Last week it was reported that the Royals were considering signing Oregon State pitcher Luke Heimlich. As you probably know by now, Heimlich is a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty to a felony charge of molesting his then-six-year-old niece back when he was 15 years-old. Despite his obvious baseball talent, Heimlich went undrafted this year and last, for the obvious reason of him, you know, being a convicted child molester.
Yet Dayton Moore and the Royals are interested. An interest expanded upon today at The Athletic, to whom Moore tried to explain his reasons for considering Heimlich:
He cites the club’s history of giving “second chances” and said Heimlich has “earned” an opportunity to receive one.
He does not explain what Heimlich has done to “earn” that second chance. In fact, Heimlich’s only public comments on the matter came last year, when he refused to own up, claiming unconvincingly that he only pleaded guilty to spare his family an ugly trial. Query: would you plead guilty to molesting a kindergartner to avoid some bad press and a few hard days in a courtroom if you were innocent? Guessing most people would say no. That aside, one would think that, as he is trying to prepare the fan base for signing a child molester, Moore would at least explain what Heimlich has done to redeem himself apart from disclaiming all responsibility for his actions.
More appallingly is what Moore says about the history of the Royals giving out second chances:
“We also believe in giving players second chances. We’ve given some players third and fourth chances.”
Moore used former Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson as an example of a player who received a second chance because they “believed in his heart.” He said the club would continue to monitor whether Heimlich was worthy of such a chance.
Jarrod Dyson is on record saying that he has had a rough upbringing, but reading a few profiles of him as a player reveals no evidence of any serious negative legal history. The worst thing I can find on his CV is that he got popped for PEDs once as a minor leaguer. Unless I’m simply missing, oh, a human trafficking conviction or credible evidence proving that Dyson is, in fact, the BTK Killer, I’d say that Dyson has every right to be angry as hell that his former boss is using him as justification for the Royals signing a literal child molester. It’s an appalling and obnoxious comparison for which Dyson should be insulted and for which Moore should apologize.
As Bill noted in his post over the weekend, there is something weird about the Royals’ interest in Heimlich as it is given that Moore and the club have made a point to single out pornography as a particularly evil vice. If porn is the worst thing in the world, how on Earth could employing a child molester fit within your definition of morality? To that end, The Athletic notes one of Moore’s past comments on pornography:
In one story, Moore spoke of meeting an inmate at Lansing Correctional Facility who said he had committed rape when he was 15 years old. “I asked him when he first saw pornography,” Moore said this spring. “He said when he was 12. He felt that that had a major impact.”
It’s not clear from the article if Moore believes that the example of the 15-year-old inmate he spoke with is applicable to Heimlich specifically, who was 15 when he molested his niece, or if the writer is offering that merely as an informative aside. That said, there is an element of the whole article which gives off a “club floating something with a reporter who covers the team” vibe, so I wonder if the callback to that is no accident. I wonder if this is an effort by Moore to head off future claims of hypocrisy if and when the Royals sign Heimlich. To square the circle between hating porn but employing a child molester. If it is that, it’s pathetic. Partially because, as the author notes, science has established scant if any links between pornography and criminal behavior, but mostly because it’s an exercise in excuse-making for a heinous crime.
People have asked whether or not Major League Baseball should “allow” Heimlich to play professionally, but that’s not really the applicable question. Outside of longstanding league rules like gambling offenses or collectively-bargained disciplinary rules like three-strikes-and-you’re-out PED sanctions, Major League Baseball is not going to bar a player who has a criminal history and who has paid their debt to society from its ranks. There are a lot of good reasons for that, in fact. Heimlich may be an extreme case in terms of the nature of his crime, but it’s a difficult and possibly dangerous business for the league to proceed down the path of making moral judgments about who can and who cannot play baseball for a living.
No, the applicable question is whether or not a team, with free choice in the matter, should choose to employ Heimlich. if so, why so, and if not, why not.
Moore dipping his foot into these waters over the past week is, without question, because the team wants to sign him and is trying to figure out how much blowback they’ll get for doing it. He likewise appears to be laying the groundwork for a justification for signing him, figuring the “we give second chances” line, no doubt backed with some words about Christian forgiveness to be provided at a later date, will be his best bet.
Given how lacking Moore’s case seems to be so far, it seems far more likely that Heimlich’s status, in Moore’s eyes, of having earned a “second chance” is 100% a function of him being a first or second round baseball talent who is, to use front office speak, “undervalued in the market.” His criminal conviction for molesting a child a mere market inefficiency not unlike a fat catcher who wouldn’t look good in an ad for jeans was to Billy Beane back in 2002. Winning teams sign such players on a cost-benefit basis and, wow, what benefits an arm like Heimlich’s could bring!
If that is the case, and I strongly suspect it is, Moore should just admit that. It’s his and David Glass’ team and they can do what they want, up to and including signing a sexual predator because he has a good fastball. They don’t even have to apologize for it if they don’t want to and if they can live with themselves for doing it. I’m even guessing that, due to the nature of sports fandom, a hefty percentage of Royals fans would either be just fine with it or, over time, learn to live with it because pennants fly forever and all of that jazz.
If, however, they are going to continue to try to justify signing Heimlich as some moral or ethical act, they had better try harder than they are. Because the stuff they’re shoveling now sinks to high heavens.