I am disappointed in the New York Mets' decision to sign Jose Reyes -- with the full intention of bringing him to the big leagues in the next two weeks -- after a domestic violence incident in October led to a 52-game suspension from Major League Baseball. It sends the wrong message to their fans and their organization, whitewashing a serious assault in the name of finding a better utility infielder.
Reyes was charged with abuse of a family member in Hawaii after an incident in which he allegedly grabbed his wife by the throat and threw her into a glass door. His wife suffered injuries to her thigh, neck and wrist. All domestic violence incidents are serious, but choking -- attempted strangulation -- is even more serious; it's a direct assertion of power and intimidation over the victim, and women whose partners try to strangle or choke them are seven times more likely than other abuse victims to be killed by their partners. A judge in Hawaii dropped the charges when Reyes' wife, who originally filed the report, refused to cooperate, but MLB suspended Reyes for the first two-plus months of the 2016 season under its new domestic violence policy. Now that his suspension has ended, he's free to sign with any club.
But why would any club sign him? Major League Baseball said that teams could sign him, not that one would have to.
Upon signing with the Mets, Reyes said that he "deeply regret[s] the incident that occurred.” This is not something "that occurred" -- which sounds passive -- but shows Reyes refusing to take responsibility. For the Mets to bring him back says to fans of all genders that they prioritize winning over the safety and lives of women. Mets GM Sandy Alderson, an intelligent, thoughtful person, referred to the assault as "this mistake on [Reyes'] part," as if Reyes had inadvertently typed in the wrong password for his New York Times account. Domestic violence is never a mistake. It is one cog in a cycle of violence that can spin for generations.
In the same conference call with reporters, Alderson went on to say that "we felt that he deserved a second chance, and that second chance was most appropriate with" the Mets. But he never explained why he or the team felt Reyes deserved that second chance, despite the seriousness of the attack and the fact that he did not have to go through the legal system, let alone face criminal punishment. It leaves all of us with the impression that the Mets thought Reyes deserved a second chance because they need him on the roster, not because this is the right thing for him, his family or the community of baseball -- and its many wives, daughters, girlfriends, sisters and mothers.
Alderson went on to say that he doesn't think the Mets "would be able to find a player who is more determined, more highly motivated to perform than Jose is today," and that he thought part of Reyes' decision to sign with the Mets was him "looking for vindication." If this is, as it seems from the remainder of Alderson's comments, an oblique reference to the assault, then Alderson is falling into a trap we often see in sports -- one that must stop immediately. A player who commits a grievous act of violence does not get to claim the crime as an obstacle to surmount when he returns to the field. Players may overcome real trials in their lives, from disease to injury to the deaths of loved ones, but Reyes created this problem himself, and treating this as if it's something he can use to further motivate himself to play better only enables him in his apparent unwillingness to take responsibility.
The Mets are a privately run organization and may choose to employ or not employ whom they wish. But they are also a public-facing organization, which is part of a larger organization that has its own concerns about public opinion. The Mets bear a responsibility to be leaders in the community. Instead, they're baseball's Dallas Cowboys, who signed Greg Hardy on the cheap because his own domestic violence incident made him a pariah to other clubs, then told us all how Hardy was a changed man. The team's owners and front office made the active choice to pursue a player with no current ties to the organization in spite of his recent arrest. Doing so makes it clear that winning one more game is more important than taking a stand on domestic violence.