We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.
Violent and criminal off-the-field behavior by athletes appeared prominently in the news in 2015, particularly domestic violence. The NFL received the brunt of this coverage for a handful of high-profile incidents, but the fact of the matter is that Major League Baseball has long had players commit acts of domestic violence and never, in baseball history, had the league itself disciplined anyone for it.
Whether it was because MLB finally came around to the notion that it has a role in helping stop domestic violence by its players and employees or whether it as simply a matter of not wanting to look like it as bungling domestic violence cases like the NFL was, in August the league announced a comprehensive policy regarding players involved in domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse cases.
The policy, announced jointly with and in agreement with the players union, has a dual treatment and intervention program along with a disciplinary program. That discipline will not carry a minimum or maximum penalty, but rather the Commissioner will issue discipline “he believes is appropriate in light of the severity of the conduct.” Importantly, discipline will not be contingent on whether the player pleads guilty or is found guilty of a crime, removing the longstanding “let’s just allow the legal process to run its course” excuse and establishing that Major League Baseball is not limited to the considerably lower standard of caring about domestic violence if and only if an an actual criminal prosecution is launched.
So far, no discipline under domestic violence policy has been applied. There are, however, three investigations pending against Jose Reyes, Yasiel Puig and Aroldis Chapman. As soon as baseball completes those investigations we will begin to see just how serious, in terms of suspensions, fines and the like, Major League Baseball really takes domestic violence.