The Little Bull is finished in Philly.
Odubel “El Torito” Herrera should never enter the Phillies clubhouse again. Arrested Monday night and charged with assaulting his 20-year-old girlfriend in an Atlantic City casino hotel, Herrera, 27, was placed on administrative leave by Major League Baseball pending an investigation by MLB and police.
You want the Phillies to release Herrera? Yeah, me too. And they should.
As soon as they can.
Unfortunately, they can’t do it immediately.
Two league sources Tuesday indicated that not only are the Phillies forbidden from issuing statements about Herrera’s alleged domestic abuse while Major League Baseball investigates the matter, they also can’t cut him, either. The collective bargaining agreement effectively places players in a protective limbo until MLB determines what, if any, disciplinary actions to take, and the player remains protected through the duration of that limbo.
That could be a very long time, because, if he believes Herrera’s presence would harm the team or MLB, the commissioner can decide to place a player like Herrera on paid suspension while he awaits legal proceedings. Herrera’s court date is set for June 17 in Municipal Court in Atlantic City.
Herrera will not be the new Ray Rice, who was (eventually) cut by the Baltimore Ravens in 2014.
Why do these byzantine protections exist for men accused of beating women? Because it helps ensure equal adjudication. Ideally, Odubel Herrera would be treated the same as a much better, much more popular, or much more expensive player; Bryce Harper, for instance.
That doesn’t change these facts:
Herrera will never have not been arrested. His girlfriend will never have not been found to have scratches on her arms. She will never not be found to have “hand-print markings” on her neck. He will never not have had this mug shot issued by the Atlantic City Police.
Herrera might not go to jail, but he’s got to go.
That’s what “zero tolerance” means. That’s what “unacceptable” means. Those are the words used by general manager Matt Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler. You get the idea that Kapler, a committed crusader against domestic violence, would love to be rid of his 200-pound headache sooner than later.
Expect Herrera’s departure later, not sooner. The two league sources said that, even after a player has served his punishment, teams in the Phillies’ situation must be careful not to be perceived to be taking further punitive action -- such as an unwarranted demotion to the minors or an outright release, either of which could permanently damage a player’s profile. The sources said that the Players’ Association keeps a sharp eye on such shenanigans.
In his case, Herrera likely wouldn’t have trouble finding work. He’s having a rough start to this season, hitting .222 with one home run, but he hit .279 in his first four seasons and cranked 22 homers last year. He also has decent speed on the bases and has become a good defensive center fielder, though his lack of focus can be maddening to his fans and bosses alike.
None of that should matter. It will cost the Phillies dearly; whatever remains on his five-year, $30.5 million contract that runs through 2021.
The longer they dither, it will cost them much more -- in credibility.
This is, after all, the franchise that let Brett Myers pitch against the Red Sox the day after witnesses say Myers hit his wife and dragged her by the hair on their way back to their hotel from a Boston bar on June 23, 2006. Kim Myers -- a foot shorter than Myers, who is 6-foot-4, and half of his 240 pounds -- told the judge she didn’t want the case to go forward, and it was dismissed, but the mishandling of the incident by the Phillies haunts the organization to this day.
“I think it’s in the best interest of the club,” general manager Pat Gillick said at the time. “He’s our best pitcher.”
It was not the ol’ ballclub’s finest hour.
History must not repeat itself.
Domestic violence has been recognized as a national epidemic that often goes unpunished. Studies show that almost half of domestic violence incidents are not reported, and about half of the reported incidents result in the victim signing a complaint, and 60 percent of the reported incidents result in no arrest or charges.
Yes, the Myers incident happened 13 years ago, and the world has changed. But we were wrong then, too. Over the next 3 1/2 seasons, Myers made 59 more starts and made 56 relief appearances for the Phillies.
That was 115 games too many, even by 2006 standards.
On Wednesday, during his weekly appearance on 94.1-WIP, Kapler reiterated what he’d said before Tuesday’s game: “There is no place in sports, no place in society, and no place in the organization for domestic violence.”
Hear, hear. Now, make it so.
As soon as you can.
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