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MLB’s Domestic Abuse Problem

August 13, 2010

268 saves, one 53-year-old man beaten up

Hey look! Another relief pitcher is accused of beating up a family member and ordered to stay away from his (common-law) wife. Here’s the money quote from Carlos Beltran that I don’t quite understand:

“I talked to my wife after the game and she sounded nervous. I said, ‘What happened?’ She said, ‘I’ll talk to you later about what happened.’ She told me about the incident and all that. It’s disappointing, man. You don’t want to see no one go through that. But it is what it is. Now he has to deal with that situation. Us, as players, as teammates, even though we don’t agree with what he did, we have to support him. He’s part of the ballclub. He’s going to come here and do his thing.”

Even though the Mets players don’t agree with what he did – that being beating up his father-in-law in full view of the players’ wives and families – they still have to support him because he’s part of the ballclub.

And Jose Reyes said, “We’re going to support him because we need him here. He’s our closer.”

Golly. Like the last time the Mets had a reliever who was beating up his girlfriend, and former GM Steve Phillips said about Armando Benitez that “They’re hopeful that once the system runs its course, it will be resolved positively and he can put it behind him.”

Or when the 6’4” Brett Myers went hauling off on his wife – a foot shorter than he – in full view on the Boston streets four years ago, and GM Pat Gillick said “Certainly the Phillies are here and are ready to support not only Brett and Kim, but any of our players.”

Whatever. We don’t know the full facts of Francisco Rodriguez’s family. Perhaps his father-in-law, Carlos Pena, did throw the first punch, as an eyewitness report would have it. Or perhaps he was in the middle of making oblique threats about drowning K-Rod’s kittens.

But there’s a terrible problem of domestic abuse in professional sports. Former All-Star (and probable Hall of Famer) Roberto Alomar was in the news for it last week.

This report in the Journal of Sports & Entertainment Law, by Bethany P. Withers, shows that Major League Baseball does almost nothing to punish domestic abuse charges, but often lays down fines for other off-field behavior (see Rocker, John). As Withers reports,

“Although many domestic violence arrests result in dropped charges because the victim refuses to testify in order to escape public ridicule or out of fear of retribution, the lack of a conviction has not stopped baseball from punishing players for other transgressions in the past.”

And another good quote from the piece:

“It is safe to say, however, that MLB has done the least in terms of punishing players for off-field conduct; after reading countless newspaper and journal articles from the past ten years describing domestic violence allegations, arrests, and convictions, I did not discover one corresponding case of league punishment…While this “epidemic” (of domestic violence) may be reflective of the “epidemic” in society at large rather than particular to baseball, the prevalence of domestic violence in baseball, and sports in general, is undeniable. Prior to the general awakening to this phenomenon in the late 1990s, baseball greats such as Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Darryl Strawberry, Dante Bichette, and Albert Belle were accused of domestic violence—most of them accused in more than one instance. They, and others similarly accused, were not punished by their teams or the league.”

Cripes. In just five minutes of going through my cloudy Rolodex:

Brian Giles following the 2008 season. Julio Mateo, which led to the Seattle Mariners actually establishing a program. Pedro Astacio and Bobby Chouinard, famously and graphically ten years ago, and pretty close together. Scott Erickson, Julio Lugo (who was acquitted), Vicente Padilla (who also once kicked in a cop car window), Alberto Callaspo, Dmitri Young

The list, I’m sure goes on and will continue. But at least the Mets will, um, have a closer who shows exuberance on the mound.

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