When Major League Baseball announced its policy on domestic abuse in August, Commissioner Rob Manfred had to be hoping that he would not be forced to actually apply it only a few months later. The policy will be tested after Jose Reyes of the Colorado Rockies was arrested while vacationing in Hawaii with his wife. Less than two weeks before the arrest, Reyes was one of the main attractions at a league-sponsored event trumpeting its new partnership with Starwood Hotels. The details that have leaked out around the arrest are not pretty. Neither is Reyes’ mugshot. The All-Star shortstop, usually happy-go-lucky, stares off into space blankly, wearing a white tank top and displaying a Superman throat tattoo.
As if the white tank top didn’t already have enough of a bad reputation.
Reyes was arrested after reportedly yanking his wife from a hotel bed, shoving her, grabbing her throat, and then pushing her into a glass door. Reyes’ wife wound up in the hospital with injuries to her thigh, neck, and wrist. Whether these injuries are only minor and superficial does not matter. Less than a week removed from the leak of Greg Hardy assault photos and subsequent backlash, baseball must act swiftly, and before photos from the case come out. The league is being naïve if it thinks the entire world will not see just exactly how badly Jose Reyes hit his wife. Bruises and lacerations tell a story plainly, and without words.
The league’s policy is rather open-ended. As the policy is worded, all the power falls on Manfred to determine the proper amount of discipline: “There is no minimum or maximum penalty prescribed under the policy, but rather the Commissioner can issue the discipline he believes is appropriate in light of the severity of the conduct.”
No player has yet been disciplined under the policy. Manfred is working with a blank slate, and whatever punishment he hands down to Reyes will set a precedent for future cases.
This is not unlike the NFL’s former policy, a policy that allowed Ray Rice to be suspended two games after knocking out his then fiancée with a single punch in an Atlantic City elevator. Roger Goodell saw that video footage, issued a pitiful suspension, one that was two games less than a suspension for drug or alcohol abuse, and was then forced to fend off calls for his job when it became rather apparent that he had seen the most damning evidence but still gave Rice a slap-on-the-wrist two-game ban.
Manfred cannot follow the same path, but what would a suspension for Reyes look like?
No one knows how severe the incident was between Reyes and his wife, so how should the Commissioner proceed? The cops were called, Reyes was arrested, and while it’s doubtful he will serve any jailtime, the league must issue a firm statement that such behavior is not acceptable. Minor league prospect Alex Reyes was slapped with a 50-game suspension for a marijuana test. While minor leaguers operate under a different set of rules than major league players, that must be the starting point for an act of domestic abuse. A 50-game suspension for recreational drug use by a player who most people have never heard of will become a major sticking point if an All-Star shortstop is suspended for fewer games over an incident that involves laying hands on his wife. The league should be even more aggressive than 50 games. Domestic assault must be viewed more harshly than the use of a recreational drug, legal in the state where Reyes plays, whose properties are anything but performance-enhancing.
Commissioner Manfred will have to hear Reyes out regarding the actual events, but it’s likely the evidence will leave very little room for interpretation. If Deadspin has anything to say about it, the public will see whatever photos exist from the night, and the league cannot afford to issue a weak message. A positive PED test warrants an 80-game suspension. Reyes needs to be suspended at least that long. An arbitrator will surely knock that down, just as Hardy’s 10-gamer was brought down to four. If that happens, it’s out of the league’s hands. A precedent needs to be set with the Jose Reyes case. The league has put a domestic policy in place, now it’s time to give that policy teeth.