During a 26-day span late this year, three current MLB players have allegedly been involved in domestic violence incidents:
- October 31: Colorado Rockies infielder Jose Reyes was arrested in Hawaii on charges that he assaulted his wife.
- October 31: Los Angeles Dodgers Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman allegedly choked his girlfriend and shot his gun off while she hid in the bushes (police report).
- November 25: Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig allegedly got into a physical altercation with his sister at a Miami, FL bar.
MLB has announced that all three players will be investigated under its new Domestic Violence Policy. Notably, the policy vests complete discretion in new Commissioner Rob Manfred to determine potential penalties and provides no minimum or maximum penalty guidelines. Because it is a new policy that has not yet been tested, there are no precedents for Manfred to base a penalty on.
With all of this uncertainty, what penalties will Manfred dole out?
First, it is important to note that this article does not assume that any of these athletes are guilty. There is no doubt that Manfred will thoroughly investigate each case and only penalize a player if he finds that domestic violence occurred. However, it is also important to note that the policy specifically states that an arrest or conviction is not necessary in order for Manfred to act.
Because there is no precedent under the new policy, predicting a penalty is not an exact science. As a starting point, here is a look at what the other major sports leagues are doing:
NBA’s Domestic Violence Penalties: The NBA does not have a specific domestic violence policy but Commissioner Adam Silver has the authority to suspend players for domestic violence incidents. There has only been one such incident in the last couple of years involving then Charlotte Hornets guard Jeff Taylor. Silver suspended Taylor for 24 games (29% of the NBA season).
NFL’s Domestic Violence Policy: The NFL enacted a new domestic violence policy in August 2014. First violations under the policy are subject to a six game suspension (37.5% of the NFL season). The NFL’s recent domestic violence cases (Ray Rice and Greg Hardy) occurred prior to the new policy (much to Goodell’s chagrin) and therefore, those suspensions are no longer applicable for this analysis.
Based on these precedents, we can expect MLB suspensions to be around 29-37% of the season, or 46 to 60 games.
- Since this is Manfred’s first suspension under the new policy, and there have been has been a swell of incidents this offseason, there is a possibility of a strong initial suspension with hopes of creating a deterrent effect for other players.
- Not to go all Roger Goodell and compare apples to oranges, because performance enhancing drug use and domestic violence are very different things, but for the sake of looking at one of MLB’s established penalty structures, a first time offender under the PED policy is suspended for 80 games (up from 50 games previously).
Final Thoughts and Prediction:
My best guess is that if Manfred finds that one of these players did commit domestic violence, he will suspend the player for 50 games without pay. This suspension falls into the range of what the other leagues are doing and would reflect that Manfred is serious about addressing the issue. This number could be increased or decreased depending on the severity of the findings (all domestic violence situations are serious but some are more horrific than others and will likely be treated accordingly).