Is Zero Tolerance Really the best policy
Baseball has entered center stage in the last several months with a couple of high profile cases of players who were either accused or convicted of sexual abuse or assault on women. The first is Luke Heimlich of the Oregon State. He plead guilty to sexual abuse of his neice as a teenager. He has asserted his innoncence and there are those that claim he was railroaded, but his neice and aunt stand by their story. He went undrafted and even though the Royals flirted with signing him, he remains out of the organized game.
The second is Roberto Osuna of the Houston Astros. His trial has not yet started and he doesn’t even have his first hearing until September. It’s possible the charges will be dropped or some kind of pre-trial agreement will take place. In terms of the general public, very little is known as to the specifics of the case. Naturally, that hasn’t stopped some on social media and in the actual media from burning him at the proverbial stake.
Admission One: I’m An Astros fan
Those in the media are often accused of bias, so I thought it would be natural to admit any potential bias coming out of the gate. I’m not happy about my team tying itself to an alleged abuser, but we have to remember the key word there: alleged. I got into a Twitter spat with Keith Law where I reminded him of the Duke Lacrosse case. He correctly pointed out that this was one case in the last decade where the district attorney was disbarred for his efforts. Touche. Twitter does not lend itself to attribution or multiple levels of evidence, so piling on was a bit much, but hey, I don’t fight my battles on Twitter for the most part.
So, I decided to look it up for my own edification. NSVRC.org reports that between two and ten percent of reports of domestic abuse are false reports. False reports means they didn’t happen. There are also baseless reports where the authorities believe the accuser but there isn’t enough evidence to support an investigation. There are all kinds of possibilities somewhere in between the worst case scenario and that which can be proven not to be true.
I obviously have a somewhat vested interest in having my team vindicated. That being said, even fans cannot be blind to the hypocrisy our organization shows. A team that jettisoned a prospect for abuse turns around a couple of years later and trades for a player who has allegedly abused. They cited a zero tolerance policy. That’s a bunch of crap. The crime here on all sides is the lack of nuance. Sometimes, it is fair to say one case of abuse is worse than another. Sometimes it’s fair to say that the guilty party’s attitude after the fact indicated they didn’t think he would do it again versus another looking like a scumbag. Sometimes, it’s a case of one being a marginal outfield prospect versus another being a top ten closer in MLB. You almost always come out better in the long run admitting the truth than inventing a lie that sounds good at the time.
Hypocrisy outside of the Astros organization
I got raked over the coals initially because I said no one criticized Aroldis Chapman and the Yankees acquiring him following his suspension and incident. Apparently, Keith Law did. His thoughts are with the victims he says. I have no doubt that they are. However, even if he and others torched the Yankees or Cubs at the time for picking up Chapman where are they now? His last article on Chapman I could find on the Google came in 2016. He did question the Cubs acquisition of him on both talent going the other way and public relations. Great. Where has he been since then? If he’s criticizing Chapman and the Yankees he sure isn’t doing it in print. I did a cursory Google search. As far as I can tell, no one else is either. Now, I obviously flew off the handle before, so I’ll let anyone out there prove me wrong and I’ll gladly apologize.
I don’t mean to lay on Law so much. Maybe it’s because he was criticizing me and my percieved lack of concern for victims. Maybe it’s because it’s interesting to see those who fall on the zero tolerance side of things reveal a chink in the armor. He said he wasn’t interested in forgiveness and what that looks like. It looks like no one talking about Chapman and domestic abuse and nearly 100 percent of fantasy leagues owning him. Hank Streinbrenner asserted that most people will forget all about the abuse. It turns out he was right. So, right or wrong, Chapman has largely been forgiven.
Pragmatism is the key
That’s the problem with zero tolerance and it’s polar opposite, “boys will be boys.” It allows an intellectual out for the holder of that philosophy. If I adhere to zero tolerance then I don’t have to care about the details of the case or care about the fallout after the fact. Is Heimlich guilty of abuse? Well, a court of law says so. Should he get to pitch professionally? Why grapple with that tough decision? He was convicted in a court of law. I’m a zero tolerance guy so forgiveness be damned.
There certainly is a case to be made for that even if one is pragmatic. However, that means making that case on a case by case basis. That means getting the facts from everyone involved and making an informed decision. That takes time and effort. It also means you have to trust your own judgment and admit that you could possibly be wrong.
It also means waiting for all facts to come in and being upfront about that. I neither support or not support Roberto Osuna. I’m waiting for facts. It also means leaving open the possibility that he has done something very wrong and possibly could be redeemed. It’s also possible he can’t be. It can be frustrating taking this line of thinking. It feels a lot better to come out and torch a player or team online. It makes us feel morally superior. It doesn’t mean I have to attach nefarious motives for that. I’m positive that most people that say such things really do care about victims of abuse. It’s just that those of us that want to wait and consider all of facts also care about victims. We also care about getting it right.