PORT ST. LUCIE — Jeurys Familia accepted a 15-game suspension Wednesday. The Mets closer made a point to say he never “physically touched, harmed or threatened my wife,” during an October incident in his Fort Lee apartment that ended with Familia being investigated by MLB for domestic violence for the last three months. And then he took responsibility and apologized to the organization, his teammates and fans Wednesday.
Now when is MLB going to take responsibility for making us wait three months to clear up nothing?
Familia was arrested in Fort Lee, N.J., early on Oct. 31 and charged with simple assault, the equivalent of a misdemeanor under New Jersey law. The legal case was dismissed at the request of the alleged victim, Familia’s wife Bianca Rivas.
Still, under the policy which was implemented by MLB and the MLBPA in 2015, commissioner Rob Manfred has the authority to investigate and discipline Familia. Manfred can punish players even if the player is not charged or convicted in a criminal matter.
This is a really murky grey area and Manfred’s statement Wednesday didn’t really make it clear exactly what Familia was being suspended for.
“The evidence reviewed by my office does not support a determination that Mr. Familia physically assaulted his wife, or threatened her or others with physical force or harm, on October 31, 2016,” Manfred said in the statement announcing Familia’s suspension. “Nevertheless, I have concluded that Mr. Familia’s overall conduct that night was inappropriate, violated the Policy, and warrants discipline.”
And yet, later in the statement, Manfred said that he based his decision in part on the fact that Familia has worked with a domestic violence counselor.
“It is clear that Mr. Familia regrets what transpired that night and takes full responsibility for his actions. Mr. Familia already has undergone 12 ninety-minute counseling sessions with an approved counselor specializing in the area of domestic violence, and received a favorable evaluation from the counselor regarding his willingness to take concrete steps to ensure that he is not involved in another incident of this type,” Manfred’s statement read.
So again, what is Familia actually being suspended for?
MLB is trying to send a statement with it’s domestic violence policy, it’s a message to players and fans. Unfortunately, this decision is just a mixed message.
If they found ANY evidence of ANY type domestic violence, then MLB needed to hand down a serious suspension. Fifteen games is an expensive slap on the wrist. Manfred the freedom to make arbitrary suspensions — 53 games for Jose Reyes in 2016, 30 for Aroldis Chapman and 15 for Familia. If 50 games is a good enough penalty for a first-time performance-enhancing drug cheat, then it’s a good starting point of a mandatory suspension for any evidence of any type of domestic violence.
But without that guideline and definitive rules to determine violation and punishment, MLB, the players and we are left in this murky grey area that we find ourselves in with Familia’s suspension, despite the supposed three months of investigation.
If MLB did not find that evidence, why randomly 15 games without pay? Why the counseling?
I understand these situations are never simple to sort through and find the absolute truth.
It’s not uncommon for victims of domestic violence to refuse to cooperate with investigators. The pictures of Rivas with a scratch on her chest and a bruise on her cheek are chilling. She told New Jersey prosecutor Arthur Balsamo that the scratch was the result of the couple’s young son, and that the bruise was caused by her resting her face in her hand.
I know there are certainly big financial motives to cover up in any of these cases. Familia is going to lose just over $730,000.00 in lost wages of his $7.425 million salary with just this 15-game suspension, so I can understand some being skeptical of motives here.
But, MLB has made a point to say they were doing a thorough investigation during the past three months (which conveniently allowed Familia to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, which MLB promoted the heck out of). Repeatedly, MLB said that Rivas and Familia cooperated fully with the investigation and Manfred made the point again Wednesday.
But clearly they didn’t find what they were looking for: an answer. MLB spent four months digging through this and came up with nothing better than a mixed message on Familia and their domestic violence policy.