A year ago Major League Baseball created a policy to handle situations involving domestic abuse. Prior to the creation of this policy MLB had no official ability or guidlines to suspend or punish players involved in domestic abuse. Obviously that was a huge problems, only highlighted by the crimes of football players Ray Rice and Andrian Peterson. This winter that policy was forced into action when three players were involved in alleged domestic abuse incidents.
The first of those cases has been settled today when MLB announced it had suspended Aroldis Chapman for 30 games. The Yankees reliever will not appeal the suspension, which will begin on opening day. He may still participate in spring training and in exhibition games. He would be eligible to return on May 9th.
In October of last year Aroldis Champan allegedly choked his girlfriend during an argument and then fired his gun 8 times into his garage. He always maintained he did not harm his girlfriend. Eyewitness accounts were inconsistent and ultimately the police decided there wasn't enough evidence to go forward with a trial and charges were dropped.
This was a difficult challenge for MLB in that no charges were filed. They're not bound by law here though. And certainly they could not do nothing. Something happened that night. And even if it was a heated argument that culminated with Chapman shooting his gun into his garage 8 times, I would argue that qualifies as domestic abuse. At the very least it's psychological abuse.
From Ken Rosenthal's Facebook page, here is Rob Manfred's statement:
"I asked my staff to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the incident involving Aroldis Chapman on October 30, 2015. Much of the information regarding the incident has been made public through documents released by law enforcement. Mr. Chapman submitted to an in-person interview with counsel present. After reviewing the staff report, I found Mr. Chapman's acknowledged conduct on that day to be inappropriate under the negotiated Policy, particularly his use of a firearm and the impact of that behavior on his partner. I am gratified that Mr. Chapman has taken responsibility for his conduct, that he has agreed not to appeal the 30-game suspension, and that he has agreed to comply with the confidential directives of the Joint Policy Board established under the parties' Policy to ensure that a similar incident does not occur in the future."
I'm curious what he means when he references complying "with the confidential directives of the Joint Policy Board...to ensure that a similar incident does not occur in the future." I hope it means they're going to require Chapman and anyone else involved in domestic violence incidents to undergo treatment and therapy. Even if Chapman didn't physically hard his girlfriend, firing a gun into his garage exhibits some extreme anger issues.
Back to the suspension, there was more going on than just figuring out a proper length to suspend Chapman based on his actions. He needs to accrue 138 days of major league service time to become a free agent at year's end. Depending on the length of suspension, it was possible for Chapman to miss that milestone, remaining under team control for another season. Many have speculated that by cooperating with MLB and not appealing his suspension, the length was reduced. But there's no actual proof of that, and there might never be.
Again from Rosentha's FB page, here is Chapman's statement:
Today, I accepted a 30 game suspension from Major League Baseball resulting from my actions on October 30, 2015. I want to be clear, I did not in any way harm my girlfriend that evening. However, I should have exercised better judgment with respect to certain actions, and for that I am sorry. The decision to accept a suspension, as opposed to appealing one, was made after careful consideration. I made this decision in an effort to minimize the distractions that an appeal would cause the Yankees, my new teammates and most importantly, my family. I have learned from this matter, and I look forward to being part of the Yankees' quest for a 28th World Series title. Out of respect for my teammates and my family, I will have no further comment.
Some people may think the suspension is too short--and honestly I'm not sure how I feel about it right now--but another thing to consider is the fact that no charges were filed. Had the suspension been for long enough that Chapman would have missed becoming a free agent, he surely would have appealed it. The case would have been brought before an impartial arbiter and there's a chance the suspension could have been dropped altogether.
By setting the suspension for 30 days MLB ensures Chapman will have enough time to accrue enough service days to become a free agent. And in doing that they get Chapman to not appeal the suspension. It feels messy, but it probably would have been worse for everyone if this was drawn out over a long time span. That doesn't necessarily make it okay. But I don't know what the proper length is for an incident like this. It's the first case ever.
The case against Jose Reyes is very different. He will be going to trial for the domestic assault against his wife in Hawaii. The two were involved in an argument that reportedly turned violent and Reyes' wife suffered injuries to her "face, neck, and legs." That trial is set to begin April 4th, though it's possible the Reyes and the prosecution could reach a plea agreement.
Unlike with the Champan domestic abuse incident, there is evidence that Reyes assaulted his partner. And unlike the Chapman incident, files where charged against Reyes and a trial is set to be held. Currently Reyes is sitting out of spring training. And I have to assume he'll not play during his trial, should it go on. If the trial does go on, I assume MLB will withhold it's official suspension until the conclusion of that trial.
Clearly his suspension, regardless the outcome of the trial or a plea deal, should be for much longer than Chapman's. First offense for PEDs results now results in an 80 game suspension. Shouldn't domestic abuse warrant a harsher penalty? It's a much more horrific crime. This will be the real test for MLB and it's new domestic abuse policy. They have to get it right.