ANAHEIM, Calif. – In simple terms, Major League Baseball suspended Roberto Osuna for 75 games before the criminal proceedings against him reached resolution because its investigators dug up enough information that any court outcome would not have impacted the decision.
Guilty or not under law, commissioner Rob Manfred ruled Friday that the Toronto Blue Jays closer is guilty of violating baseball’s joint domestic violence policy, demonstrating once again that a player doesn’t need to be convicted by the former to be the latter.
The discipline, retroactive to May 8 when Osuna was arrested and charged in the assault of a woman, is the third longest handed down under the plan, trailing only the 100 games issued to Padres pitcher Jose Torres and 82 games given to former Braves outfielder Hector Olivera.
In its wake, the Blue Jays gained some clarity into Osuna’s baseball future – his ban runs through Aug. 4, and under the collective bargaining agreement players suspended 51 games or more can be assigned to a minor-league team for 15 days during its duration.
But the issue of whether it’s fair for leagues to act in an extrajudicial manner once again came up for debate, especially since Osuna had his first court hearing Monday, as the Crown gave his attorney Domenic Basile disclosure of its evidence.
Basile said the 23-year-old intends to plea not guilty and he plans to meet with the Crown to seek a resolution to the case ahead of a July 9 hearing, and some privately questioned why Major League Baseball jumped the gun.
Unfairly skewing the public perception of Osuna before the court ruled was another talking point.
Important to understand is what Major League Baseball ruled Osuna to be guilty of under terms of the joint policy embedded in the collective bargaining agreement.
Under the CBA, domestic violence “includes, but is not limited to, physical or sexual violence, emotional and/or psychological intimidation, verbal violence, stalking, economic control, harassment, physical intimidation, or injury.”
Furthermore, “a single incident of abusive behavior in any intimate relationship, or a single incident of abusive behavior involving a female member of a player’s family who is domiciled with him, may subject a player to discipline under this Policy.”
So, whatever happened in the early hours May 8 that led police to arrest Osuna, must have qualified.
Now, Major League Baseball cannot simply suspend a player based on an arrest, as the policy states that it has “the burden of proving that the player committed a covered act.”
That’s where the investigation part comes in and intriguingly, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported that league officials are believed to have spoken to the complainant.
The policy allows players to challenge discipline and send the matter to an arbitration panel but Major League Baseball’s release stated that Osuna “accepted” the suspension, which wouldn’t have happened had he and the players association contested the decision.
Osuna will also participate in a “confidential and comprehensive evaluation and treatment program supervised by the Joint Policy Board” that oversees the program.
For all those reasons, whatever happens in court – Basile said Monday he’d be“working in a manner that I’m hoping to avoid a conviction,” while also factoring in potential work visa repercussions for the Mexico native – wouldn’t impact baseball’s decision-making.
Now, whether the policy is fair and just is another discussion, and that would be up to the players to raise the next time the CBA, which runs through 2021, is up for discussion.
Barring a change,“you take what MLB does, trust that and live with it,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “Let everything go through its course. You knew something was coming down. Hopefully that all gets worked out, both sides, and everybody gets the help they need and everything works out fine for all involved.”
All of that, along with the criminal proceedings, are still to be settled.
Beyond that, the bigger questions loom for the Blue Jays, such as whether Osuna should pitch for them again, how their fanbase would react to that, and if Toronto is the right place for him to get the second chance everyone deserves.
For now, Major League Baseball’s judgment has been rendered.