Phillies’ Odubel Herrera’s Unique Suspension a Step in the Right Direction for MLB

News just broke that Philadelphia Phillies player Odubel Herrera will be suspended 85 games without pay for violating MLB and MLBPA’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse Policy. The suspension, which is retroactive to June 24, will cover both regular and postseason games, which is a new development in the league’s “efforts” to punish the worst characters in the game.

Prosecutors dropped the case when Herrera’s girlfriend declined to press charges. On the night of the attack in Atlantic City back in May, his girlfriend Melany Martinez-Angulo told casino security that she had been attacked. The police report states that she “had visible signs of injury to her arms and neck that was sustained after being assaulted,” including handprint markings on her neck and scratches.

The charges will be dismissed if he participates in 60 days of Batterer’s Counseling. But MLB does their own investigation for every case, and clearly found enough evidence to give him one of the lengthiest suspensions since the policy took effect in 2015. Herrera, for his part, has already accepted his suspension and will not appeal.

Herrera’s suspension is eclipsed only by that of former Padres pitcher José Torres, who received 100 games last June before being designated for assignment and released in October 2018. But what is unique here is that in the past, players who were suspended under the DV policy were still eligible to participate in postseason games, should their team reach October. It’s why Aroldis Chapman was allowed to close World Series games for the Cubs in 2016, the same year he was suspended 30 games for choking his girlfriend and firing his gun multiple times in their home. It’s why Steven Wright would have been on the Red Sox postseason roster last year if he had stayed healthy, and why Jackie Bradley Jr. was able to hit that beautiful grand slam off Astros pitcher Roberto Osuna in the 2018 ALCS. But MLB has specifically stated that Herrera is ineligible for the 2019 postseason.

It is encouraging to see that MLB is taking cases of domestic violence even the slightest bit more seriously, as evidenced by their inclusion of postseason play in Herrera’s suspension from the game. The public outcry from fans has been highly critical of the hypocrisy surrounding MLB’s suspensions. Currently, players who are found violating the league’s ban on performance-enhancing substances are ineligible for that year’s postseason, but until now, DV policy violators were not. The difference: PEDs are viewed as an “on-field issue,” while domestic violence and other such crimes are viewed as personal issues. It’s as backward as it sounds.

I applaud MLB for this step in the right direction, but we still have a long ways to go.

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Photo: Jessica Griffin/Philadelphia Inquirer

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