Fans began to “boo” as the Minnesota Twins shortstop, Carlos Correa walked up to the plate at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. “Cheater” rang out as Correa made contact with the ball and successfully landed on base.
Some fans will never forgive the former Houston Astros player for being involved in the sign stealing scandal a few years back. It isn’t that past and present baseball teams don’t try to gain an edge by figuring out the catcher’s signs to the pitcher for more successful at bats, it’s that there are policies in place that prohibit the use of electronic devices to capture and communicate the opposing teams signals and the Astros violated this policy. None of the players were punished, in fact they were given immunity for their cooperation. A few managers were suspended for up to a year for failing to prevent the violation. The team was fined $5 million and lost draft picks. Although it was touted as the most
severe punishment ever handed down, it seemed rather watered-down compared to what
happened to a number of players a hundred years ago.
The members of the Chicago “Black Sox” paid heavy consequences for being accused of intentionally throwing the 1919 World Series for money, even though they were acquitted after a public trial in 1921. The event led to establishing the first Commissioner of Baseball to restore the integrity of the game. This lone person was given incredible power. A permanent ban from professional baseball was enforced on the accused eight White Sox players, including any consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame. There was no support for these players to challenge this decision or a strong union to change the circumstances that may have led to the scandal. They were grossly underpaid, even though they were highly skilled and successful players, having won the 1917 World Series. Back then, players were restricted by the reserve clause, which kept them from switching teams without permission. It wasn’t until 1968 that the first collective bargaining was negotiated. In 1970, players achieved the ability to negotiate the right to arbitration to resolve grievances.
The idea for a commissioner to be responsible for maintaining the integrity of baseball within the game itself has merit, whether it’s establishing consequences for acts of cheating such as sign stealing or suspensions for players who take performance enhancing drugs. Baseball, the great American pastime should have an even playing field so that teams have an equal opportunity to win the World Series and players reach the Hall of Fame based on talent, not steroid use. But is it wise for the commissioner to expand his oversight of the playing field and enter to judge the players’ bedroom activities? It gets dicey.
The best example of this is Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer, who received a 324-
game suspension for violating MLB-MLBPA Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy that was established in 2015. The policy grants MLB commissioner Rob Manfred the authority to suspend players for “just cause”. Bauer received the most severe suspension ever handed down and he is the first player to appeal a decision. He vehemently denies violating the policy. Bauer enjoys rough sex with consenting partners. Last year a San Diego woman accused him of sexual assault during two sexual encounters and received a temporary restraining order. After a four-day hearing, a L.A. Superior Court Judge dissolved the temporary restraining order, ruling that Bauer did not pose a threat and the injuries sustained were not the result of anything the woman objected to before or during the encounter. She sent a text message asking to be choked out. The pictures given as evidence were disturbing and would most likely have led to a conviction or plea agreement, if she hadn’t given her consent to this treatment.
The L.A. County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the case for five months and determined that the People were unable to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. It seems to be a classic he said, she said scenario. It’s difficult to understand giving consent to be seriously hurt for sexual gratification, but a line does exist. Uncle Sam doesn’t want to monitor bedroom activities between two consenting adults.
Who should fans root for or “boo” at during arbitration? The MLB joint policy on domestic
abuse was written by committee with the MLPBPA to incorporate fairness, education and
counseling for this difficult and painful issue. Trevor Bauer won the National League Cy Young Award in 2020 and joined the Dodgers on a 3-year, $102 million dollar contract. He is suspended without pay and his contract will expire as he works through the process. Since the commissioner is appointed by the owners, should he continue to wield such power without transparency and oversight?
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