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Column: The Quiet Plague of Domestic Violence in Baseball

One of the saddest parts of growing up is seeing the flaws in your heroes. We’re all born with a pair of rose-colored glasses that fade away as we age and experience the world.

As a child, I had my time and place for superheroes or action movie stars, but my heroes were baseball players.

I watched their every move and copied what they did, my family still talks about how I would grab a little souvenir bat from the Kingdome and imitate the batting stances of all the Mariners players at the time, all the way down to Joey Cora‘s sleeve tug.

As an adult, it is startling to see how widespread and common certain behaviors are amongst people I would have looked up to as a child.

I’m all for keeping politics and personal garbage out of sports, but the issue of domestic violence, something that has been addressed inconsistently in other sports, is silently growing within Major League Baseball, and it needs to be taken care of. Cubs shortstop Addison Russell was accused of domestic violence by his wife last season as she filed for divorce.

Rays catcher Derek Norris was suspended for the final month of last season and fined $100,000 after his former fiancée accused him of physical and verbal abuse. This week, domestic assault charges against Boston knuckleballer Steven Wright were retired in court, and he and his wife stated that they “remain committed to working together to improve (their) relationship.”

We should all hurt for Mrs. Wright, who should never “regret the attention this has caused (her) family”, and who likely worked to retire and dismiss the charges against Steven. Instances of abusers convincing their victims that what happened wasn’t that bad or that they’re lying are way too common in cases involving domestic violence.

“As a prosecutor you do get frustrated when the victim doesn’t follow through,” Cook County prosecutor Anita Alvarez told Reuters. “It could be a threat. Many times, it’s not. Many times it’s the honeymoon — ‘Let’s get back together, I love you, it won’t happen again’.”

We’ve learned over the last few months more than ever that assault and abuse of various forms is kept quiet far more than it should. Those with money and influence have and will use the means at their disposal to keep their actions quiet, but just as high-profile individuals have their platform to influence social change, organizations have the same platform to condemn abuse and the like.

Baseball, although it is America’s pastime, is certainly not at the front of the mind of most Americans. I believe Rob Manfred is as good a commissioner as any, and these instances have been dealt with properly.

But as we see inconsistent efforts taken in other leagues, particularly the NFL, to punish offenders and condemn their actions, MLB has a great opportunity to set the standard.

No man’s talent or money, and especially not his influence on ticket sales, should exempt him. I feel these instances are “quiet” simply because of baseball’s lack of prominence for many people, but the opportunity is still there.

Like Alvarez alludes to, abusers have a certain disturbing and disgustingly manipulative emotional grasp on their victims.

Most victims, when they drop their charges, won’t have another opportunity to bring justice upon their abuser, at least for that particular incident.

Athletes, however, can be subjected to discipline from their leagues. It is indeed the responsibility of the various leagues to make their voice heard regarding these topics, and harsh and condemning discipline is step one.

I feel for the spouses of the abusers, and I can’t imagine the fear Wright’s wife felt as she wrote that statement with him and thought ahead to what “working on their relationship” would look like, and how many bruises it would leave her with.Sure, nobody’s perfect, but nobody’s life should be destroyed by your imperfection.

So, Major League Baseball, and all commissioners, do the right thing. A slap on the wrist isn’t good enough. Make it hurt.

Watch:  Pitcher Steven Wright Charged With Domestic Assault

1 Comment

  1. Tanya Johnson

    December 28, 2017 at 4:23 am

    While I agree with you on most points, nothing was ever proved about Addison Russell. It could be that her friend, who seems conniving and rude as it is, made it up. The post was deleted. MLB didn’t investigate much further so assuming that yes, he is guilty because she is a woman and we all must always cater to what the female says.

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