If we could take a snap shot of what happened Monday night between Odubel Herrera and his girlfriend in Atlantic City, the picture might be worth a thousand words, but it still would not tell the entire story. Stories of domestic violence are far too serious, far too commonplace, and far too complicated to be told from one angle or through one lens.
The police report obviously painted a picture that made our skin crawl. According to the Atlantic City police, the 20-year-old Philadelphia woman had visible injuries to her arms and neck after allegedly being assaulted by the Phillies’ 27-year-old center fielder at the Golden Nugget Hotel on Memorial Day.
It is sickening to think about, and Herrera’s alleged actions created a sour mood Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park, as word spread about the incident. One minute, general manager Matt Klentak was happily discussing the Phillies’ draft plans for next week, and the next minute he was relaying the news of Herrera’s simple-assault arrest to higher ups in the organization. Manager Gabe Kapler went from enjoying a morning coffee at Starbucks to a phone conversation with Herrera, informing the Venezuelan native that he was being placed on paid administrative leave while Major League Baseball investigates the incident.
“I can speak for myself and say it’s deeply disturbing,” Kapler said Tuesday afternoon, as the Phillies prepared for their game against the St. Louis Cardinals. “It’s not something you want to be dealing with. I’m personally not feeling great about it right now.”
From the team’s standpoint, there really is not much the Phillies can do. Major League Baseball and the players’ union came to an agreement in 2015 that domestic violence cases would be handled in a specific way, starting with the player’s paid leave. Commissioner Rob Manfred will ultimately decide on any punitive baseball action against Herrera after the league investigation is complete. There is no specific guideline for fines and suspensions, which makes sense, because none of these cases are identical in nature.
This is not new ground for the Phillies, although the landscape surrounding domestic violence has changed drastically since the 2006 arrest of pitcher Brett Myers during a June road trip in Boston. Myers, then 25, was charged with assault and battery after a graphic early-morning street altercation with his wife, Kim, but he still pitched the following day against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
It’s good, of course, that baseball is more proactive in dealing with domestic violence these days, but one thing has not changed and never will. The people involved are what matter most. The well-being of Herrera’s girlfriend trumps all else. Whatever happened to her Monday night must never happen again. She should be offered and deserves the best care and counseling. Sadly, it is well documented that a lot of domestic-violence cases escalate rather than cease.
Herrera’s future also is important.
The knee-jerk reaction among a lot of fans might be for the Phillies to release the struggling outfielder the first chance they get. It’s easy to have that sentiment, because Herrera is mired in a deep slump that appears to have no end in sight. Over the last 365 days, he has hit .217 with a .270 on-base percentage and .634 OPS. He is in the midst of by far his worst season since he joined the Phillies in 2015, after being selected in the December 2014 Rule 5 draft off the Texas Rangers’ roster.
Herrera is hitting .222 with a .288 on-base percentage and one home run in 39 games. He has been among the worst outfielders in baseball this season, and the Phillies felt a need recently to address the issue. Since returning from the disabled list, Scott Kingery had started four of the team’s last eight games before Tuesday night.
“One way we can go is have Scott play center field against left-handed pitching and have Nick [Williams] be in left field against right-handed pitching and [Andrew McCutchen] slides over to center field,” Kapler said. “That’s one of the ways we’ve been thinking about it for the last couple of hours, and it’s definitely on the table for discussion.”
Herrera is not easily dismissed. He is owed roughly $23.8 million through the 2021 season, and no team likes to have that kind of dead money on the books. The most-likely scenario is that Herrera will serve a suspension of some sort, go out on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues, and return to the Phillies.
But, again, that’s low on the list of importance. What matters is that, if Odubel Herrera was responsible, he gets help. He would need to be educated on the serious matter of domestic violence. This cannot be treated like a failure to run to first base on a routine ground ball. It would need to be driven home over and over and over again that domestic violence can never happen again and that it should never have happened in the first place.