The Mark: Is Jose Reyes the victim of a double play?

Jose Reyes
Aug 5, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes (7) in the tenth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Coors Field. The Rockies defeated the Mariners 7-5 in 11 innings. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

This story originally appeared in Mile High Sports Magazine. Read the full digital edition.

The Colorado Rockies will be without their highest paid player, shortstop Jose Reyes, as the new season begins on April 4 in Arizona. That day, Reyes is scheduled to be in Hawaii – not on the beach, but in a courtroom where he’s facing charges of domestic abuse stemming from an altercation with his wife in a Maui hotel last Halloween.

It’s unlikely that Reyes – with no prior incidents on his record – will get an overly harsh sentence. Perhaps probation, a substantial fine, community service, etc. Jail time for a first offense is unusual. Actually, he could face deportation because he’s not a United States citizen.

But unlike what it would be like for most people, for Reyes, accountability for his actions does not start and end with a verdict from the justice system. Most people can’t be charged, tried or convicted more than once. Professional athletes can. After Hawaii’s legal system is done with Reyes, he is likely to be punished a second time, this time by Major League Baseball. Reyes is likely to be suspended for more than half the season.

Major League Baseball has joined the punishment business. This is the first year of a new, harsher mandate to deal with issues of domestic violence. Commissioner Rob Manfred has assembled a team of domestic violence investigators and experts to help him determine who gets punished for a misstep and how. A player can be suspended for accusations of domestic violence – a conviction is not necessary. Manfred’s team will determine how long your team is without the services of its starting shortstop, even if the State of Hawaii believes he has been disciplined appropriately.

Is this right? Should pro sports leagues be in the law and order business?

New York Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman received a 30-game suspension in early March for his involvement in an incident at his Florida home last October. He’s alleged to have fired a gun during an argument with his girlfriend, who was in another part of the residence when the weapon was discharged. No one was hurt and no charges were filed, yet Chapman became the very first MLB player – ever – suspended for domestic violence.

We all realize that with our overworked justice system, the punishment doesn’t always fit the crime. Take the case of University of Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon. In August of 2014, the incoming OU freshman purportedly punched a female student in the face in a Norman restaurant, breaking her jaw, cheek bone and orbital bone. Mixon pleaded to a misdemeanor and had to do community service. By all accounts outside of the Sooners athletic department, he deserved a far more severe punishment. Head coach Bob Stoops did “suspend” Mixon for the season, which actually turned out to be nothing worse than a redshirt year. Mixon returned last season to be the Sooners second-leading rusher.

Perhaps Chapman also deserved stiffer punishment. Perhaps not. But does all this mean that professional sports commissioners should be able to serve as their own judge and jury? Aren’t we on a slippery slope here? “Guilty!” Whether the legal system says so or not.

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In Response to Mark: “I do believe professional sports commissioners have the right to punish athletes or coaches even after their case has been ruled on by the justice system. Let’s remember, sometimes charges aren’t filed because there is not enough evidence to convict, not because something didn’t happen. Whether they like it or not, athletes are role models and also represent their sports teams. Regardless of if they are convicted, they are expected to conduct themselves in a certain way. Professional sports teams are private businesses, as well. They have the right to want their employees to be of a certain character and act a certain way. I’m assuming that facing charges for domestic violence is not a situation any team or league wants. That being said, I trust that the sports team and the leagues will do their due diligence and investigate the incident thoroughly. If they find there was absolutely no wrongdoing by the athletes or coaches, then no punishment should be administered. If they find differently, however, then game on!” {Julie Browman}

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