MLB Suspends Aroldis Chapman, Sets Important Precedent

When Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed to terms on a new domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse policy last August, it was clear that the first few cases to arise under the new agreement would take on heightened importance. As I noted at the time, under the agreement MLB and the union agreed that any past suspension — or lack thereof — for an act of domestic violence would not serve as a precedent in any future cases arising under the new policy. Instead, the initial suspensions handed out by Commissioner Manfred under the agreement would establish a new baseline against which the fairness of any future punishment would be judged.

As a result, Tuesday’s news that MLB had officially suspended Aroldis Chapman for the first 30 games of the 2016 season established a significant milestone, marking the first case in which a player has been suspended without pay under baseball’s new domestic violence agreement. This is all the more noteworthy considering that Chapman was never actually charged for the incident that led to his suspension. Although baseball’s new policy clearly permits MLB to punish players in cases that do not result in criminal prosecution, it wasn’t clear to what extent the league would be willing to suspend someone for an incident that did not result in the player being charged with a crime.

Further, because Chapman declared shortly after his suspension was announced on Tuesday that he would not be appealing the punishment, MLB has avoided the possibility that the 30-game suspension could be overturned by an arbitrator, creating an immediate precedent for future cases.

Although it was not originally announced as such, the fact that Chapman was willing to accept his punishment without a fight — after less than two weeks ago having vowed to appeal any suspension — strongly suggested that MLB and the players union had negotiated the length of the suspension before it was announced, a fact that the New York Times confirmed last nightIndeed, considering the precedent-setting nature of Chapman’s case, the MLBPA would have almost certainly appealed any suspension that it viewed as being overly punitive in order to avoid setting an adverse precedent for future cases in which a player is accused of — but not charged with — an act of domestic violence.

Moreover, because any suspension of 45 or more games would have prevented Chapman from reaching free agency after the 2016 — preventing him from accruing a full six-plus years of service time this season — Chapman himself would have been strongly motivated to appeal any suspension of a significantly longer duration, even if the union did not support the move.

Thus, in many respects, it made sense for all involved to reach some sort of agreement on Chapman’s ultimate suspension. From MLB’s perspective, even if Manfred may have ideally preferred to suspend Chapman for a longer period of time, the league nevertheless benefits by avoiding the threat of an appeal and establishing an immediate precedent under its new domestic violence policy. Meanwhile, from the union’s perspective, the MLBPA was able to guarantee that the first precedent set under the new policy was one with which it could live. And from Chapman’s vantage point, he was able to ensure that he would still reach free agency after the upcoming season.

That having been said, the fact that Chapman was suspended for 30 games does not necessarily mean that all future offenders will automatically be subject to a suspension of a similar length. For instance, a player actually convicted of domestic violence might very well face an even more stringent punishment under the league’s policy. Along these lines, if his Jose Reyes were to lose upcoming domestic violence trial in Hawaii, it would not be at all surprising to see him suspended for more than 30 games.

On the other hand, it is also possible that some future players could try to argue that they deserve a lesser punishment than Chapman in light of any potential differences between the facts of their respective cases. For example, Manfred’s statement on Tuesday suggested that a 30-game suspension was particularly warranted in Chapman’s case due to his “use of a firearm and the impact of that behavior on his partner.” Therefore, a player appealing a future punishment could argue that he should be subject to a shorter suspension in a case where no firearm was involved.

Still, though, after Tuesday it is reasonable to assume that most future players accused of domestic violence will likely be facing a suspension of at least 30 games, if not more.

This raises the question of whether a baseline suspension of 30 games is a sufficient punishment for a player who commits an act of domestic violence. One the one hand, when judged in comparison to the way in which MLB punishes players for performance enhancing drug use — which carries a mandatory 80-game suspension for a first offense — one could argue that 30 games isn’t enough for a crime that, unlike PED use, results in the infliction of physical and/or emotional harm on an actual victim.

Similarly, considering that Roberto Hernandez was suspended for 20 games in 2012 for engaging in age and identity fraud, one could also reasonably contend that a 30-game suspension is a comparably insufficient punishment for Chapman, considering that he was accused of choking his girlfriend and shoving her against a wall, before firing off eight rounds in his garage while his girlfriend hid outside in the bushes.

As a point of comparison along these lines, under the National Football League’s recently adopted domestic violence policy, any professional football player who commits an act of domestic violence faces a mandatory six-game suspension — or, 50% longer than the four-game suspension imposed on NFL players for a PED offense. Thus, an NFL player accused of domestic violence will be forced to sit out 37.5% of his team’s regular season games. In contrast, Chapman’s 30-game suspension represents only around 18.5% of the MLB season.

At the same time, however, Chapman’s suspension does represent a substantial change in MLB’s handling of domestic violence cases. Considering that, until now, the league has never seriously punished a player for engaging in an act of domestic violence, the fact that MLB has established a new baseline of a 30-game suspension is not insignificant.

All in all, then, even if some would have undoubtedly liked to see the league go even further, Tuesday’s suspension of Aroldis Chapman sends an important message to MLB players: anyone engaging in an act of domestic violence in the future can expect to face a suspension of at least 30 games, if not longer.

We hoped you liked reading MLB Suspends Aroldis Chapman, Sets Important Precedent by Nathaniel Grow!

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Nathaniel Grow is an Associate Professor of Business Law and Ethics at Indiana University's Kelley School 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 Indiana University.

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DeanAnna
Member
DeanAnna

Who needs actual evidence anyways?

mbenson
Member
mbenson

COMIN’ IN HOT

Walter
Member
Walter

HA, I wonder what the first comment hot-take percentage is.

Greg Simons
Member
Greg Simons

This isn’t a court of law. The standards are different.

DeanAnna
Member
DeanAnna

That I understand to a point, it seems a calculated move by the union, allowing this precedent be set in exchange from preventing the extra year of team control to the Yankees. It works in Chapman’s case, but I wonder how it will go for a player that isn’t about to get paid.

But then again, the “different standards” argument is currently being used to deny due process to university students accused of rape. At some point.

Dooduh
Member
Dooduh

It’s a workplace policy violation, not a criminal prosecution, but those are minor details.

SteveM
Member
SteveM

The circumstantial evidence is clear and overwhelming, and more than sufficient for the purposes of MLB.
I don’t boo players, regardless of their team, but I will heartily boo chapman whenever given the opportunity. I wish him nothing but pain and misery. Electric stuff or not, he’s a putrid human being.

Fernando
Member
Fernando

That’s…a little strong. Chapman did something terrible, no doubt, and I certainly agree that charges don’t have to be filed in a case like this for a suspension to be warranted. But the fact is we don’t know everything that happened, and even if we did, I know I’ve done some pretty awful stuff in my life and wouldn’t want those things to define me for the rest of time. Chapman will serve his suspension, lose a big chunk of money, and be under constant scrutiny – all by his own doing. But then I hope he gets himself some help so that if in, say, 5 years or so if he’s cleaned up his act we won’t all be sitting around still talking about the dumbest night of his life.

Cool Lester Smooth
Member
Cool Lester Smooth

Yeah, this passes the “unstable asshole” threshold, but not the “irredeemable piece of shit” threshold (also known as The Hardy Line).

Hopefully he learns that shooting up his garage is not an acceptable way to deal with relationship problems, and we never hear his name in the offseason again.

bohknows
Member
bohknows

Man what did J.J. do???

gnomez
Member
gnomez

@bohknows

Greg Hardy, NFL

davedsg
Member
davedsg

There was probably some alcohol involved too.

jdbolick
Member

I’m so tired of the “we don’t know everything” line, especially regarding this particular incident. There is absolutely nothing we could learn about the situation that would make Chapman repeatedly firing his gun immediately following a domestic dispute anything other than deplorable and incredibly frightening. When a gun is involved in domestic violence, that is an unforgivable escalation.

CliffH
Member
CliffH

What if there was no domestic dispute or violence? What if the gun was an air pistol?

Fernando
Member
Fernando

Jdbolick:

It’s a simple fact that we don’t know all the details. I don’t say that as an excuse for Chapman’s behaviour, which I think I made quite clear in my description of it as “terrible” and that the consequences he faces are “by his own doing”. He deserves to get suspended for what we do know, regardless of what else might mitigate the story. I merely point this out to temper the expectations of those who seem to think Chapman is going to have the book thrown at him when many aspects of the case are simply unknowable.

However, that being said the main thrust of my comment was towards what I think is an overly harsh attitude, namely the above wish that Chapman receive “nothing but pain and misery”, and now to a lesser extent your own conclusion that this is “unforgivable”. Maybe it’s a chliched notion on my part, but I believe everyone deserves the chance to redeem themselves.

You and I have the privilege to live our lives out of the public eye. There are no reporters following our every action, nor are there gallons of ink being spilled documenting each misdead. If you can honestly say you’ve never done anything that wouldn’t be roundly condemned in the court of public opinion, then I suppose I’ll just have to tip my hat to you for you are clearly a better man than I.

jdbolick
Member

If you can honestly say you’ve never done anything that wouldn’t be roundly condemned in the court of public opinion, then I suppose I’ll just have to tip my hat to you for you are clearly a better man than I.

I have never done anything remotely equivalent to firing a handgun eight times immediately after a domestic dispute, no. 99.99% of all people haven’t and presumably wouldn’t, which is why people like you downplaying the significance of Chapman’s transgression is so infuriating. Chapman didn’t just “make a mistake” or “lose his temper” or “do something unfortunate,” he fired a handgun multiple times in anger at a time when it would clearly intimidate and imply a threat to another human being. As someone who has grown up around guns and knows the right and wrong ways to use them, I can’t forgive or forget what Chapman did.

Fernando
Member
Fernando

Neither have I, but I’ve done a lot of ugly stuff, which is why I’m not super keen on stacking myself up against anyone else. And I still want people to forgive me and not define me by any single act, so I can’t refuse that grace to others. Like I said, if you feel confident you’ve never done *anything* the public would condemn – i.e., I’ve grown up around issue X and therefore I simply cannot forgive this -then I tip my cap to you. I, however, live in a glass house and cannot throw stones.

Johnston
Member
Johnston

Circumstantial evidence is never good enough. NEVER.

Milendriel
Member
Milendriel

Do you even know what circumstantial evidence is? Contrary to what shitty police procedural TV shows say, “Circumstantial” is not a synonym for “weak” or “bad”. Circumstantial evidence is merely evidence from which other material facts can be inferred. Aaron Hernandez was convicted of murder because circumstantial evidence placed him with Odyn Lloyd at the time he was shot. They didn’t have the gun and it didn’t matter. Even DNA evidence (which most people value highly) is strictly circumstantial. Do you honestly think we should only convict people of crimes when they were either videotaped or directly witnessed?

Richie
Member
Richie

Yes, more people think that than you’d think.

Johnston
Member
Johnston

Do I know what it is? Let’s see, grandfather an elected county sheriff and senior MP officer, brother a career policeman, one daughter’s an attorney, the local DA is a friend, my best friend from childhood is an attorney, I am good friends with a half dozen others and I have a law firm on retainer – no, clearly I am totally ignorant. “Circumstantial evidence is never enough” is a direct quote from my brother when he was a detective lieutenant. He was also fond of saying “No body, no conviction.”

jdbolick
Member

Ok, but your brother is wrong.

Johnston
Member
Johnston

Amazing how he was able to have such a decorated and successful career then, wasn’t it? With the highest conviction rates in his PD and all.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC

Aside from the fact your brother is wrong, we’re not talking about a criminal conviction here, so your incorrect brother’s incorrect assessment is immaterial.

jdbolick
Member

Johnston, it is an objective fact that people can and have been convicted solely through circumstantial evidence. It’s likely that you’re either misquoting your brother or didn’t understand what he meant (i.e. don’t settle for circumstantial evidence during an investigation if you can help it).

SteveM
Member
SteveM

This is not a criminal case; it’s more akin to a civil case, where circumstantial evidence usually wins the day.

Mark Davidson
Member
Member

Is Johnston a troll account? He seems to take a supremely contradictory stance in all his comments. The dude thinks he’s pretty riteous if he’s for real. At least he supports fangraphs, I guess.

Vanity Factory
Member
Vanity Factory

He shot up his garage. Is that even in dispute?

Nate
Member
Nate

Nope. He shot a gun indoors, and a bullet went out the window. Multiple witnesses and he admitted/apologized for it. Sounds like good evidence of domestic violence.

Cool Lester Smooth
Member
Cool Lester Smooth

He shot a gun indoors, while his girlfriend was outdoors, and a bullet went out the garage window into an open field. Multiple witnesses and he admitted/apologized for it. Sounds like good evidence of domestic violence. murky as all fuck, and this is an appropriate suspension.

FTFY

Nate
Member
Nate

Yeah good point. Now that I think about it, I don’t know anyone who has ever done anything this crazy. I love how pro sports leagues always say it’s a privilege to play in their league but then hand down small suspensions. If they really meant it, anyone doing anything like this would just be kicked out of the league. Pretty sure I would lose my job over something like this.

Walter
Member
Walter

I don’t know that I would agree that someone should lose their job over this kind of thing though. Domestic disputes happen. People do stupid stuff when angry, hopefully they control themselves enough to not go far enough to actually cause real harm, physical or mental. And it seems Chapman did.

It would be one thing if his girlfriend really pursued the matter and she had physical signs of assault, but in this situation it sounds like everyone has a different story and what is known, isn’t all that condemning of Chapman.

This is a clear step down from, for example, the sexual assault that led to this: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/03/us/chicago-professor-resigns-amid-sexual-misconduct-investigation.html?_r=0

That’s the kind of thing that someone should lose their job over.

Cool Lester Smooth
Member
Cool Lester Smooth

You see, Nate, I know people who would love if their boyfriend had fired off a few shots in the garage rather than punching them in the face when they had an argument.

Funny how that changes your perspective, isn’t it?

L. Ron Hoyabembe
Member
L. Ron Hoyabembe

He shot a gun indoors, then he was traded to my favorite team, so I’m gonna give him the benefit of the doubt.

FTFY

Nate
Member
Nate

Indeed Cool Lester, I am sure there are plenty of murder victims who wish they were only raped.

Cool Lester Smooth
Member
Cool Lester Smooth

Hahahahaha, at least try to act like an adult.

A better comparison would be “there are plenty of rape victims who wish they’d just had their ass slapped.”

Both behaviors are utterly unacceptable, but anyone equating the two is either a moron or a child.

jdbolick
Member

CLS, equating someone you just argued with repeatedly firing a gun nearby with having your ass slapped is reprehensible. You need to leave this discussion before you make yourself look any worse.

Cool Lester Smooth
Member
Cool Lester Smooth

Obviously, there’s a huge difference.

Firing a gun in your property, even if it’s to relieve anger, is completely legal.

Slapping someone’s ass without their consent is sexual assault.

SteveM
Member
SteveM

Yeah, lots of people go shoot some skeet in their home as a way to unwind after trying to assault their girlfriend/wife/partner. It’s a thing now.

philosofool
Member
Member
philosofool

Cool Lester. The Aroldis Chapmans of the world outnumber the OJ Simpsons 50 to 1. (I know, we don’t know who did it, or that he did it, but just read on and don’t get bogged down in the details of a metaphor.)

Fact: the majority of women who are victims of gun violence are shot by a current or former romantic partner and the majority of those follow arguments and appear to be part of episodes of domestic violence that escalate. They very rarely pre-meditated homicides where a dude shows up to kill his wife/girlfriend/ex.

The reality of gun violence is that failure of impulse control is implicated in MOST of it. People think that murder is committed by bad guys who are strangers to the victims. This is rarely true, and Chapman’s incident strongly suggests exactly the TYPICAL profile that results in a 20 year prison sentence for murder.

Walter
Member
Walter

philosofool, sure, its really very typical behavior of a guy that when he murders his spouse, except the most important part….. he didn’t shoot anyone!

He DID show impulse control by firing off his gun in his garage well away from his girlfriend.

Now, I don’t think any of this is acceptable behavior, but I do firmly believe you and JD are blowing this way out of proportion.

tramps like us
Member
tramps like us

Oh there is evidence. There are none so blind as those who will not see. Anyway, the standard is closer to “preponderance of evidence” than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This doesn’t seem to fit the latter, but it likely does the former.

Johnston
Member
Johnston

Funny how the actual police concluded there was insufficient evidence for an arrest.

L. Ron Hoyabembe
Member
L. Ron Hoyabembe

Sending someone to jail is a bit more serious than sending them home from work for a month without pay.

Johnston
Member
Johnston

I promise you that if the police have sufficient evidence to make an arrest stick they will make the arrest. They didn’t because there wasn’t.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC

Johnston, the point is the amount of evidence necessary to send someone home from work for a month is less than a criminal conviction. This is true in practice and is also completely logical.

Johnston
Member
Johnston

You believe that employers have the right to act as judge, jury and executioner for acts committed in the home that do not result in an arrest, let alone a conviction? I pity your employees.

Tom Dooley
Member
Tom Dooley

You believe that employers have the right to act as judge, jury and executioner for acts committed in the home that do not result in an arrest, let alone a conviction? I pity your employees.

In most states, for most occupations, that employers have that right is just a fact. It does not require belief.