Rob Manfred sends message in suspension of Aroldis Chapman

Chapman decision considered fair in MLB circles (1:28)

Tim Kurkjian explains why Aroldis Chapman's 30-game suspension for his involvement in an alleged domestic violence incident is being considered a fair ruling in Major League Baseball circles. (1:28)

There once was a time in baseball -- heck, in all sports -- when players abused their spouses and were playing games the next day, as if nothing of any significance had happened.

Well, guess what? Luckily, we don't live in that world anymore.

Even Aroldis Chapman understands that now, I'm guessing. He was suspended Tuesday by commissioner Rob Manfred for 30 games. And he accepted his sentence, with no appeal.

He accepted it even though he had said, emphatically, just a few days ago: "I never hurt anybody." He accepted it even though he insisted again, in a statement Tuesday: "I did not in any way harm my girlfriend that evening."

He accepted it even though there was no precedent, in the history of his sport, for the suspension he'll begin serving next month. And he accepted it even though none of us will ever know, with any certainty, what happened inside his home in Florida on a life-changing evening last October.

We'll probably never even know whether Manfred has a clear picture of what happened between Chapman and his girlfriend that night. The commissioner knows and we know that the police were called. He knows and we know, according to the police report, that Chapman locked himself in his garage, alone, and fired eight gunshots that night (none of which hit anyone, fortunately).

But beyond that, almost everything that happened that evening is in dispute. And that left the commissioner of baseball facing one of the most difficult decisions of his one-year tenure in this office.

The NFL had drawn him a clear picture of what not to do, of how not to handle a case like this. So there was never any doubt among baseball people who know him that Rob Manfred was going to send as clear a signal as he could that this sort of behavior is not tolerable. And never will be.

Does 30 games send that message? I'm already hearing from people who don't think it does, who remind us that players can get 50 games just for smoking pot (if they're multitime offenders, anyway). OK, thanks for the input. But I respectfully disagree.

This suspension sits Chapman down, without pay, for more than one-sixth of a season. It removes the appeal cloud that turned the NFL's handling of its own domestic violence cases into even more of a mess. And it tells us that when it comes time for the commissioner to rule on Jose Reyes' case later this season, it would no longer surprise anyone if the suspension for that offense was somewhere in the vicinity of 100 games.

If there were doubts about the impact of this message in Chapman's case, Reyes' suspension is likely to quiet them. But in the meantime, this was as reasonable a sentence, given the confusing circumstances, as anyone should have expected.

I've read the police report on Chapman's case. I've spoken with people in baseball who have been briefed on that report. I've spoken with others who know Chapman and gave me a greater understanding of his complicated background and makeup.

And here's what I concluded after all of those conversations:

I'm glad I wasn't the one who had to rule on this case.

First off, the basic facts are in dispute. No charges were filed. No witness emerged to corroborate the story Chapman's girlfriend told police. No videos exist, as best anyone knows, either to clear Chapman or to turn him into Ray Rice. So the commissioner was working off of a less-than-clear account of the "crime" he was weighing.

Second, he couldn't use history as a guide. In fact, he was specifically instructed -- by Major League Baseball's new Joint Policy on Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse -- not to use any past precedent to determine what an "appropriate" suspension would be in this case.

That might seem strange on the surface. But the reasoning makes sense. Domestic violence wasn't taken seriously in this sport for way too long a time. So it's almost embarrassing to look back now and recognize how many cases were swept aside or ignored. For years. For decades.

Until the world changed.

So essentially, the commissioner had to pick a number out of the air in this case and make it stick. The fact that Chapman, his attorney and the union opted not to appeal -- after what sources say was nearly a week of negotiations -- tells us that multiple parties were able to agree that 30 games was an "appropriate" price to pay.

That doesn't mean his sentence was right. It doesn't mean his sentence was wrong. It's just a reminder that "domestic violence" is a catchall phrase that drapes a very large umbrella over an issue where almost no situation is the same. And where, somewhere out there, amid our desire to send messages and punish the guilty, there are real people struggling to live real lives.

"This is a tough issue," union chief Tony Clark said this week. "I mean, it's a tough issue. And one where, as you learn more about what it actually is, what it looks like, what it sounds like, you can appreciate the challenges that exist. So as much as we're talking about sports, and we may be talking about athletes, this is a societal issue that affects athletes and their families, as well. Sometimes that gets lost."

What will also get lost is this: The policy that empowered the commissioner to suspend Chapman for 30 games has already been working quietly, behind the scenes, to help the real people involved here to work through a horrible time in their lives. Let's hope, for everyone's sake, that's the most significant result that comes of this case.

But in the meantime, the headlines will remind us a star player is about to serve an unprecedented suspension of 30 games. And a precedent has been set. And a message has been sent.

Well, message received. But the sad part of all this is the recognition that, on the planet where we live here in the year 2016, there's no telling how many more times the commissioner will have to hit "SEND" on that message. And still there will be no end in sight. Ever.