Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy was agreed upon by the Major League Baseball Player Union, so the players have only themselves to blame for the broken system being overseen by commissioner Rob Manfred.
The latest ruling under the policy came early Friday night when Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera was suspended for 85 games, which is the remainder of the 2019 season. He had already missed 34 games on paid administrative leave. He also is ineligible for the postseason.
Manfred’s statement: “My office has completed its investigation into the allegations that Odúbel Herrera violated Major League Baseball's Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy. Having reviewed all of the available evidence, I have concluded that Mr. Herrera violated the Policy and should be subject to discipline in the form of an unpaid suspension that will cover the remainder of the 2019 season.”
It would be great if we could see the details of baseball’s investigation, but that’s not going to happen. It’s hard to imagine that it goes much deeper than the details we already know.
Herrera, 27, was arrested on Memorial Day at an Atlantic City hotel and casino after his 20-year-old girlfriend told security that she had been assaulted by the Phillies outfielder. According to the police report, Melany Martinez-Argulo had “hand print markings to her neck area and small scratches to her arms.”
The case against Herrera was dismissed Wednesday in Atlantic City Municipal Court after Martinez-Argulo declined to press charges against Herrera. She testified that she was not coerced into her decision, and she left the courtroom hand-in-hand with Herrera.
That, of course, does not mean Herrera is innocent. What he was charged with doing was deplorable and deserved punishment. He will lose more than $2.5 million in pay, and it’s possible he will never put on a Phillies uniform again. The Phillies can kick that decision down the road until after this season if they choose. He was hitting .222 with one home run through 39 games.
The team’s statement: “The Phillies fully support the decision by the Commissioner’s Office to suspend Odúbel Herrera for violating MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence Policy. All instances of domestic violence and abuse are abhorrent and unacceptable, and we unequivocally support Baseball's collective efforts to prevent domestic abuse. We are encouraged by Odúbel’s acceptance of his discipline as an indication of his willingness to learn from this and change his behavior appropriately.”
Herrera, who opted not to appeal his suspension, sounded sincere in his written apology: “I’ve taken meaningful steps to assure that nothing like this will ever happen again. I have learned from this experience, and I have grown as a person. I apologize to the Phillies’ organization, my teammates and all my fans. I look forward to rejoining the Phillies once my suspension is served and continuing to work on being a better partner, teammate, and person.”
What’s unfair and needs to be fixed is the arbitrary nature of Manfred’s domestic violence rulings since baseball’s new system went into place in 2016.
Start with Aroldis Chapman, the New York Yankees’ closer who was suspended for 30 games in March 2016 for an October 2015 incident in Florida. During the alleged incident with his girlfriend, he fired a handgun eight times with one bullet going through a window.
Like Herrera’s case, the Chapman charges were dropped when his girlfriend declined to cooperate with police. Chapman apologized for using a handgun but said he never did any harm to his girlfriend, who had told police the argument had become physical.
Sorry, Rob, when a gun is involved it heightens the danger to everyone. Thirty games for that and 85 games for Herrera? The state of New York sentenced former NFL wide receiver Plaxico Burress to two years in prison for shooting himself in a night club.
While playing with the Colorado Rockies, former big-league infielder Jose Reyes was arrested in Hawaii after an alleged altercation with his wife in a hotel room. His wife claimed Reyes grabbed her by the throat and shoved her into a glass door. She reportedly suffered injuries to her thigh, neck and wrist.
Stop me if this sounds familiar: The charges against Reyes were dropped because his wife declined to cooperate. Reyes was suspended for 51 games. I’m not an investigator or a mathematician, but Herrera’s alleged actions did not sound 34 games worse than Reyes’ alleged actions.
Jeurys Familia, relief pitcher for the New York Mets, received a 15-game suspension in March 2017 after an October 2016 incident with his wife in Fort Lee, N.J. The initial police report said there was a scratch to his wife’s chest and a bruise on her cheek. Charges, you guessed it, were dropped at the insistence of Familia’s wife. Sorry, that case does not sound all that much different than Herrera’s.
We could go on forever, but we’ll end with this one: In May 2016, former Atlanta outfielder Hector Olivera was suspended for 82 games for an incident in an Arlington, Va., Ritz Carlton hotel. The police report cited visible bruises on the woman who was described as an acquaintance to Olivera. He was found guilty and spent 10 days in jail, but he was not suspended as long as Herrera.