Domestic assault has no place in baseball

The Houston Astros made waves when they acquired domestic abuser Roberto Osuna from the Blue Jays.


(Photo Credit: Keith Allison)

Dear Jeff Luhnow,

Did you know a woman is physically assaulted every nine seconds in the United States, or maybe a woman is more at risk of injury in cases of domestic abuse than in car accidents? These are true statistics, the extent of which can be explored here. Not that you need quantifiable data to express the severity of the issue at hand.

But, how can you preach a “zero-tolerance policy” while, in the same breath, say you believe in second chances? How can you unceremoniously release one domestic abuser for assaulting his girlfriend at a Double-A stadium, in PUBLIC, and yet, two years later, trade for a domestic abuser waiting for his 75 game suspension to end?

Winning turns you one hell into a monster, doesn’t it?

Danry Vásquez lives in relative anonymity in his home country of Venezuela. Roberto Osuna doesn’t have, nor does he deserve such a luxury. Osuna, formerly a pitcher and forever a domestic abuser, doesn’t deserve a second chance, let alone being shipped from a sinking ship in Toronto to the defending World Series champion Astros who seek the sequel to their success.

Here is the moral complexity created by Major League Baseball, a complexity that has plagued such a storied and enriched history for the past one hundred years. There are racists, bigots, and women-beaters in the Hall of Fame, a blissfully forgotten fact due to the lazy “times were different then” argument crowed by thousands of so-called “fans.” 

People accept these kinds of players because it’s too inconvenient to challenge the norm, too inconvenient to challenge a league as beloved as Major League Baseball to have accountability over the players that generate and make millions of dollars for throwing a ball of twine, leather, and stitches. 

Here, we now bear witness to a mucked up controversy where general managers, commissioners, and owners feel as if they have the power within them to forgive. To all those who are reading: forgiveness doesn’t belong to the masses, nor does it belong to these corporate executives trying to squeeze every dollar out of the industry. It belongs to the victims, whose voices and trauma are consequentially overlooked and forgotten in situations like these. 

The Hypocrisy Astros

When the Astros released Vásquez in 2016, current Astros pitchers Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers Jr. took to Twitter to establish a clear and direct opinion on the matter of domestic assault in baseball. They stood as champions of the game, as allies to the countless women who don’t have a voice in the domestic abuse that takes place at the hands of men. 

Now was the time for them to stand up. Now was the time for Verlander, a consummate professional, future Hall of Famer, and a league-favorite, to stand up and reinforce his intolerance for domestic abusers such as Vásquez, Aroldis Chapman, and Roberto Osuna. Instead, he gives the benefit of the doubt.

Jeez, sure is nice to win a World Series. Makes you wonder how nice it’d be to win a second.

You don’t go from being a champion against domestic violence to becoming an apologist. Because when you “believe that you can have a zero-tolerance policy and also give people second chances when they have made mistakes in the past in other organizations,” it makes one wonder whether you need “zero-tolerance” defined for you.

Manfred has failed

Commissioner Rob Manfred has followed in the failed footsteps of his fellow Big Four commissioners, producing a tone-deaf response to the true issue at hand. It reflects poorly on the institution of baseball. We would still celebrate the achievements of domestic abusers while heaping hoards of money.

Because what good does a 75-game suspension do for Osuna? What good did Chapman’s 30 games do?  When all’s said and done, they still stand on the biggest stage of the sporting venue, contracted for millions of dollars in front of millions of people. 

If there’s a solution to the problem, then Manfred and Co. need to work swiftly in discovering it. The NFL, for all its own controversies, has an extensive policy regarding its players and domestic violence. Of course, what the law says and how it’s enforced are two different things. It’s the social media age, where information, facts, and opinions are at the fingertips of any person savvy enough to navigate the internet. It’s our duty, as all persons, to hold words and actions accountable. These aren’t matters you sweep under the rug and leave forgotten to collect dust. 

So as Manfred ponders the changes necessary to make baseball more inclusive for a population that grows younger, he must also ponder how to navigate the landscape that’s beset by the dark secrets of a persons’ past. Bigots, racists, abusers, these all seem the product of a game long outdated, and yet here we are, in 2018, where the worst of us has been dug up from the earth again.

Final Thoughts

There has to be an overall challenge, stemming from the top of the ladder, for these men to be better. Because what we think we feel in a situation like this has little importance; I, as a man, will never know what it’s like to be on the other side.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t hold people accountable. As Osuna joins his new team and the Astros’ quest for a second consecutive World Series championship enters the dog-days of August, a sour taste is in our mouths.

Baseball has failed to do the right thing. The Astros, regarded as the good guys who built their success from determination and perseverance, have played themselves into the role of the villain. And all for what? A bejeweled ring at the price of their integrity? 

It’s deplorable, and the Astros should be ashamed of themselves.

Regretfully,

A saddened fan.

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