The Legal Implications of Jose Reyes’ Indefinite Suspension

When news reports broke in November that Jose Reyes had been arrested in Hawaii for an alleged incident of domestic violence, many assumed that he would be the first test case under Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy. As I noted at the time the agreement was announced last August, both MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association have agreed to a new set of rules to govern cases in which a player has been accused of domestic violence, sexual assault, or child abuse.

Among the provisions in the new policy was one giving Commissioner Manfred the power to place any player accused of domestic violence on paid administrative leave for up to seven days. This provision was intended to give the league sufficient time to investigate the alleged incident before deciding on an appropriate level of punishment, while at the same time preventing a player involved in a domestic incident from appearing on the playing field.

Given the seven-day time limit of any such interim suspension, MLB’s announcement on Tuesday that the league was indefinitely placing Reyes on paid leave until after his pending criminal proceedings in Hawaii have been resolved initially took some by surprise. Indeed, considering that Reyes’s criminal trial in Hawaii isn’t scheduled to begin until April 4th, the leave that MLB announced on Tuesday will undoubtedly extend well beyond the time limit seemingly authorized under the new domestic violence policy.

In reality, however, although many observers – including me – missed this detail when MLB first announced its new domestic violence policy in August, the new policy agreed to by the league and union did in fact include an additional provision that applies to Reyes’ case.

As MLB announced on Tuesday, Commissioner Manfred indefinitely suspended Reyes with pay under Section III.C.2 of the league’s domestic violence policy. That provision gives Commissioner Manfred the authority to indefinitely suspend a player pending the resolution of any legal proceedings relating to the alleged domestic incident. So because Reyes’s criminal case in Hawaii remains on-going, MLB has the power to suspend him with pay until his legal case has been resolved.

Although many overlooked it at the time, the league’s initial announcement of the new policy from back in August did suggest such a possibility, stating that “under certain circumstances” MLB “may suspend the player with pay until legal proceedings are completed (at which point the paid suspension may be converted to an unpaid suspension).”

To date, the union and league have not yet publicly released the final version of the domestic violence policy, but instead have only provided a summary of the document. However, I have been able to confirm that Section III.C.2 of the agreement provides as follows:

In certain cases, the Commissioner may decide that he is not in a position to impose discipline until the resolution of a criminal or legal proceeding, but that allowing the Player to play during the pendency of the criminal or legal proceeding would result in substantial and irreparable harm to either the Club or Major League Baseball. In such exceptional cases, the Commissioner may suspend the Player with pay pending resolution of the criminal or legal proceeding (or until the Commissioner determines that he has just cause to impose an unpaid, disciplinary suspension).

So Commissioner Manfred has obviously determined that Reyes’s case presents sufficiently “exceptional” circumstances warranting an indefinite, interim suspension. The MLBPA, for its part, does not necessarily appear to oppose this characterization, as the union released a statement on Tuesday suggesting that it would not immediately appeal Reyes’ suspension, but may do so in the future if his situation “is not resolved in a timely fashion.”

Section III.C.2 goes on to provide that if a player is initially suspended indefinitely pending the completion of his criminal proceedings, only to then ultimately be suspended by the league without pay for the incident, he may be credited with “time served” from his initial, interim suspension. In other words, so long as the player pays back any salary he receives during the initial suspension, the time that he sits out during the interim period will count towards the unpaid suspension that MLB ultimately levies against him.

On the one hand, giving MLB the power to delay any decision in a domestic violence case until after the underlying criminal proceedings have been resolved makes perfect sense. Because the police investigating Reyes in Hawaii are the closest to the scene, they undoubtedly have access to evidence not currently available to MLB’s investigators. So it’s understandable that MLB would want to wait to learn all of the details regarding an incident before settling on a final punishment.

From the player’s perspective, though, the possibility of being placed on indefinite leave could potentially impact his strategy in the accompanying legal proceedings in significant ways. If MLB does elect to temporarily suspend a player, then the longer that the player allows his court proceedings to drag out, the longer he will be away from the game — regardless of his guilt or innocence. And depending upon how long it takes to reach a final resolution in the legal proceedings, then the player may still be facing an additional, unpaid suspension under the domestic violence policy as well.

While it is true that players will continue to receive pay during any initial, interim suspension, spending any significant period of time away from the game will inevitably make it harder for the player to return to the field at a peak level of performance. In Reyes’s case, this issue is magnified by the fact that he will presumably now miss all of spring training, and as a result will likely need to spend at least a few additional weeks getting game-ready after any subsequent, unpaid suspension is served, before returning to the majors.

As a result, the existence of Section III.C.2 could motivate some players to resolve any criminal proceedings arising out of their alleged domestic violence incident more quickly than they otherwise would, so as to minimize the amount of time they are away from the playing field. Along these lines, it is in some ways surprising that Reyes hasn’t yet reached some form of plea bargain with the prosecutors in Hawaii.

At the same time, however, because the potential punishment for domestic violence varies by state, differences in state law may affect a player’s amenability to pleading guilty to a crime of domestic violence. In Hawaii, for example, a first offense of the crime of “Abuse of family or household members” carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence of two days.

So even if it might be in Reyes’ best interest from a baseball perspective to resolve the criminal proceedings as quickly as possible – so that he can begin serving his eventual suspension and return to the field as soon as possible – there may nevertheless be other reasons why his attorneys would advise him to take his case to trial.

As a result, any player facing a pending domestic violence charge may very well find himself being pulled in two directions, with his baseball advisers (or, potentially, his team) encouraging him to resolve the criminal case as quickly as possible, while his attorneys advise him to let the legal process run its course.

Of course, any player worried about facing such a predicament can avoid the issue almost entirely by refraining from acts of domestic violence in the first place.

But in a case where a player truly believes that he is innocent of the charges, the possibility of an interim suspension under Section III.C.2 may place some pressure on the player to reach a deal with prosecutors that he otherwise would not have taken. So from a due process perspective, the threat of an indefinite suspension could deter a falsely accused player from fully defending himself in court.

As a result, the possibility that players may now face indefinite, preliminary suspensions upon being criminally charged with an act of domestic violence certainly makes MLB’s new domestic violence agreement an even more substantial change in policy than many had previously understood.



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Nathaniel Grow is an Associate Professor of Legal Studies at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business. He is the author of Baseball on Trial: The Origin of Baseball's Antitrust Exemption, as well as a number of sports-related law review articles. You can follow him on Twitter @NathanielGrow. The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not express the views or opinions of the University of Georgia.


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MajesticOwl
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MajesticOwl
3 months 3 days ago

Good, I say. That gives them incentive not to be violent. It’s hard to have sympathy when we all know that domestic violence is under-reported already and still hard to prove when it is reported. Guys get away with it much of the time. Most guys charged actually did it, and the only question is whether the prosecutor can make a strong enough legal case for something that is difficult to prove.

The fact that a guy can hit his wife or girlfriend, get paid for not going to work, and then probably not even face any real legal consequences is already not fair, especially to the women they victimize. I’m not going to lose any sleep when millionaire wife-beaters have their careers harmed slightly.

It would be better if these suspensions were without pay.

esenator
Member
esenator
3 months 3 days ago

“Innocent until proven guilty” is still a thing. You seem to be assuming that everyone accused is guilty because “most” of them are. That’s a pretty troubling stance and one I’m glad MLB isn’t following.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC
3 months 2 days ago

No, he assumed that most were guilty because most are. “Most.” The key word here is “most.” Due process should and does apply to how the government treats you. It has no bearing on MLB (and MLBPA).

ogZayYsj3r7CGsz
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ogZayYsj3r7CGsz
3 months 2 days ago

They mostly come at night. Mostly.

Doctor Of Utter Clarification
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Doctor Of Utter Clarification
3 months 1 day ago

Reading comprehension. The article discusses the policy’s effect on the accused’s civil rights.

Since when is “most” a good enough reason to forsake the presumption of innocence, from a governmental or private perspective? In your world, one well planned and placed
false accusation is enough to deliberately destroy a career.

dl80
Member
dl80
3 months 2 days ago

But we aren’t throwing them in jail without a trial, just making it so they can’t show up at work.

The same thing would happen at any high-profile job (news anchor, high school teacher, etc.).

LHPSU
Member
LHPSU
3 months 2 days ago

Which would still be paid leave.

rustybob
Member
rustybob
3 months 2 days ago

These things aren’t quite as cut and dry as you’d like to make them out to be. Again, these are all parallels to football, since domestic violence cases are still quite new to MLB…

Ray Rice received a weak suspension, and even had the backing of his organization, until the video of him knocking out his fiancé got released. In this case, he was guilty, and then, literally and figuratively, was found to be “more guilty” once the video got released.

Greg Hardy… If you’re from the Carolina area (I’m not, from Canada, just found some links to unbiased sources on the incident), you probably already know that the story in the mainstream media is a LOT different than what was reported in the mainstream media. I, personally, suspect that he likely committed a crime. However, that’s where things get into the grey area. Sure, pictures of the girl he allegedy abused looked pretty awful. But did no one pay any attention whatsoever to the police report that he also had bruises and cuts on him? Did everyone forget that he made his own 911 call? The girl even changed her story many, many, times, even before she was apparently paid off to not show up to court. And if Deadspin could get photos of the girl, am I supposed to believe that they also didn’t get the pictures of Greg Hardy? I’m gonna say the chances of that are probably zero. But if we saw what happened to him, we might night feel sorry for the girl anymore.

In the articles from the Carolina newspaper, the bench trial was a travesty to that whole “innocent until proven guilty” idea. There were such gaping inconsistences in the case, that, at best, it should’ve been a mistrial, but much more likely, he should’ve been “not guilty”. There was even a video of the judge talking at one point in the trial, and he seemed to be the exact opposite of impartial.

That was why he requested a jury trial, as was his right. Now, despite the fact that the main witness just completely disappeared, the police would have been allowed to use her previous testimony in the jury trial, so long as there was a police officer, essentialy, ready to “vouch” for the accuracy of her statements. Not a single one would. Of course the case go thrown out, and eventually even removed from his record.

Maybe he paid her off, maybe he didn’t. Maybe he is absolutely guilty, maybe there was some level of self defense. Only two people know for sure. But if you wan’t something that’s at least closer to the real truth, ESPN and the rest of the mainstream media aren’t going to give it to you. Nobody cares about a shady judge trying to throw a rich black man in jail. Especially after the Ray Rice incident, they wanted to see him guilty.

Hardy was a moron a couple of times this season though, as was Jerry Jones. Although, it kind of makes you wonder a bit about the case. Jerry Jones at one point said he thought he was innocent. I thought he was delusional until I read the articles from the Carolina newspapers. And there was outrage when he changed him Twitter profile saying something about being innocent. Maybe, only in his mind, is that true. Or maybe some facts never did come out.

TL;DR – Things are never as black and white as you’d think they are. Especially if your only source for the news is from the mainstream media. And I believe that Deadspin probably got Greg Hardy’s photo’s when they leaked the others as well, but that would hurt the credibility of the case when they saw he was bruised and cut up as well.

jianadaren
Member
jianadaren
3 months 1 day ago

If you cared at all for the wives, you’d definitely want their husbands to be paid. The MLBPA has done more for the welfare of player’s wives than the league could ever dream of doing.

Furthermore, this is absolutely insane. It gives players zero incentive to not be violent. All it does is give them incentive to not get accused.

rustybob
Member
rustybob
3 months 3 days ago

I actually don’t see this as being any different than the Exempt/Commission’s Permission list in the NFL. Given that the commissioner is handing this out, I’d say it’s an exact parallel.

I don’t think something like this gives them any incentive to wrap up their case early. If you’re Jose Reyes, and you know you’re still getting your 22 Million paycheque, until your case is settled, other than pride, what is your rush?

And are any teams, in any sport, truly looking to have their players with domestic violence allegations against them back ASAP? It hasn’t been that way in football. I guess we’ll see in baseball.

burritooverdose
Member
burritooverdose
3 months 3 days ago

if he is placed on unpaid leave, he is not getting that 22 million dollar paycheck.

rustybob
Member
rustybob
3 months 2 days ago

But as of right now, he’s on paid leave. The same thing happened to Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy in the NFL. They were put on paid leave and told to stay away from the team until their legal matters were resolved. That description is exactly where Reyes finds himself right now. Both Peterson and Hardy got 14 or 15 games worth of pay (out of 16) while dealing with child abuse and domestic violence allegations, respectively.

Owen S
Member
Owen S
3 months 3 days ago

“it would be better if these suspensions were without pay.”

If he were suspended without pay while MLB was actively conducting their investigation, then he would, effectively, sustain the punishment of a guilty man before MLB had even determined his guilt. And even if he is obviously guilty (I’m not saying he is), he’d be serving a sentence of an indeterminate length while MLB tries to figure out the appropriate sentence. That is all very backwards and contradicts the presumption of innocence implicitly granted to all players accused of suspension-worthy acts.

dl80
Member
dl80
3 months 2 days ago

Wait…the punishment for domestic violence is now getting fired from your job? I thought it was jail time.

stuck in a slump
Member
stuck in a slump
3 months 2 days ago

Pretty sure that it wouldn’t be considered punishment for something that you didn’t do, rather it would be punishment for dragging MLB and your team through the mud by putting yourself in this situation. If this was some baseless accusation, then it wouldn’t be going to trial. If the league finds that there isn’t enough evidence to punish him further, then the player is only punished for dragging his team and MLB into it. Which I’m pretty sure is a clause in the CBA.

Rabble Rabble
Member
Rabble Rabble
3 months 2 days ago
jkdjeff
Member
jkdjeff
3 months 2 days ago

MLB is under no obligation to adhere to the same standards of due process as the criminal justice system. There IS no presumption of innocence.

In many many other jobs, these kinds of allegations becoming public would lose you your job; in this case he’s being put on paid leave pending a resolution.

It’s far better treatment than most people get.

RichW
Member
RichW
3 months 2 days ago

This is no different than a cop or teacher accused of a crime. Paid leave is the norm and any attempt to make it unpaid would lose in court quickly. Not liking it doesn’t matter.

RichW
Member
RichW
3 months 2 days ago

Another point. If he is in fact convicted the Rockies would have a case to recover some of the money paid in my opinion.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC
3 months 2 days ago

Jose Reyes’ days of substantially adding to his career earning are over, and it is quite possible he retires after his contract is up. And whatever suspension he gets to start the 2016 season will have no bearing on how teams view him after 2017. So from a financial standpoint, Reyes is best off fighting as hard as possible to win in court so his correlated unpaid suspension is as short as possible.

RichW
Member
RichW
3 months 2 days ago

If he’s not convicted there should be no unpaid suspension.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC
3 months 2 days ago

That’s just, like, your opinion, man.

PigsEyePaul
Member
Member
PigsEyePaul
3 months 2 days ago

What if he makes some sort of deal to avoid conviction like celebrities seem to do so often?

Ray Rice wasn’t convicted of anything as far as I know, do you think he should not have been suspended?

Easyenough
Member
Member
Easyenough
3 months 2 days ago

The union had clear player interest in mind in agreeing to this policy: who wants to go to a jury trial when the institution they work for has already found them guilty?

Paul22
Member
Paul22
3 months 2 days ago

That would not be allowed as evidence. Plenty of people get fired from their job before going to trial for a crime. He simply could have been suspended w/o pay pending resolution of the trial with a stipulation that he would be paid should MLB conclude no suspension was necessary. Reyes has as much chance of being found innocent by a jury as my cat does when a mouse has gone missing. This definitely gets plea bargained. Probably waiting on the INS to agree not to deport

MLB already had power to suspend for domestic abuse, just like steroids. These agreements are just window dressings to cover up MLB’s inaction in the past and make the powers look new to justify their previous inaction

Paul22
Member
Paul22
3 months 2 days ago

Sorry, this makes no sense. MLB and its compliant press has repeatedly said Manfred needs no arrest or conviction in which to suspend a player without pay. In Reyes case we have all kinds of evidence which includes photos, hospital reports and an actual arrest. A suspension is a slam dunk even without a conviction.

In Chapmans case, there is no evidence beyond an initial allegation since retracted, which was contested by other witnesses. There was no physical evidence of injury, no medical treatment or reports, no photos. Nothing besides firing a gun while alone in a garage which is legal where he lives. Police found no evidence for arrest, and a subsequent state investigation agreed.

Yet Chapman could be serving a suspension without pay even before Reyes. LOL.

Also, if Reyes gets deported, he has no incentive to return the money he is paid since he is effectively banned for life.

alekhine8
Member
alekhine8
3 months 2 days ago

Paul – with Chapman, barring some major new development it appears he is not getting charged criminally. It’s more or less resolved so MLB can act (or not act) accordingly.

Whereas with Reyes they could have access to some information, but maybe not everything. Might as well let it play out.

Matthew
Member
Member
3 months 2 days ago

I think this move is really smart by MLB. They essentially are passing the buck to the legal system where it belongs in a way that neither the player nor fans should have a huge problem with.

Fillmore
Member
Fillmore
3 months 2 days ago

Sorry this has nothing to do with the article, but is Fangraphs killing anyone else’s browser? The last few weeks it freezes up both Chrome and Firefox, and I get long-running JavaScript messages that keep coming up until I have to Ctrl-Alt-Delete and kill the browser. It’s making the site virtually unusable for me. Not sure if it’s a problem with the site or just my computer, but it only happens to me when I visit Fangraphs.

rustybob
Member
rustybob
3 months 2 days ago

I’ve noticed the same thing on Edge as well, although not with a JavaScript error, just that I can see a (not responding) line in the tab in the browser. It seems to be like it has something to do with the ads. I always notice that when things freeze, the ads aren’t currently showing, and when everything starts working again, the ads have finally shown up.

I find this issue isn’t unique to Fangraphs either. This happens on other sites for me as well. I seem to notice that it mainly (always?) happens on sites that have ads that refresh as you move up and down the page, and sometimes will even move the ad from somewhere out of sight to somewhere that is.

Personally, I find that even closing the browser doesn’t truly fix whatever is wrong for me. I have to reboot my PC every time to restore the expected responsiveness. I’ve spent a LOT of money on my computers, so it’s not like it’s a lack of horsepower that’s causing these issues. It just seems to be the reality of modern day web ads.

BobbyBlinger
Member
BobbyBlinger
3 months 2 days ago

If you are on Firefox – click the top right settings button, click add ons, scroll down to Shockwave Flash and set it to ‘never activate’. this fixed the problem for me entirely.

Rabble Rabble
Member
Rabble Rabble
3 months 2 days ago

Have the same problem on here and /.

Phillies113
Member
Member
3 months 2 days ago

A paid suspension is probably the most fair way to go about with this process. You certainly can’t do nothing to Reyes; even if he’s innocent, it presents a bad image of the league if you allow a player to take the field when a DV issue remains unsolved.

Also, this:

“Of course, any player worried about facing such a predicament can avoid the issue almost entirely by refraining from acts of domestic violence in the first place.”

neuter your dogma
Member
neuter your dogma
3 months 2 days ago

Also, threat of suspension (with or without pay) could chill a spouse”’s incentive to report an abuser if the abuser is the sole source of the family’s income. Wouldn’t it be better to escrow the accused abuser’s pay until the matter is decided? Just a thought.

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