Alomar ban the next step in baseball's long-needed public reckoning

Roberto Alomar speaking at a press conference.

TORONTO – Before we fully delve into Roberto Alomar’s effective ban from baseball after an allegation of sexual misconduct was investigated and reviewed by commissioner Rob Manfred, let’s make sure the waters don’t get muddied with the usual nonsense.

His placement on baseball’s ineligible list and termination from both a consultant role with Major League Baseball and contractor position with the Toronto Blue Jays isn’t cancel culture run amok. Nor is it a hollow public-relations exercise of virtue signalling to please the woke masses. It isn’t a by-product of “the current social climate,” as the now tainted Hall of Famer put it in a statement, either.

What it is, simply, is a consequence for behaviour thoroughly examined by an independent law firm and deemed to have violated league policy, a fate men of accomplishment in baseball, like in wider society, have too often been exempt from.

That it happens to interrupt the legacy of a player woven so thoroughly into the fabric of the Blue Jays franchise and beloved in his native Puerto Rico may be a sign there are no sacred cows, that the days of entitlement allowing harassment and worse to go unchecked are ending.

Still, while there are important discussions to be had on legacies and other such matters, the prime takeaway here needs to be that there was misconduct, a third-party investigation followed, a penalty was levied without favour to the perpetrator’s stature and MLB worked to “respect the privacy of the individual who came forward and to protect their confidentiality.”

The process and outcome are really important for the league and its clubs to truly make their workplaces safer and more inclusive. Those viewing the allegation against Alomar, and those related to others, through embedded sexist and lazy tropes routinely used to diminish women’s complaints about unwanted sexual behaviours – can’t take a joke, unhinged with an agenda, scorned and seeking vengeance – are overdue for a serious rethink.

Roberto Alomar in 2010. (Andres Leighton/AP)

“My client commends other baseball industry survivors who have come forward, and who helped her feel safer in sharing her own terrible and life-altering experience,” Lisa Banks, the lawyer representing the person who made the allegation against Alomar, said in a statement.

“My client has no plans to file a lawsuit or take further action. She has not exposed Mr. Alomar’s behaviour for notoriety or for money and looks forward to moving on with her life. She simply wants to ensure that Mr. Alomar is held accountable for his wrongdoing and hopes her actions can help Major League Baseball create a safer workplace for its employees.”

Remember that when you come across anyone dredging up tired dismissals like “probably doing it for the money,” or “a man can’t say or do anything these days.” Same goes with the head-in-the-sand “it’s just an allegation” non-believers.

Understand that MLB and the Blue Jays – who are severing all ties with an icon, removing his name from the Level of Excellence and taking down his banner from the Rogers Centre rafters – essentially used the full extent of their disciplinary powers.

Organizations don’t do that on mere whim or hearsay. The consequences are surely an indicator of the allegation’s severity, arrived at following a methodical, structured process.

“At my office’s request, an independent investigation was conducted by an external legal firm to review an allegation of sexual misconduct reported by a baseball industry employee earlier this year involving Mr. Alomar in 2014,” Manfred said in a statement. “Having reviewed all of the available evidence from the now completed investigation, I have concluded that Mr. Alomar violated MLB’s policies, and that termination of his consultant contract and placement on MLB’s ineligible list are warranted.

“We are grateful for the courage of the individual who came forward. MLB will continue to strive to create environments in which people feel comfortable speaking up without fear of recrimination, retaliation, or exclusion.”

Alomar, meanwhile, wrote that he’s “disappointed, surprised and upset with today’s news,” in a Twitter post, less than subtly hinting that MLB’s decision was taken to avoid public pressure. He added, “my hope is that this allegation can be heard in a venue that will allow me to address the accusation directly.”

For context, the third-party investigation would have provided Alomar the opportunity to do precisely that, an indication he’s hoping to sway public opinion now that discipline has been handed down.

The risk of public adjudication is merely one of the countless deterrents women face when reporting incidents they’ve endured, with the pain of reliving experiences through an exhaustive investigatory process prime among them.

No one is putting themselves through repeated invasive interrogations, along with the risking reprisals, ostracization, job security and limiting future mobility in a male-dominated industry without good cause.

It’s also important to dismiss those who argue that if the allegation was really serious, it would have gone to police, or suggest that it’s suspect for it to be raised seven years later. In Canada, only five per cent of women living in provinces who experienced sexual assault in the previous 12 months reported the incident to police, according to the 2018 Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces, a number also consistent with the 2014 General Social Survey.

Of the victims/survivors who participated in the GSS, 45 per cent said they didn’t want the hassle of dealing with police, 43 per cent felt the police wouldn’t consider the incident important enough and 40 per cent felt the offender would not be convicted or adequately punished.

All of which makes the public reckoning baseball has faced in recent months for its treatment of women in the industry so important. Back in January, ESPN’s Mina Kimes and Jeff Passan reported on a string of unsolicited and inappropriate messages Jared Porter had sent a woman, leading to his firing as New York Mets general manager.

Britt Ghiroli and Katie Strang of The Athletic subsequently reported on former Mets manager Mickey Callaway’s serial harassment of women in New York and Cleveland, when he was the pitching coach there.

The Alomar case is the latest evidence of how embedded the problem is.

Processing all this will be difficult for the generation of Blue Jays fans emotionally connected to Alomar’s on-field exploits — his homer off Dennis Eckersley in the 1992 ALCS, for instance, is among the franchise’s most important moments.

The club will struggle with how to properly celebrate its pinnacle moments — back-to-back World Series championships in 1992-93 — in which Alomar played an integral role.

Is there a way to properly separate art from artist?

Even if there is, it’s going to be impossible to relive all those great moments in quite the same way. While that’s a major loss for Blue Jays fans, perspective matters, and the real loss here is the damage inflicted on another person’s life.

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