NEW YORK — Odubel Herrera has been suspended for the rest of the season, Major League Baseball announced Friday night.
Herrera received an 85-game suspension, without pay, after an independent investigation by the commissioner’s office determined that the Phillies center fielder violated the domestic-violence policy negotiated jointly between the league and the players’ union before the 2016 season.
The suspension came two days after an assault complaint against Herrera was dropped Wednesday in Atlantic City Municipal Court when his 20-year-old girlfriend declined to press charges. But MLB’s domestic-violence policy authorizes commissioner Rob Manfred to discipline a player independent of the findings of a court.
“Having reviewed all of the available evidence, I have concluded that Mr. Herrera violated the policy,” Manfred said in a statement released by MLB, “and should be subject to discipline in the form of an unpaid suspension that will cover the remainder of the 2019 season.”
Herrera waived his right to appeal the suspension, the second-longest penalty for a player under the current policy. San Diego’s Jose Torres was suspended for 100 games, but he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault charges stemming from a 2018 incident in which he allegedly pointed a gun at his wife.
Among similar cases, New York Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman was suspended for 30 games in March 2016 for an October 2015 incident with his girlfriend in Florida, and New York Mets pitcher Jeurys Familia received a 15-game suspension in March 2017 after an October 2016 incident with his wife in New Jersey. Other players who have been suspended under the domestic violence policy include then-Colorado Rockies infielder Jose Reyes (51 games) in 2016 and then-Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna (75 games) last year.
“I acted in an unacceptable manner and am terribly disappointed in myself,” Herrera said in a statement released in both English and Spanish by the MLB Players’ Association. “I alone am to blame for my actions. ... 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.”
Herrera, who also used his statement to apologize to his teammates and fans, was set to earn $5.35 million this season. The suspension figures to cost him approximately $2.8 million. It is retroactive to June 24 and will run through the end of the season. Herrera also won’t be eligible for the postseason if the Phillies qualify.
In a statement, the Phillies said they are “encouraged by Odubel’s acceptance of his discipline as an indication of his willingness to learn from this and change his behavior appropriately."
”I fully endorse the Phillies’ statement," manager Gabe Kapler said Friday night after a 7-2 victory over the New York Mets. “Because of the basic agreement [between MLB and the players] I’m not permitted to comment on the matter or anything related.”
After Herrera’s arrest, Kapler characterized the incident as “deeply disturbing” and spoke out strongly against domestic violence. During his playing career, Kapler founded an organization to fight domestic violence with his former wife, Lisa, who was in an abusive relationship in high school.
MLB’s ruling was welcomed by Cindy Southworth, executive vice president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
The organization “applauds MLB for holding players accountable when they choose to use violence against their partners. In a world where athletes are also role models for young people learning about healthy relationships, it is vital that professional athletes model healthy, equal, and non-violent relationships,” Southworth said in an email.
Jeannine L. Lisitski, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Women Against Abuse, said in a statement: “We are glad to see the league taking this issue seriously, since domestic violence is such a pervasive and dangerous threat to public health and safety. This was an important opportunity for the MLB to send a message to players across the league, as well as to the people and families that make up our community here in Philadelphia — the people experiencing abuse, the people perpetuating abuse, and the youth and fans who were watching this case unfold. Survivors, we believe you. We are here with you. And by working together, we will prevent intimate partner violence and ensure those who perpetuate abuse are held accountable.”
Herrera was arrested May 27 and charged with simple assault after his girlfriend, Melany Martinez-Angulo, told security at the Golden Nugget casino that she had been attacked. Handprint markings and scratches were found on her neck, according to a police report.
In dismissing the case this week, Municipal Court Judge Billie J. Moore said Herrera would have to complete 60 days of counseling.
Herrera’s contract with the Phillies runs through the 2021 season. Despite the commissioner’s verdict, the team isn’t allowed to void the contract. If they decided to release Herrera, the Phillies would be responsible for paying the $21.2 million that he’s still owed, including $7.35 million next season and $10.35 million in 2021.
The Phillies weren't permitted to comment on Herrera during the league's investigation nor were they directly involved in the probe, according to general manager Matt Klentak.
Herrera started 32 of the Phillies’ first 39 games and batted .222 with only one home run and a .629 on-base plus slugging percentage that is well below his career .756 mark.
Baseball is hardly the only sport to deal with domestic violence cases. In the NFL, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended six games during the 2018 season for domestic-violence allegations. Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely for striking his then-fiancée. He eventually won an appeal that overturned the suspension, but no team has signed him since the 2014 incident.
Staff writers Robert Moran and Bob Brookover contributed to this article.