Reyes case puts MLB’s domestic violence policy to the test

Shi Davidi, Ben Nicholson-Smith and Barry Davis discuss Jose Reyes’ domestic abuse case, Rob Manfred’s comments on the strike zone and qualifying offers from MLB teams.

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Major League Baseball is investigating the recent arrest of star Colorado Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes for allegedly assaulting his wife, the first case to be processed through the Joint Domestic Violence Policy introduced in August with the players association.

Commissioner Rob Manfred, addressing media Tuesday morning at the GM meetings, described the incident as concerning but reserved comment beyond that. Hawaii News Now, citing unnamed sources, reported that Reyes’ wife Katherine told officers that he grabbed her by the throat and shoved her into a sliding glass balcony door in their Maui hotel room.

“We felt good about the policy when we negotiated it, this will be the first test and I think it will stand the test,” said Manfred.

Baseball introduced the policy after a handful of disconcerting domestic violence incidents involving players from other professional leagues – most notably former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s assault of his wife captured by a hotel security camera – and provides a formalized structure for handling Reyes’ case in a way the other leagues lacked.

“The key from our perspective was being proactive and negotiating what we see as a comprehensive policy with the MLBPA,” said Manfred. “Everybody knows how the process is going to work and how we’re going to move forward together. The second word I’d like to emphasize there is comprehensive. This is not just a discipline policy, it’s a policy that requires evaluation, counselling and a variety of other activities in addition to the disciplinary component.”

Word of the arrest shook people in the game who know the fun-loving, constantly positive player Reyes has been throughout his career. The Blue Jays traded him to the Rockies in July as part of the deal that landed Troy Tulowitzki.

In a statement, the Rockies said: “We were extremely disappointed and concerned to learn of the allegations involving Jose Reyes. We continue to gather information and will address this matter appropriately, in accordance with Major League Baseball’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.”

One of the aims of the policy, Manfred said, was to balance the need for the league to react with a player’s rights.

“On the one hand I think our fans want to know that the case has been dealt with appropriately,” he explained. “On the other hand, whoever the player is, the fact that he’s a major-league player doesn’t mean he has absolutely no right to privacy and that everything that’s going on in the context of a relationship or marriage has to be public.”

Some other items of note from Manfred’s discussion with media:

  • The commissioner believes the qualifying offer system works as is, and that it doesn’t matter that no free agent has yet to accept one. “The fact that players go out in the market and get contracts even though the signing club is giving up a draft choice kind of says to me that we got it right. I don’t think you need someone to accept (a qualifying offer). So far we have successfully identified a group of players who are significant losses for the teams they are leaving and were of high enough quality that they could bear the burden of draft choice compensation in the market and still get a good contract.”
  • Hate the way umpires call the strike zone? Manfred doesn’t. “The umpires’ calling of the strike zone is probably more consistent than it’s ever been in the history of the game. The application of technology, going back to when Sandy Alderson was running the umpiring department has over time produced great consistency in that area.”
  • Manfred was pleased that a small market team with a bigger payroll than the big market team with a smaller payroll won the World Series. “The correlation between winning and payroll – the perfect correlation is one – is down to 0.3, it’s the lowest it’s been in more than a decade. So the correlation between payroll and winning going down I think is a great analytical indicator of competitive balance in the game.
  • Concerns about offence being down in the game continue to require more data before definitive conclusions can be drawn and changes suggested. “We had a really interesting uptick in offence late in the year this year, a statistically significant increase in scoring. We’re not going to jump too quickly on this one, we really want to understand what’s happening in the game and our game is too great to be willy-nilly making changes, thinking you’re going to address a problem that may not be a problem at all.”
  • With the all-star games in 2017 (Miami) and 2018 (Washington) already committed, Major League Baseball is in no rush to award future contests. Manfred says the application process for the games beyond that may open soon. Toronto, Baltimore and the Chicago Cubs are among the teams interested.
  • A simple, uniform policy for protective netting at big-league stadiums isn’t workable because of the differences from venue to venue. “It’s going to have to be a little more complicated than that if in fact we move ahead,” said Manfred. Conversation about the matter will continue at the owners meetings next week.
  • A decision on Pete Rose’s status will be done by the end of the year, Manfred said.
  • Manfred joked that discussions about a possible change on sliding rules at second base were “unwieldy,” but added that work continues on the matter.
  • Manfred still hopes to stage some exhibition games in Cuba next spring.
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