It was the week baseball began to take a stand.
In previous years, America’s favorite pastime would turn a blind eye to the horrors of domestic violence.
Indeed, home-run king Barry Bonds (below), whose career was littered with drug abuse, is rarely remembered for beating women.
The fact his ex-wife testified in their 1995 divorce trial that she was frequently beaten, including while she was eight-months pregnant, barely merited a mention following his last month’s appointment as batting coach for the Miami Marlins.
Yet in this modern age, something had to give.
Watching the seemingly daily controversies rock the NFL, Major League Baseball had to act.
The days of turning a blind eye were over. So, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse Policy.
It whirred into action this week, admirably wasting no time warning future miscreants to watch their actions moving forward.
The 30-match ban handed down to newly acquired New York Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman following an altercation with his 22 year-old girlfriend last October was unprecedented and severe. One hell of a way to go down in history.
In truth, this was a horribly difficult case for newly appointed commissioner Rob Manfred. It’s totally unique – there are no past rulings to aid his judgement while, in this particular case, the outcome wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Chapman wasn’t even prosecuted.
Under the terms of the policy, there is no minimum or maximum penalty, and punishment is not dependent on whether the player in question is convicted of a crime.
One aspect, however, is undoubted – his actions were brain numbingly stupid and reckless beyond belief.
The Cuban, 25, attempted to unleash his rage in the basement following a tempestuous evening and, inexplicably, fired a handgun eight times.
One bullet flew into a nearby field through an open window.
Thankfully, no-one was struck, yet the damage was already done. Chapman, who joined the Yankees from the Cincinnati Reds in December, insisted he didn’t hurt or choke his girlfriend and prosecutors declined to press charges.
But, the mere presence of a gun was enough for Manfred to rightfully take a stand.
“I want to take this opportunity and I want this to be clear: I am apologising for the use of the gun.
It was bad judgment on my part,’’ said Chapman who finally will get his Yankees career off the ground on May 9.
“But, I also want to say I had no physical contact with my girlfriend. I am taking this punishment because of my bad judgment. I don’t have any more guns.”
An appeal was an option until Chapman was forcibly advised by his legal team that doing so could cost him the opportunity of becoming a free agent at the end of the forthcoming campaign. The MLB would have looked unfavourably on this case remaining open and would have pushed for a longer ban, which could have stopped him from entering free agency until after the 2017 season.
Chapman stands to lose $1.857 million of his $11.33 million salary this year and will be relieved the penalties weren’t harsher. Thirty games from 162 means there will be ample time for one of the most renowned finishers in baseball to make his mark in the Bronx.
With the NFL’s handling of Ray Rice’s shocking attack on his then fiancee, embarrassing in its ineptitude and self-protecting nature (it should be noted, whereas Roger Goodell eventually had stark video evidence implicating Rice, Manfred was dealing solely with police reports and his own investigations), MLB have bravely attempted to issue a message that such behavior from their players will simply not be tolerated.
“I asked my staff to conduct a comprehensive investigation,’’ Manfred said.
“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.’’
Worries surrounding players’ education regarding the dangers of social misbehaviour remain, yet Manfred has set the bar high and should be applauded.
Next in the dock will be Colorado Rockies short-stop Jose Reyes who, unlike Chapman, was charged by police in Hawaii following an altercation with his wife and can, therefore, expect an even harsher punishment.
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