This post will absolutely fall into the category of "unsolicited opinion" and I absolutely agree. No one ever has ASKED for my take on this. However, there has been a twitter war amongst my friends (and probably enemies at this point) on #AstrosTwitter. To this point, I've remained Switzerland as best I can. I do not feel comfortable stating any strong opinion one way or another on the actual situation Roberto Osuna put himself (and more importantly, his girlfriend) in many months ago. Obviously, and this shouldn't have to be stated by ANYONE, but I do not support or condone domestic violence in any way. Please keep in mind, that this is all opinion and from the life of a person who has not been witness, subject or perpetrator of domestic violence. There are a few factors in play here that prevent me from jumping out there with a pure take on the issue:
1) Differences in laws - Canadian law is vastly different than American law in these matters. The way the arrests take place, charges files and cases being resolved just has a different process and procedure. There are laws in place to protect the victim to the greatest extent possible by police and prosecutors. This is a good thing, but it leads into my second point.
2) Lack of information - With the protections in place, this whole situation is vastly different than an American incident. There are no released photos, witness statements, officer's accounts of what happened, etc. We don't know the context or severity of what happened. Based on a couple of articles I've read, it could be as little as a verbal threat, or as severe as physical bodily harm. The severity, to me, matters but it's not the primary factor. The primary factor is that SOMETHING happened. So unless a prosecutor drops the charges and comes out to say "Nothing happened, this was a complete boondoggle, we are sorry to have besmirched the good name of a fine young man." then we have to conclude that enough happened to support a charge being not only filed, but pursued to this extent and not dropped already. There is a possibility that the record of what happened that night may never be known publicly.
3) Misinformation - There's a lot of rumor, innuendo and such being spread around - like Jeff Passan saying he's seen "horrific" photos of the victim - which I find hard to believe considering the systems in place there in Canada. Again, I want to know the truth and form an informed, rational opinion on the matter. I don't want to shoot from the hip and be all FIRE AND BRIMSTONE. If there ARE horrific photos, I don't want to see them to be frank, but I want that information coming from prosecutors - not a source like Passan.
If all the charges are 100% true and he's convicted or if the charges are dropped because of lack of victim cooperation, count me on the APPALLED and WILL NEVER ROOT FOR HIM side of things. I'm just not there, yet. I do want due process to be held before I add my voice to the cacophony.
So, if I don't have an opinion on the actual events that took place, why am I writing this blogpost? Well, there are several facets of this story that truly do bother me. Prepare yourself, some of this may be counter intuitive and seem to cause some cognitive dissonance - but that's the crux of this situation: it's cause a lot of mixed feelings and thoughts for a lot of us that are hard to reconcile:
1) Public Relations - This is a PR nightmare for the Astros. No way around that. You don't go out and make a trade at the deadline and frame it ANY other context than "Winning is our #1 priority". There is literally no other reason for this trade, and to try to spin it any other way is disingenuous, at best, to the fan base. We have trusted Luhnow and Crane through the rebuild, through the worst years of baseball I've ever witnessed to come out of the mire with a WS trophy and a clubhouse of guys that we all LOVE. Seriously, there are so many of them that we'd walk across fire for... so adding this type of guy, with this kind of baggage and try to play it off as a "second chance" redemption story in the press, well, it doesn't sit well with a lot of fans. This guy doesn't have the public perception of a "high character guy" whether he is or not.
2) Timing - I do believe that the timing of when the trade was made is very telling. Trades at the deadline are intended to give your team a boost towards the playoffs, especially the Astros with the back end of the bullpen being a bit shaky. The fact this happened at the deadline tells me it was done for purely baseball reasons, to win games, at all cost. I don't necessarily care that we got a "discount" for damaged goods. The fact they made the deal, when they made it, tells me the motivation. If it was all about second chances and a fresh start for a 23 year old guy, it could and in my opinion, should have waited until the off season. Even if that meant paying a higher price. By the time the season is over, the case should be resolved and I would think the context of the incident would be public knowledge and there wouldn't be a need to "spin" the acquisition to make it more palatable to a fan base. Keep the guy in the Toronto minors for the rest of the year, let there be resolution and then define a path forward to give him a fresh start elsewhere, as it was obvious he would never wear a Blue Jays uniform in a game again.
3) Media Reaction - A few weeks ago, there was more than one article I read that proposed that a Giles-for-Osuna swap would be ideal for both parties. But as the trade deadline approached and more rumors picked up, it became divisive. More an more media members then came out of the woodwork to slam the trade and the Astros in the process. In a vitriolic way that I do not recall reading about when the Yankees traded for Chapman, the Cubs traded for Chapman, or when Jose Reyes continued to get contracts, or when Julio Lugo was dismissed from this team and given a huge payday with Boston. Times have changed, even since the Chapman situation and the media has taken a pretty hard stance (as they should) against domestic violence and other off the field issues. I do feel it has been a pretty heavy handed attack on the Astros from the national columnists - to a degree that I think it borders on unfair (this is where some of the dissonance kicks in). Some have gone so far as to express regret for not covering the Chapman situation as harshly as this one. I don't feel the media needs to be excusing or making any apologies, but it is a bit frustrating to keep reading basically the same anti-Astros rhetoric daily - reiterating the same points with no new information, just more hatred.
4) Being a Villain - For YEARS, the Yankees were known at least jokingly as the "Evil Empire" - they were and probably always will be cast in a villainous role for the way they operate, "buying championships" and winning at all costs. Never, ever, have any Astros fans felt the ownership or management to take that role. To be the ones who would sacrifice the "good" for purely the sake of winning. But here we stand, in a role we are completely unfamiliar with, and a fan base not ready to put on the bad guy mask. Yes, some of our players dealt with demons in their past, but we all acknowledge the role media and social media has played over the past 5-10 years in making things much more public and keeping them in the spotlight. When other guys had a DUI, drug use, or DV issues, it was dealt with and moved on from pretty quickly. This will not happen this time around. Osuna's baggage is a huge black cloud over the remainder of the season - and it absolutely puts the villain mask on the team, whether us fans want it or not. We want to be the good guys. We want to root for guys we think we'd want to have a family dinner with in the off season. Guys with bad attitudes typically haven't lasted long in Houston. And I'm not so naive to think that there aren't more skeleton's in the closet, guys who truly are bad people, abusers, cheaters, etc who have player or may still be playing with the Astros. But ignorance is bliss right? What we don't know, doesn't hurt us. But we do know now, we know enough about Osuna to know SOMETHING happened that night. And by acquiring him in the manner we did, ominously puts the Astros in bad company. We sacrificed our "good" name for wins. And I don't know if I agree with that type of move.
5) The Clubhouse - for the last 3-4 years, the Astros clubhouse has taken on a sort of legendary tone - of dance parties, WWE style belts being passed out for best pitcher and hitter each game, for antics and solid friendships amongst our guys. When Verlander came over last year, it seemed to solidify that clubhouse even more. 25 guys who all had the same "Let's win this" mentality and had each other's backs. Adding Osuna surely will change that, and I can't see how adding him HELPS any team chemistry. There will be guys who don't want to associate with him, as many have voiced strong opinions on past DV circumstances. We probably will never get to see behind the curtain, but I do believe that the way Osuna joins this clubhouse will be noticed and seen on the field and in the dugout/bullpen.
6) Suspensions in general - another comparison being thrown around is the differences in the lengths of suspensions. None of us are privy to the details known by MLB or the method they used to come up with 75 games. I firmly believe that if the Chapman situation happened today instead of several years ago, he'd probably be facing 75 games too. I think the timing and slow moving court processes in Canada may have had an effect too, knowing there wouldn't be any kind of immediate resolution to the case, better to keep him off the field through it all. But I don't think we can compare any two suspensions and draw any equivalence. There are years between the suspensions where culture and society has shifted their views on these issues, MLB may have shifted their opinion on how severe punishments should be, there are a lot of factors here. And again, MLB may have seen evidence we haven't and been able to draw their own conclusion that it was in fact "horrific" and deserving of 75 instead of 30. All scenarios are still in play here. But the fact there was no appeal to the suspension is another note to be reconciled. What does that mean? I don't know if I can answer that without making a lot of assumptions I'm not willing to make yet.
7) Other Options - There were other closer/bullpen guys out there available. Sure, maybe not with as much team control or such a pitching repertoire - but solid guys who can get outs. And who would be welcomed with open arms into this clubhouse and city without having to spend a second spinning anything. Keone Kela comes to mind. Plus, I really haven't had a problem with the job Hector Rondon has done thus far in the closer role. He's sporting a 2.35 ERA with 10 saves thus far. I liked adding Ryan Pressly. We've got Forrest Whitley who may be a September call-up. Heck, Brenden McCurry and Buddy Boshers are both having pretty good seasons at AAA. There were just so many other options available. Why go after damaged goods?
8) Community Impact - I'm not going to be the one talking about "these guys are role models, etc." That's not my soapbox. I firmly believe that kids will learn infinitely more inside the walls of their own home than they ever will by watching a sport or participating in one. However, I will say that this addition sends the wrong message to fans of the Astros who have experienced domestic violence - whether they like it or not, it sends the message that the organization condones the behavior at a certain level as long as the player is able to help win games. And there's the problem, any time you elevate "winning" to a higher priority than anything else, you will face backlash. I am not sure that Luhnow or Crane correctly estimated the level of goodwill they would lose by making this deal. In fact, I think they may have gotten cocky and over confident in this matter. It's not all about the analytics. And for fans, while championships and trophies are amazing experiences, to many of them there is more to it than the final W-L record. Especially those who invest their time and money significantly to attend games. You vote/support by where you spend your money, in many ways. Do I think there will be rows and rows of empty seats because of this deal? No. But there will be a subsection of fans who will no longer attend spontaneously, it'll no longer be an option or a go-to when there's nothing going on.
Alright, that's a lot of words, and I hope that I did a fair job of expressing my disgust towards what has been alleged to have happened, while balancing it with my desire to wait things out a bit for actual resolution of the case. As for Osuna in a card/memorabilia collecting sense - he will note be part of my collection. My team sets will be complete without his inclusion, I don't want his autograph. Again, unless he's proven 100% innocent and that the whole situation is a complete lie/fabrication (which I HIGHLY doubt). See, I'm conflicted still, and will be for a while. I will root for my team to win games. I will root for my team to win a World Series. I will root within the context of hoping all 25 guys do their job. I cannot change the fact this guy is on the roster. Booing him will not improve the way I feel about the whole thing, and cheering for him specifically will only make me feel dirty about the whole experience. I will celebrate team wins, as conflicted as it may feel. I believe you can support the Astros without being an Osuna fan. I am not going to hate the other 24 guys in the dugout for a decision that they didn't make.
Finally, these are my thoughts and feelings on the matter. There will be many a fan that says, "So what, I don't care, let's play baseball." And that's just as valid an opinion as "Well, I'm never spending another dime or minute on the Astros." And every opinion in between. There is grey area within the context of this whole situation. I support all my friends who are disgusted by this all. I support all my friends who just want to watch a game and escape from every last nasty non-baseball issue that already plagues their life the other 21 hours of the day. I don't find it hard to straddle that line.
Have a great day everyone.