Reading the new violence/abuse policy so you don't have to
Let's be honest, friends - If not for the wonderful people over at the National Football League, Major League Baseball probably would have kept its collective head in the sand for at least a while longer.
Remember, it wasn't really so long ago that Brett Myers smacked his wife around in public, and his employers (the Phillies, if you're wondering) just rolled merrily along. For a stretch anyway, as Myers made his next scheduled start.
After which he took a leave of absence, probably because of the public outcry. But nothing was mandated by the league and Myers' wife ultimately refused to testify so the charges were dropped.
It's not hard to understand why there's never been a policy about this stuff: the players don't want to be disciplined, and the teams don't want to lose their players.
For most of our history, we tolerated domestic violence. Then we didn't, legally speaking. But let's be honest, once more: Five years ago, if your favorite team's slugger hit his wife on Tuesday and a grand slam on Wednesday, would you have cheered for him? Probably. Or if not five years ago, then 10.
Well, that's beginning to change. Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association are not leading here; they're following. Specifically, they're following public opinion, or at least public opinion as filtered through the media.
Anyway, you can probably guess what MLB and the MLBPA have come up with: a system that includes education, suspensions, and arbitrations. This might be the biggest thing the union gave up during the negotiations:
The Commissioner may place a player accused of domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse on paid Administrative Leave for up to seven days while the allegations are investigated before making a disciplinary decision. The agreement contains procedures for a player to immediately challenge that placement before the Arbitration Panel (below).
Whether that seven-day (paid) leave takes or not, the Commissioner may later do ... well, whatever the hell he wants:
There is no minimum or maximum penalty prescribed under the policy, but rather the Commissioner can issue the discipline he believes is appropriate in light of the severity of the conduct. The Commissioner’s authority to discipline is not dependent on whether the player is convicted or pleads guilty to a crime.
Except of course that's subject to appeal, too. Early on, the Commissioner will be walking a fine line between not levying a suspension that's harsh enough to be overturned, and one so short that it sets an unacceptable precedent. Because the future suspensions will be implicitly based on prior suspensions.
All this seems like a good thing. Inevitably, at some point a player will be suspended unfairly. But those incidents will be exceptionally rare, and are the price we pay for our evolving intolerance of violence and abuse.