Roberto Osuna is officially back on a Major League Baseball roster. The closer joined the Houston Astros on Sunday after the team announced he “willfully and successfully completed his MLB domestic violence program requirements.”
Never mind that Osuna hasn’t admitted guilt or remorse, or that the legal issues are ongoing.
The Astros would like to believe all the drama surrounding their acquisition of the 23-year-old righty is behind them. They’ve talked at length about how serious they take the domestic violence allegations and the intense due diligence done by the front office before completing a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays for the relief pitcher. They held a team meeting with owner Jim Crane and general manager Jeff Luhnow to prep the clubhouse on Osuna’s arrival. And they are fooling themselves if they think that is the end of it.
For as long as Roberto Osuna is on the Houston Astros, for as long as he steps on a Major League mound really, the stigma of domestic violence will be with him. It will be with the team he plays for and the city that team represents.
As an organization, the Astros are seemingly fine with this, having done enough mental gymnastics to justify the talent Osuna adds to the roster to withstand the negative headlines that will follow. Little can be done to change their thinking at this point. That doesn’t mean the conversation surrounding domestic violence, professional athletes and the moral obligations of MLB franchises should stop. On the contrary, this is precisely where the baseball community must will it forward.
Through numerous statements and media sessions, the Astros have made their position clear:
“We welcome being held accountable for all of our personnel decisions,” Houston announced in a press release on Osuna’s return Sunday. “Time will tell which ones were right and wrong.”
“Make no bones about it — domestic violence allegations are bad.” Astros manager A.J. Hinch told the media. “Domestic violence is bad. All of us as humans know that and believe that. And so we have to figure out a way to separate those feelings versus the additional opportunity he is getting on our club.”
“We feel comfortable giving Roberto a second chance.” Luhnow added.
The Astros released the following statement: pic.twitter.com/y7ijZ3nzHw
— Houston Astros (@astros) August 5, 2018
What happens next will be a familiar pattern: Osuna will pitch, likely well, because he is no doubt talented on the mound. The Astros will continue to win, because they were the reigning World Series champions even before Osuna joined them. The controversy will return to the spotlight in October, when fans and broadcasters will have to confront the issue again.
If the Astros are willing to be held accountable for their personnel decisions, then the onus falls on the baseball community at-large to keep the conversation going. To not become numb. To push through the uncomfortable questions and awkward silences. To lift up the victims of domestic violence, because they are the ones who deserve the attention, not baseball players.
Instead of repeating the same stories and controversies about the allegations surrounding Osuna (he’s due back in court on Sept. 5), baseball has an opportunity to show it will not shy away from difficult conversations or actions come October. But it won’t do so willingly. It will follow its fanbase — and those fans must be the ones to stand up and say they deserve better.
It won’t be done through boycotting games, though some may call for it. And it won’t be done through arguments on social media, though there will be plenty.
The Astros have said they are engaged with Houston Area Women’s Center, Texas Council on Family Violence and National Network to End Domestic Violence. It’s time baseball fans pay every bit as much attention to these organizations and their words as they do limp statements put out by their favorite team.
The Astros would like you to separate the Osuna allegations from the player he is. It’s an easy way out of an ugly mess and cognitive dissonance at its worst.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month with the NNEDV’s Week of Action culminating on Oct. 23 — the same day Major League Baseball is scheduled to play the first game of the 2018 World Series.
Don’t let this just be a coincidence. Make it a statement. Continue the conversation.
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