Astros signing of Osuna tests team’s principles
The Houston Astros might have just improved their chances of winning another World Series title, but they also may have damaged the special bond they have with their fans. The team that says it has a zero-tolerance policy on domestic violence just signed a pitcher serving a 75-game suspension for that very charge. If you’re wondering whether needs trumped principles, you’re not alone.
The allegations facing pitcher Roberto Osuna, formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays, are so serious that he could face five years in prison. Analysts say that’s unlikely, but that doesn’t dispel the unease that many fans — and apparently some Astros players — are feeling about this move.
After all, the Astros won their first World Series last year in one of most unlikely and inspiring stories the sporting world has seen in years. Their home city and much of Southeast Texas were devastated by Tropical Storm Harvey.
It was the worst natural disaster to hit Houston in decades, and baseball was the last thing most fans were thinking about. Many players also had water damage in their houses, and some home games had to be scheduled elsewhere during the worst of it. Somehow, the team overcame all this and kept winning. Many fans found that rooting for the Astros actually helped them step away from their personal losses for a while and find the strength to keep going.
On top of this feel-good story, the Astros seemed like the last team that might sign a player like Osuna. Players Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers issued public statements condemning athletes who commit domestic violence after the Astros released a minor leaguer charged with that offense in 2016. The front office and coaching staff were also respected for a thoughtful, disciplined approach to the game that contrasted with the win-at-all-costs mentality prevalent on other teams and in other pro sports.
Yet as the Astros headed into the closing weeks of the season, still in first place in their division but struggling a bit, looking at powerhouses like the Yankees or Red Sox in the playoffs, their standards seemed to sag when Osuna became available. In the blunt words of ESPN’s Buster Olney, the signing was “surprising … disappointing … shocking … appalling.” Yahoo Sports writer Jeff Passan even accused the Astros of “moral bankruptcy.”
The path forward will not be easy. Women’s groups and some fans are wondering if the team has lost its way. Verlander and McCullers are pitchers like Osuna, so that could create tension.
If anything will help the Astros at this point, it will be transparency about Osuna’s case and clarification about the team’s policy on domestic violence. This player may deserve a second chance, but pro sports teams should not take their fans for granted. Integrity matters, and any high-profile organization should be supporting that concept instead of undermining it.