With Jose Reyes suspension, MLB making strides in right direction
More than a month after the domestic violence charges against Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes were officially dismissed, Major League Baseball has finally announced the duration of Reyes’s suspension under the league’s new domestic violence policy. Reyes, who has been on paid administrative leave since Feb. 23, is ineligible to return to action, in the majors or minors, until June 1 and will be required to retroactively pay back the salary for the portion of the season he has missed thus far as well as donate $100,000 to a charity focused on domestic violence. In effect, then, Reyes has received a 52-game suspension without pay and will lose roughly $7.06 million in salary as a result, not counting the charitable donation.
Reyes’s suspension stems from an incident that took place in the afternoon of Oct. 31 of 2015, when Reyes was arrested on charges of being physically violent with his wife, Katherine Ramirez, during an argument in their hotel room at the Four Seasons in Maui, Hawaii. Ramirez was taken to a local hospital with injuries to her neck, wrists and thigh, but ultimately refused to cooperate with prosecutors, prompting the charges against Reyes to be dropped at the end of March, a motion approved by the judge in Reyes’s case on April 11. Reyes, meanwhile, did not report to spring training in February and was instead placed on administrative leave, where he has remained since.
Reyes is the second player to receive a suspension under MLB’s new domestic violence policy, and the announcement of his suspension comes mere days after the return of the first suspended player, Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. Chapman was suspended for 30 days for an incident that took place at his Florida home just one day prior to Reyes’s arrest. Chapman’s case differed from Reyes’s in that Chapman was not arrested in connection with that incident in question, no charges were filed and he was a full participant in Spring Training. Chapman’s suspension was announced on March 1 and he returned to action for the Yankees on Monday.
The fact that there were criminal proceedings taking place in Reyes’s case clearly complicated and delayed MLB’s investigation and motivated a longer suspension, though it’s still a bit puzzling as to why it took Major League Baseball more than 10 weeks longer to hand down a decision on Reyes than it did on Chapman when the incidents took place on consecutive days last fall. It’s also not clear why it took more than a month after the charges against Reyes were dropped for MLB to make this announcement. Investigating these incidents can be complicated and frustrating, and I certainly have no sympathy for Reyes in this matter, but I can’t help thinking that MLB at least owed Reyes’s team and teammates a faster resolution to this matter.
Not that the Rockies have suffered at all in this particular case. Reyes’s suspension has not only saved the Rockies more than $7 million in payroll, it cleared the way for Trevor Story to win the shortstop job in camp. A 23-year-old former first-round pick and top prospect, Story was a sensation during the first week of the season, hitting seven home runs in his first six major-league games. He has since struck out in 34% of his plate appearances, but has exceeded expectations in the field and hit .250/.320/.473 with four more home runs, making him an upgrade on Reyes, who will turn 33 next month, on both sides of the ball.
The larger issue for the Rockies is not Reyes’s suspension but his return. The poison pill the team had to swallow in last July’s Troy Tulowitzki deal, Reyes is still owed nearly $41 million through the end of the 2017 season. In the wake of his this off-field issue, his near-replacement-level performance last year and his long history of fragility, Reyes could be a hard sell. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported earlier on Friday that there are some teams with interest in Reyes. Still, it seems likely that the Rockies will have to eat most if not all of his remaining salary to make a deal happen. It’s worth noting that Reyes’s attorney has not requested an outright dismissal of Reyes’s case. As unlikely as it might be, without an outright dismissal, should Ramirez change her mind in the next two years, Reyes can still be brought to trial on the same charges that were dropped last month.
As for the precedent set by Reyes’s suspension, if Chapman got 30 games for an incident in which no arrest was made or charges filed, and Reyes got 52 games for an incident in which the charges were dropped prior to trial, one imagines that any player taken to trial on domestic violence charges could miss as much as half a season (which is the current suspension for a first-offense performance-enhancing drug violation). Following that logic, a player found guilty of domestic violence could find his season, and, in turn, his salary, wiped out entirely, even if his legal sentencing does not include jail time. Whatever kinks still need to be worked out in Major League Baseball’s process, such as the promptness of the decisions or the fact that postponed games, like the Rockies-Pirates rainout on April 28, are being counted toward players’ suspensions, MLB and commissioner Rob Manfred should be commended for their newfound refusal to tolerate such incidents on the part of its players.