(Brent Nycz helped with the research for this post; you can view his tumblr on the subject here).
If you’re reading this you’re probably a baseball fan, and if you’re a baseball fan you’re probably aware that on Tuesday the Miami New Times published a long article detailing a distribution center for PEDs, one that heavily implicated Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez (among others) in wrongdoing. This is apparently a Big Deal. Big Deal as in bright lights, ESPN cameras, fifty game suspensions or possible lifetime bans, even speculation as to whether the Yankees will attempt to void Rodriguez’s contract.
Oh, how I wish that sort of response happened any time a Major League baseball player was arrested or otherwise implicated in a domestic violence or other sexual abuse case. I mean, I’m not talking about something that’s a rarity here; in recent years Josh Leuke, Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Milton Bradley, Andruw Jones, Manny Ramirez, Brian Giles, Everth Cabrera, and Miguel Cabrera have all been implicated in, arrested for, or charged with a domestic violent count. One (Leuke) plead guilty; E. Cabrera’s case was dismissed with leave to re-present; other cases are still pending.
If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably a pretty serious baseball fan, and you don’t have to be a serious baseball fan to recognize most of the names on that list. All-Stars, MVPs, guys whose jerseys you might very well buy without giving it a second thought. Some of these guys (Rodriguez possibly the foremost example) were suspended by their teams, but on the whole MLB’s policy towards players who commit violent crimes seems to be one of “let’s not go there.”
Maybe if domestic violence wasn’t such a big, constant problem in our society, I wouldn’t care so much, but the thing is, it is. As your mother, sister, daughter, aunt, friend…any woman in your life,* and she can probably tell you even if she hasn’t been a victim, she’ll know another woman who has been abused, verbally or physically, hit or spit at, raped or otherwise violated. As a society, we still teach ‘don’t get raped’ instead of ‘don’t rape’, and ‘don’t get beaten’ instead of ‘don’t beat.’ We watch shows like Game of Thrones (yes, I admit I’m a fan) religiously despite graphic depictions of domestic violence and then laugh it off as just being a TV show.
Those we hold up as role models, those we tell our kids to emulate, those whose posters we buy to plaster our walls or those of our sons and daughters, should be held to a higher standard, and really, is asking that your kids’ heroes not batter their wives/girlfriends/etc really that high a standard? Shouldn’t it be something we expect of any human being, celebrity or non, and if it does happen, shouldn’t we expect that the repercussions are as serious as the crime?
I know, I know, some people will want to brand me a militant feminist, but I’m really not; I’m just a woman who thinks that someone physically hurting a significant other or member of his/her family, something that’s already a crime, shouldn’t be given a free pass when it comes to baseball.
I understand why baseball—and baseball writers—are so obsessed with PEDs. The Steroid Era™ happened, and guess what? For a long time baseball turned a blind eye and the writers missed it, even when the drugs were staring them in the face (perhaps literally), so now it’s a game of catch-up and you-can’t-get-away-with-it-forever, and why despite having names like Bonds, Bagwell, and Biggio on the ballot no one is going to be inducted in Cooperstown in 2013 (but Ty Cobb, who beat his wife to the point that she asked for a divorce at a time when marrying a divorced woman was legal justification for an abdication, is still thus enshrined).
I just wish that the head honchos in baseball and editors at the major baseball or sports media publications realized that the image problem has less to do with the PED problem (and hey, hitting more home runs ever kept fans away from the ballpark), and more to do with the fact that the attention’s coming at the expense of actual, real issues, with far graver consequences.
*Domestic violence does not just happen to women; men can be and are victims as well. However, the majority of DV cases, and the ones cited here, involve male-on-female violence.