Houston, You Have Another Problem

October was a bad month for the Astros, and unlike the baseball itself, it has spilled over into November. But make no mistake: we are not here to throw a pity party for the Houston Astros. Their team won the division again, made the postseason again, almost won the World Series, and will continue to be as talented in the next few seasons as their ownership is morally bankrupt.

Houston’s leadership and front office are in disarray after now-former assistant GM Brandon Taubman’s disgusting behavior last month during postseason celebrations. He targeted a female reporter who had repeatedly spoken out against domestic violence, and screamed about how ‘f***in glad’ he was that the Astros “got” closer Roberto Osuna. They acquired him from the Blue Jays in late spring 2018, while he served an 80-game suspension and stood trial in Toronto for attacking the mother of his child.

In the immediate aftermath of another female journalist reporting on Taubman’s outburst in Sports Illustrated, the Astros’ first response was to claim said journalist was fabricating the story. They doubled down, and then doubled down again throughout the first week of the World Series, despite multiple people in attendeance confirming that Taubman had been screaming obscenities at the women in the room full of people. The Astros PR and ownership spent the week lying and obfuscating a situation in which there was almost no room for doubt about what had transpired. It was only after days of public outcry and a rallying together of the sports media community that the Astros fired Taubman and finally made an attempt to make amends with the media members involved.

The Astros have been on the hot seat ever since acquiring Osuna, as well they should be; no one should be normalizing domestic abuse or the fact that the sports world is shamefully lenient around its athletes committing heinous crimes. And as they’ve continued to make the situation worse at every possible opportunity, it’s become even more difficult for anyone with a conscience to justify supporting them.

Which brings us to… Nolan Ryan.

Yes, that Nolan Ryan. He of the Hall of Fame, 11-time Strikeout leader, 8-time All-Star, 2-time ERA title-holder, and World Series champ. He holds MLB’s records most career no-hitters (7), and for career strikeouts (5,714); no other pitcher in history has more than 4,875 (Randy Johnson). His number has been retired by the Angels, Rangers, and Astros, and he is in each of their respective Halls of Fame, as well. The Texas native played for both the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers during his 27-year career; as an Astro from 1980-1988, and then as a Ranger from 1989 until his retirement in 1993. He then served as Rangers president and CEO from 2008-2013, before beginning to serve in his now-former role with the Astros in 2014.

Fox 26’s Mark Berman reported today that Ryan said via text message that he will not continue working as an executive advisor to Astros owner Jim Crane:

“I will not be back with the club and will leave it at that.”

Very Forrest Gump-ian of him, basically saying, ‘that’s all I have to say about that.’ His words are final, curt, and succinct. Not a surprising reaction, when you consider that he’s likely leaving because Crane gave Nolan’s son Reid Ryan’s job, President of Business Operations, to his own son, Jared Crane. Reid Ryan will move into an executive advisor role of his own, but certainly a demotion. That news broke this morning.

It’s fair to speculate that Ryan, like many people within the Astros organization, are fed up with the culture down in Houston, which has been described by many as cutthroat, insensitive, and toxic. It’s no wonder Crane is attempting to turn it into a family business; being able to tolerate that kind of environment must be an inherited trait.

Nolan’s ownership of the Astros’ Double-A Corpus Cristi and Triple-A Round Rock teams is an interesting footnote in this turn of events. It’s entirely likely that the Astros will need to find some new affiliates come contract time.

How this latest shakeup will affect the Astros’ prized farm system, and whether front office exodus continues, only time will tell.


Photo: Dallas Morning News

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