On Halloween, while vacationing in Hawaii, Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes allegedly grabbed his wife by the throat and slammed her into a sliding glass door in their hotel room. The argument drew security to the scene, who called local police and Reyes was arrested. His wife reported injuries to her thigh, neck, and wrist.
The NFL rightfully takes an enormous amount of criticism for its inaction in the face of domestic violence, and for willfully pursuing sociopaths who make their teams more formidable. As I've written before, Major League Baseball's refusal to act on instances of domestic abuse made it little better. The good news is that, in the wake of the NFL's abuse problems, Baseball and the MLB Players Association took steps last summer to address this, giving Commissioner Rob Manfred broad powers to impose discipline while a player is facing charges. This is the first time he'll have to use them.
The trouble is that most of these powers are only relevant during the regular season...which...we are not in. According to the new MLB policy, Manfred can put Reyes on unpaid administrative leave for a week while he figures out an appropriate punishment. That punishment is not bound to precedent, and is at the discretion of Manfred alone based on what "he believes is appropriate in light of the severity of the conduct." Then, once the commissioner figures out a punishment, Reyes is able to appeal that decision to an arbiter. If, somehow, there are still charges pending against Reyes once Spring Training or the regular season starts, Manfred can suspend Reyes without pay for that time as well. Then, regardless of whether he is convicted of or pleads guilty to domestic abuse, Manfred can levy the official punishment.
So this is a test. It's a test of the policy, but it is also a test of Manfred. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has waffled constantly through his battles, following whichever way he thought the wind was blowing and finding himself horrendously out of step with good sense and basic decency. Manfred needs to chart his league's own course, almost without guidance. What is an appropriate penalty in baseball for what Reyes allegedly did? How many games is this specific abuse "worth?" Where do we start from? Is that the same punishment that, say, Brett Myers should have received for beating his wife in the street? Or Milton Bradley should have received for generally being a monster who beat the mother of his children into an early grave? Does one punishment fit all crimes? Is any kind of domestic violence equally deplorable in Manfred's eyes? Are they equally deplorable in ours?
These are...awful questions. They are questions that I'm glad that I don't have to answer. But they are questions that Rob Manfred has to figure out the answers to now. He needs to set a bold tone, one that demonstrates how seriously Major League Baseball takes the problem of domestic abuse, one that sets the league apart.
One of the things (ok, fine, one of the lies) we like to tell ourselves to feel better is that MLB and baseball itself is somehow better than the NFL and football. That it's less violent and barbaric. That football is for bullies and baseball is for those who stand up to bullies. That we can take pride in preferring it. Now we're either about to be proven right or we'll look like fools. Everything is on the Commissioner. We know what kind of man Jose Reyes is. What kind of man is Rob Manfred?