clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Jose Reyes' impending suspension should set a precedent for domestic violence cases

While domestic violence charges against Reyes have been dropped, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred still must exercise his own precedent setting punishment.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Take away baseball. Take away the money. Ignore the roster implications. This is bigger than baseball. This is a chance for Major League Baseball to stand up against domestic violence.

Colorado Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was arrested and charged with domestic violence following an incident on October 31, 2015 at the Wailea Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii. The charges were recently dropped because Reyes' wife is no longer cooperating with prosecutors.

But that doesn't change what we know. Reyes’ wife was taken to the hospital to treat injuries to her leg, wrist and neck, while Reyes was taken into custody. He was released on $1,000.00 bail and ordered to stay away from his wife for three days. He was charged with abuse of a family member, pleaded not guilty, and a trial was scheduled for April 4, the Rockies season opener.

Based on the information above, we can infer that something happened between Reyes and his wife that night. A person doesn’t go to a hospital with bruises and scratches in those areas unless they’re inflicted somehow, and a person isn’t taken into custody without reasonable cause. This is something a reasonable, rational person can see and deduce from that information without seeing it actually happen. Sadly, an uncooperative witness is common in domestic violence cases. We saw it with the Greg Hardy case in the NFL – Hardy was convicted but the witness refused to cooperate during the appeal, causing the case to be tossed out – and we’re seeing it now. Common sense tells us something happened that night, but the legal system says otherwise.

To be clear, Reyes is not completely absolved of the accusation. The charges are being asked to be dropped without prejudice, meaning Reyes’ wife has until October 31, 2017 to refile charges. For now, however, nothing will come of the incident in a court of law.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made the choice to let the legal system determine what happened between Reyes and his wife before issuing a suspension. "Once [the legal] process plays out, I think we’ll be in a position to have access to all the facts and be in a position to act quickly," he said earlier in March.

His strategy was sound; let the legal system proceed and get all necessary information on the record. Now that option is gone, and the next steps Manfred takes will be closely scrutinized. The power of punishment falls solely in his hands, a situation that he presumably did not want to be in. We have seen how poorly it can reflect on a commissioner if the suspensions are wrong or backtracked once more information comes out (looking at you, Roger Goodell). With the regular season quickly approaching, a suspension needs to come before games begin.

If the suspension is too short, Manfred will receive the same backlash as Goodell did, lose all credibility as a disciplinarian, and discourage future domestic violence claims against players. If the suspension is too long, the appeal might discredit Manfred for suspending without enough legal backing. It’s tricky without a precedent to work with, but he has to find a balance between actively working against domestic violence by enforcing tangible consequences while considering the severity of the punishment in light of the murky legal context.

Domestic violence is hard to address in a court of law. Without physical proof, it’s hard to provide enough evidence to meet the burden of proof required to convince a judge that abuse occurred because it’s mostly verbal evidence and testimony. This isn’t a court of law. Professional athletes, while normal people like you and me, are held to a much higher standard than the rest of us. As public figures, their actions are scrutinized by the media, their peers and the common people alike. Major League Baseball has a chance to send a very clear message: domestic violence is not acceptable, regardless of what happens in court -- if the case ever even makes it to court.

Most domestic violence cases don’t happen in such a public forum. Most are never reported at all and never leave a home. Major League Baseball can show the world that this behavior is not acceptable, no matter how famous the assailant.