman any questions about Osuna. There was no exchange with reporters prevalent. He just, on his own initiative, did this. The Astros had a lot of cleaning up to do.

INSKEEP: Are there larger meanings here for baseball as the World Series continues?

FOLKENFLIK: In terms of thinking about the Astros and domestic violence, it’s going to take more than a contribution of a couple hundred thousand bucks, which is what they did last year after picking up Roberto Osuna’s contract. You know, the real question for Major League Baseball is the degree to which they keep retaining players who have domestic violence in their past. But there’s also the question of the relationship of the team to reporters. After all, the Astros accused Stephanie Apstein, as I said, of fabricating a column. That’s a firing offense. She didn’t do that. She was true in her piece. This is one in a string of incidents this year in which the Astros took a hostile stance towards reporters. And I think the Astros have yet to address that as well.

INSKEEP: David, thanks so much.


INSKEEP: That's NPR's David Folkenflik. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.