Discussing Domestic Abuse
Image courtesy of Ken Blaze, USA TodayUnfortunately, baseball hasn’t been immune to the same issues. Cubs reliever Aroldis Chapman closed out the NLCS by tossing nothing but 100-103 mph fastballs.
Last offseason, unfortunately, it wasn’t Chapman’s fastball that people were talking about. In early December, a dozen police officers were called to Chapman’s home. He shot a gun eight times into his garage. That was after an incident in his home in which he allegedly choked his girlfriend and pushed her against a wall in his home theater. No charges were filed because stories changed and conflicted, but there was enough there in MLB's eyes and Chapman was given a 30-game suspension by MLB.
The Reds traded Chapman to the Yankees. Almost a week before the July 31st trade deadline, Theo Epstein OKd a trade to the Cubs. Chapman has continued to be what he is, which is the best, most dominant closer in the game.
For Chicago sports fans, the moral dilemma is a familiar one. It is a situation that played itself out a year earlier when Blackhawks’ star Patrick Kane was arrested for rape (though he was never charged).
In a New York Times story, Chapman said, “People are thinking it’s something serious; I have not put my hands on anyone, didn’t put anyone in danger.”
Sure. That’s why his girlfriend called 911 while hiding in some bushes outside the house.
He added, “It was just an argument with your partner that everyone has.” (emphasis mine)
My assumption, hopefully not naive, is that Chapman’s thinking is in the minority, that most ballplayer and most people in general do not think like that.
Last offseason, Jose Reyes was with his wife at a resort in Hawaii. Police reports stated the Reyes grabbed his wife by the throat and threw her against a sliding door. He was suspended 51 games by the league, through May 31st. At that time, the Rockies released him. He later signed with the New York Mets.
It’s also interesting and maybe a little scary to see teammates quickly support their friend. Giants players were put in an awkward position when they were asked about the Josh Brown situation. Several, including their coach, chose to say that they wanted to support their teammate. A nice gesture, but not really something that many would want to defend.
Following the Chapman and Reyes suspension announcements, David Ortiz was asked about it. He said, “These are good guys. I feel so bad for them. I know Jose well. He is not a troublemaker. He’s a good guy.”
It’s hard to blame Ortiz for that comment. He was asked and gave an answer. The reality is that we don’t necessarily know everything that happens in the homes of our friends and neighbors. We may not know if there is physical abuse occurring. Even more difficult to know in many cases is the psychological abuse that can happen. Those scars may not be visible, but they can last for a long time.
In 2006, Phillies pitcher Brett Myers was arrestedfor punching his wife in the face in Boston. “Police showed up after a 911 call and saw severe swelling on the left side of her face — he used his pitching hand — and she said he had punched her. He was arrested on the spot, and he was released on $200 bail ... paid by his wife.”
Also in 2006, Tigers infielder Dmitri Young was arrested. He was 32, and his 21-year-old former girlfriend reported the incident three days later. “They said she had bruises on her hip and leg, the newspaper reported, and photographs showed scratches on her neck, upper body and leg.”
In 1995, Atlanta manager Bobby Cox was arrested for punching his wife and pulling her hair.
In 1997, Wil Cordero was arrested for threatening to kills his wife in the presence of police officers. Originally the Red Sox did nothing, but when they learned of a previous domestic abuse charged they chose to suspend him for eight games. The league did nothing.
In 2003, the Astros released Julio Lugo after he was arrested for hitting his wife and slamming her face into a car hood. The Rays signed him soon after and he played in the big leagues through 2011.
The Minnesota Twins have also been hurt by a couple of cases, though in both cases, the events occurred following their playing careers.
You will remember, just a couple of years ago, the Twins announced the 2B Chuck Knoblauch was going to become a Twins Hall of Famer. After reports came out of his arrest for grabbing, hitting and even throwing a humidifier at his wife, the Twins chose to cancel Knoblauch’s induction. Knoblauch had been arrested five years earlier on similar charges.
And, soon after Kirby Puckett was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, in 2001, reports came out of his infidelity and other transgressions. In October of 2002, he was arrested for “sexual assault and false imprisonment for allegedly groping a woman after pulling her into the bathroom of a Minnesota restaurant.”
The 2003 Sports Illustrated article by Frank Deford opened up all of our eyes. Puckett was a hero to many, yours truly included.
In it, it talks about Puckett’s then-wife (December 2001) calling police and telling them that he had threatened to kill her. She said that he previously had strangled her with electrical cord. He had used a power tool to break through a door she had locked to get to her. He even once had a gun to her head and threatened to pull the trigger.
Kirby Puckett was my last hero. I find it now important to separate what happens on the field of play and the person, even if that person is someone who does so much good in the community or owns a Roberto Clemente Award for community service.
Even after the reports, arrests and allegations, Puckett still had his front office job with an office at the Metrodome. To this day, those that knew him speak only glowingly about their teammate and friend.
MLB and their players association have set up some domestic abuse policies. These include annual training and support and emergency hotlines, as well as framework for punishment. It’s a good start, and hopefully they will continue to improve upon it.
It is a difficult subject to read about. It’s difficult to write about as well. With Aroldis Chapman pitching the Cubs to the World Series and getting a ton of credit, maybe it’s the perfect time to broach the subject. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy watching Aroldis Chapman pitch and watching for the radar gun readings after each and every pitch. Likewise I’ll never forget the joy that watching Kirby Puckett play gave me from the time I was eight until I was 19.
Domestic abuse happens, far too often, in professional sports, and baseball has had far too many cases over the years. It happens to people in every profession, in every walk of life. It happens to the rich, and it happens to the middle and lower classes.
Maybe it can create a discussion about hero-worship among athletes, about putting them on a pedestal. It can create discussion between fathers and sons, between husbands and wives. If nothing else, maybe this article can be read by someone who will choose not to verbally or psychologically abuse their spouse or significant other. Maybe it can give courage to one person who suddenly realizes that she or he is a victim.
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