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The Rockies Can Take A Stand Against Domestic Violence - Rockies Zingers Colorado Rockies Baseball

The Rockies Can Take A Stand Against Domestic Violence

We try not to get too stern here at Rockies Zingers. Baseball’s supposed to be a fun game after all. Sure, we’ll get serious. We’ll walk through the numbers with the best of them, dissecting a player and critiquing their performance. We’ll also get sentimental, wallowing when our favorite player gets traded or wax nostalgic during some touching personal moments. Sometimes, though, certain things just need to be said, sternly.

I am sternly against any form of domestic violence, whether physical or psychological.

And so, I must also say that Jose Reyes should not play a single game in the Colorado Rockies major or minor league organization. He should be released.

I realize it’s much easier for me to type that than it is for the Rockies to implement that. But the Rockies have an opportunity here to not only set an example in their organization, but also to change their own precedent. They can take a stand against domestic violence. In doing so, they may also afford Reyes the time he needs to repair himself and his relationships with his family.

It’s not an easy thing to do. Change is hard, whether it’s for an organization, or for a person.

As an example, back in November of 2004, Denny Neagle was arrested for soliciting a prostitute. This was some time after he had also been involved in a drinking and driving accident. A week after the arrest for solicitation, the Rockies tried to cancel his contract, citing its “moral clause”. It’s not something the Rockies had done before. A few years prior to Neagle’s termination, in August of 1999, Pedro Astacio was arrested for punching his pregnant wife, a charge he pled guilty to in January of 2000. He not only finished out the 1999 season, but was the Rockies Opening Day starter in 2000. Back in that day, while domestic violence was serious, solicitation was considered more serious, more negative, more immoral. Thankfully, in terms of domestic violence, the Rockies appear to have had no issues since then.

If, as they say in Field of Dreams, baseball marks the times, at the turn of the millennium, those were much different times. In the early 2000s, those who committed domestic violence continued their careers with less of a stigma than those who use performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) face today. Wil Cordero, who was released by the Red Sox after assaulting his wife in 1997, remained in the league until 2005 even though there were reports of domestic abuse as late as 2004. In 2003, Astros shortstop Julio Lugo was arrested for hitting his wife in the face then slamming her head into a car door. The Astros released him soon after, but he continued playing until 2011. Brett Myers punched his wife in front of witnesses in 2006 yet still played until 2013. These situations aren’t all apples to apples, but I list them to show that those who committed domestic violence and yet still played baseball were prevalent.

Since those days, we’ve seen the videos and photographic record of domestic abuse cases in the NFL. Perception has changed, which I think is not only a good thing, but an important thing.

Baseball is also an industry of second chances and redemptions. I’m all for giving PED users a second chance. Jason Giambi is one example of a player associated with “cheating” that Rockies fans welcomed with open arms. One might also note that the Yankees tried to void Giambi’s contract because of PEDs, but were unsuccessful. If someone decided to have an illegally good time, whether it be with prostitution, alcohol or drugs, I do think they can work back to getting another shot. Matt Bush, the 2004 draft bust whose career was tarnished by alcohol and whose actions left an innocent man paralyzed, was given more chances than many thought he should have. Ironically, he made his major league debut today, the same day that Reyes’ suspension was announced.

Not knowing all the facts of the domestic violence case, nor the history of Reyes and his family, I also think Jose Reyes should have another chance to play baseball. It just shouldn’t be with the Colorado Rockies.

There are a few reasons I feel Reyes should become a new rule, instead of an expensive exception.

Upon his arrival, though touted as a good clubhouse presence, that quickly soured when he indicated he did not want to be with the Rockies. From the start, he generated negative publicity. For some teams, that in itself might be enough reason to release or trade that player.

For almost the entire offseason, spring training, and the start of the 2016 season, Reyes’s impending discipline hung a shadow over the Rockies. Every Trevor Story accomplishment brought the echo of “What happens when Reyes returns?” aftertaste. For an organization with a relatively new general manager trying to set a new tone, Reyes has been disruptive to that. On a day when we’re celebrating Jon Gray’s first major league victory, we yet again find our eyes turned askance at Jose Reyes. When Reyes returns mid-June, there might be more discussion of his potential playing time, laced with “What kind of a reception will Reyes receive at Coors Field?” articles than, as an example, coverage of Nolan Arenado’s All Star campaign or Trevor Story’s Rookie of the Year qualifications.

I do not believe a positive message is sent to the Colorado Rockies organization when another major league player is demoted or a minor league player loses playing time to accommodate getting Jose Reyes back into playing shape. I think it is contradictory to the concept of accountability, where a player plays hard just to lose their opportunity to someone else who has said doesn’t want to be a part of the organization.

I also think, not knowing the conditions of his treatment agreement nor what he has done since the incident, that Reyes should take some additional time away from the game to get counseling. I generally believe that most rational adults, when they get angry, prefer to walk off and cool off rather than hit another person. If they are mad enough where they are not rational and are prone to physical outbursts, then they are not in good shape. He needs to get himself and his family in shape before he worries about being in playing shape. To be frank, a release accomplishes that better than a trade would.

I will also admit a worry that I have that I hope would not occur. I would not want a player who is unhappy being with the Rockies to take that unhappiness home. Not necessarily domestic violence, but further unhappiness. Playing baseball in front of tens of thousands of fans is stressful enough. Reyes was already being booed by Rockies fans before the incident occurred, I can’t imagine a more favorable reception once he returns. I’d rather he got some time off, then started anew somewhere else.

Again, I realize it’s a lot easier for me to type this then for the Rockies to accomplish this. Though the Rockies tried to cancel Neagle’s contract, the union filed a grievance. The Yankees tried to cancel Giambi’s contract because of his PED usage but were unsuccessful. I would imagine it’s possible a grievance would be filed if Reyes was outright released.

Also, I realize that it’s not my money that would be thrown away.

But I do think it sends a strong message within the Rockies organization and to Rockies fans in Denver, that domestic abuse is unacceptable and that to fix it requires more drastic action than two months off, a minor league rehab assignment or a trade to another organization. Real change takes real time and just like with sobriety, requires many steps and a daily struggle. It takes strength to take a stand and the Rockies should display that strength now.

Note that this also has nothing to do with performance. Reyes would actually help the Rockies roster, if a bench role was what he was willing to take. But even if he hit as well as Jose Canseco did in his prime, I wouldn’t want either on the team. In some ways, it’s sad that Jose Canseco is remembered more for steroids than for domestic abuse.

Yet perhaps a release, with the guaranteed money that Reyes would still receive, it might free him from some of the stresses of playing baseball and facing the media while still receiving an income to support his family. It’d give him more time to strengthen himself and his bond with his family so the next time tempers get a little flared, he can just walk away and cool off.

It is a sensitive, complicated situation. I don’t have all, and maybe not even a part of the answer. However, I think it is so sensitive and complicated that I don’t think the Rockies can solve it. I don’t think any other team in baseball can solve it. Nor is it a good idea to pass the problems he has off to another organization to handle. Morally, I think releasing him is the right thing for the Rockies to do, not just for themselves, but also and more importantly, for him and his family. In the end, the only one who can change Jose Reyes is Jose Reyes and I think he’d best do that at home, with his family, and with counseling. I hope he does, and then, hope that he gets a second chance with an organization he wants to be with.

For further information about reporting domestic violence, there are many national and Colorado resources to investigate including The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

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About Richard Bergstrom

Originally from Chicago and after an extensive tour of most of the western United States, this is my second stint in Denver. I’ve lived here since 2004 and go to quite a few Rockies games, especially Rockies fireworks games! When I’m not writing about baseball, I enjoy karaoke downtown, a bit of poker and a bit too much of my iPad.

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