Buster Olney tweeted this earlier this morning:
MLB needs to announce a domestic violence policy ASAP, because if an incident occurs,a stance of ‘we’re talking about it’ will be untenable.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) September 18, 2014
Actually, that is exactly the kind of thinking Major League Baseball should avoid.
“Untenable” here means “it will not play well in the media.” Thinking about “what plays well in the media” and acting on that basis is exactly what got the NFL into the mess it’s in now. It did not think the Ray Rice thing would get big, so it did not punish him harshly. It then stepped all over itself, lied and reacted without any sense of a plan or purpose once it did become a big story. The same pattern happened with the Vikings and Adrian Peterson. The NFL based its actions on what was tenable and untenable in terms of public relations, not on any principles or values and not with anything approaching a well thought-out plan.
When it comes to serious matters such as these, Major League Baseball cannot and should not be in “react” mode. Doing things right, as opposed to doing things as a means of heading off bad press, is the only way to go. If that means that a bad incident occurs before a solid plan is in place, so be it. I believe Major League Baseball needs a solid plan. But as we’ve discussed this week, a solid plan is going to take a lot of work to get in place.
If, tomorrow, a baseball player is found to have committed a violent act, Major League Baseball should be totally honest. It should say “we don’t have a means of dealing with this, but we realize we need one, and will work with the union to put one in place.”
The moment a sports league goes into “put out the fire” mode, it is showing that it cares about bad press more than it cares about the underlying issue. It is my hope that Major League Baseball does not do such a thing.