Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Everyone else has commented on Roberto Osuna, so I might as well add my two cents worth...

So before I launch into a 3000 word essay that says precisely nothing about the Roberto Osuna situation, I just want to say that I also condemn intimate partner violence.  At no time during this essay will I be minimising what Osuna has done, firstly because I don't know what has happened (as do none of us) and secondly because any physical violence, especially violence inside intimate relationships, is wrong - and as a society we should be trying to prevent all violence from occurring.

My thoughts in a few words??  Mixed feelings, mostly.  I wish the Astros could have acquired Roberto Osuna and not the domestic violence baggage that will arrive with him on a flight from Toronto.  Without the baggage, the cost to acquire Osuna would have been much higher, because he has an amazing right arm.  As it stands, the baseball cost is still pretty significant - regardless of what you think of Ken Giles, he is a legit ML reliever, who seemed to yield a lot of hits on horrible soft contact.  David Paulino is a little bit of a reclamation project at this point of his career.  Hector Perez has some helium as a prospect, rating as high as 5 on Fangraphs' midseason Astros lists.  So from a baseball perspective, the acquisition costs for the Astros are not insignificant, especially as the Jays wanted to trade Osuna at all costs.  Some analysts will say that the Jays made out like thieves.

So - mixed feelings about the trade, both from a moral and a baseball perspective.  Others on this site have covered the various moral issues very well.  My plan is not to repeat what they say, as they have summed up their issues with the Astros organisation beautifully.  And I agree with what they say - that they are disappointed with the Astros organisation for making this trade because of moral objections. (Some stronger language could have been warranted).

So let's get to some points that I want to make...

We live in an era of unprecedented violence.  This is totally true.  The era* in which we currently live in is the most peaceful in recorded human history.  The best available statistics tells us that our murder rate (or the number of murders per 100,000 population, or any denominator number really) throughout the Western world is (i) about one-quarter of what the murder rate was 300 years ago, and (ii) around half of what it was in the 1950's.  I know we think about the "good old days" being the good old days, but the simple fact is that the past was, generally, much more violent than it is now.

* man, it is weird writing on this website, and not putting the letters era into capitals.  Strange...

Jeff Blogwell also mentioned that the world "feels darker and [more] bifurcated".  This is a sentiment that I generally agree with - the world does feel more divided than I have ever felt it has been in my lifetime.  The political discourse around the world has leaned toward the politics of exclusion in recent times - specifically, the surge in nationalism, and blame placed on refugees for economic hardships.  Media reporting fuels this to a degree - the old maxim is "if it bleeds, it leads" because violence and tragedy allows for the sorts of headlines that sells papers.

Despite there being a decrease in the rates of violent offending, the likelihood of being sent to jail is higher, and the length of sentences have been getting longer.  Offending has been politicised  over the last few decades in exchange for cheap votes.  Politicians around the world have been wanting to appear to "get tough" on issues around law and order, with the general sentiment that offenders need to be punished so they learn their lesson, or that longer prison sentences will act as a deterrent.  But imprisonment makes offenders more likely to offend upon release, and prison is sometimes used as a sort of judicial risk management, by keeping the "dangerous" guys away from the "good" guys.  And it is an incredibly expensive intervention, too, with the costs of housing a single criminal for a year often running north of six figures.

I guess the reason that I make this point is that some of the rhetoric around offending has seeped into everyday thinking.  That there are "good" people and "bad" people - the reality is that we are all in the middle somewhere, and capable of both extremes.  That recognising the "bad" people is easy, whereas we should know that those most damaging to society are often not violent, but people to cheat and lie and steal from large numbers of people without regard for their rights (like Jordan Belfort, for example).  That people need to be "punished" for their crimes, and that no punishment is too severe.*

* - I mean recently, the Constable wished that someone's testicles would lose their hair.  Now that's punishment  

Intimate Partner Violence is unfortunately incredibly common.  The World Health Organisation estimates that 10-69% of women worldwide have been the victims of violence at the hands of a partner.  The range is wide because (i) this figure incorporates studies from a wide variety of countries and (ii) the definition of violence varies greatly.  In some studies, psychological violence or emotional violence are included.  But regardless, at best, one in ten women have been in a violent relationship, even in wealthy, peaceful, developed countries.  The experiences that Jexas shared are  frighteningly common.

Think about the scorecard that AJ Hinch filled out tonight.  Ten young men took the field to battle the evil Mariners.  If they all have female partners, then at least one of those women has been a victim of intimate partner violence.  The chances are that one of them may be in a violent relationship with a current Astros player.  Before Roberto Osuna arrives, the stats would indicate that a significant proportion of players (and I am not going to guesstimate) would have been violent toward their partners in the past.  The chances are that a perpetrator of domestic violence in the Astros locker room would have at least one other player for company.

I reiterate: because it is common, that does not make it right.

So how are young male offenders rehabilitated??  I work in the criminal justice industry.  I work with young men and women with all sorts of issues.  I know enough to know that offending is a very complex thing.  If it was simple, someone would have solved it by now and we would not be having to discuss domestic violence.

Rehabilitation is all about relationships - relationships between the young offenders and themselves, and relationships between the young offenders and others.  In general, the more supportive the relationships, the higher the chances of continuing to live a prosocial and productive life.  My work is often about giving the young person and their families the tools to be able form and sustain their relationships.  As you can imagine, we aren't often that successful, as the families that we deal with that too many hurdles to navigate.  Life is not easy, and it is definitely not easy if you are poor, impulsive, drug addled, head injured or just plain thick.

(I am not making excuses for these people, btw, but when one spends a lot of time in deprived areas, one can usually see that the character-based skills that someone needs to break away from negative influences - who often live in the same house as them - are very rare.)

I often say to families that rehabilitation for perpetrators of violence is a community task.  That relationships inside and outside the families are important.  Meaningful occupation is important.  Having well-balanced people around you who are aware of your issues, and have the courage to point out when you are heading down the wrong path is both rare, and important.

There is precedent here, people!!  I think I have seen Julio Lugo mentioned in various dispatches.  Danry Vasquez has also been mentioned.*  The Astros organisation has a zero tolerance policy for violence, donchaknow!!

* - the CCTV video of what Vasquez did to his girlfriend was tough viewing, even for someone used to seeing footage like that.  What he did was unforgivable, intimidating, and premeditated.  But it is fair to wonder whether he would have got the same reaction - such as from Lance McCullers - if that video was not made public.  In some ways, the fact that the negative commentary from his peers only reached fever pitch once the video was released - two years after the offending - is a sign of how domestic violence can sometimes be unnecessarily minimised.  The clamour to condemn his actions should have occurred well prior to the release of that brutal video.

Remember Brett "wifebeater" Myers??  He assaulted his partner, in public, in Boston before the Astros signed him as a free agent.  I can't recall too much in the way of condemnation of the Front Office at the time of that signing.  I do recall Myers being thought of fondly by Astros fans in the 2010 or 2011 season, when he managed at least six innings for every start he made.  He was the best pitcher on an awful team.

Remember Miguel Tejada??  The Astros traded for him the day before he was mentioned in the Mitchell Report!!  While this is not a domestic violence case, it is a case where the Astros took on someone with a legal cloud hanging over their heads.  That was a god-awful baseball trade, too.

I seem to recall that there were some media reports around the volatility of the relationship between Jeff Bagwell and his second wife.  I can't be bothered looking for these vague internet articles that I read a number of years ago, but I will mention this, as much to be provocative to the audience as anything else.

I want to emphasise the point, however, that many of your Astro heroes over the last fifty years are likely to have been the perpetrators of intimate partner violence.  It is just that we have never found out about it.

Chapman versus Osuna.  There has been some mention of the fact that Aroldis Chapman received a 30 game suspension for an incident that involved choking his partner, and firing 8 gunshots in her general vicinity.  This was an awful incident that would have left a young lady in extreme fear of her life, and could well result in ongoing post-trauma symptoms.  He was quickly traded to the similarly morally bankrupt New York Yankees (early 2016) for cents in the dollar (who then traded him to the Cubs in a total daylight robbery, then resigned him as a free agent after he coughed up a Game 7 lead on a home run to, of all people, Rajai Davis).

Some have mentioned that Osuna's suspension was 75 games, and his fine was in the millions of dollars, so his incident must be at least twice as bad as the Chapman incident.  I am not discounting that this may be the case, but I will point out that Aroldis Chapman was suspended under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (which did not, I believe, have a specific Domestic Violence policy).  Osuna was suspended under the specific domestic violence policy that came into effect at the conclusion of the 2016 season.  These two suspensions are not comparable, as the commissioners powers were different in both cases.

That said, we will probably hear details of what Osuna stands accused of shortly.  It won't be pretty.

Young men do dumb things.  I reiterate - not minimising what Osuna did by merely calling it a dumb thing.  But the events of the last few weeks, including the offensive tweets from Trea Turner, Josh Hader, and Sean Neucomb remind me that baseball is a game for young men, and that young men often act without thinking of the consequences.  This is the time of their lives that they are most likely to do stupid things, whether it involves hate speech, or it involves violent offending.  Or it involves crashing your speedboat and killing your supremely talented self.

Osuna will be punished in some way.  The law will see to that.  At this point, he has been fined a large amount of money, has missed a half-season (and delayed his free-agency by a year, so sort of a double-financial penalty) and could face significant legal consequences as well.

My question: at what point will we, as a community, be able to put what he did into the past, and collectively move forward.  There is no right answer for this, but continued blackballing him from the game (which is not currently happening, but is what some commentators have suggested would be an appropriate punishment) seems sanctimonious and disproportionate to the offending to me. Someone nearly gets killed because you are drunk driving??  Sure, blackball that person.

This isn't the article in which to make jokes, but... there is a joke which I heard years ago while playing drinking games.  An elderly man is showing a younger man the achievements of his life.  He shows him the bridge he built to connect the island that he lives on to the mainland.  He shows the younger man the community hall he built for his village.  He shows the younger man the pier that he built where the fishing boats dock.  With each of these achievements, he asks the younger man whether his village calls him "the bridge builder" or "the builder of the pier".  No, the village does not call him any of those things.  The young man asks what the village does call him, and the older man turns away and mutters bitterly "you [have sexual intercourse with] just one single goat..."

Osuna is going to be remembered for this incident.  He will never live it down.  To this day, when I think of Brett Myers, I think of him as "wifebeater Myers", which Lisa Grey used to call him in the Astros Dugout many years ago.  And I think of Brett Myers quite a bit - like, whenever Chris Devenski enters a game.  This will be a big part of Osuna's legacy.

I am glad we are having this conversation.  We, as a society, or a group of Astros fans, or whatever, are talking about what we find morally acceptable.  This is a good conversation to be having.  The best thing, in my opinion, about #MeToo is that people are sharing stories, and discussing events that have occurred in private.

While talking about violence and sexual offending is not comfortable, it is necessary if we are address these in our community.  And I am glad to see universal condemnation of Osuna's actions, because they weren't ok.

I just hope that Osuna learns from this incident, and identifies what happened on that day so that it never happens again.  He can't undo what he did, and what he did is not easily forgivable.  There may be bumps in the road.  There may be further suspensions.  Time will tell.  Until then, we get to live with our disappointment with the perceived morals of the Astros Front Office.

Let's talk about Corbin Martin tomorrow, then...


Craig Harmann said...

Well said! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Who was keeping homicide statistics 300 years ago, and what would make you think they did a good job of it?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this perspective.

The Batguy said...

Yes, the accuracy of 18th century crime statistics is definitely the point that should be scrutinized here. Outstanding contribution to the discussion, Anon #1

Wallee Wright said...

Thank you Batguy for a mature, intelligent, and most of all, informed, perspective - it is a breath of fresh air.

onosideboard said...

So, I am both a criminal defense attorney and someone who has worked with DV survivors and has personal experience with it. I think a lot of what you’ve written is spot on, in the context of the criminal justice system. Most DV experts and advocates agree that lengthy prison sentences and/or the ubiquitous “anger management classes” don’t work. As Diana Moskovitz at Deadspin has pointed out, if DV was just the result of poor anger control (or “snapping” as many have invoked re: Osuna), abusers would be out there beating the shit of friends, co-workers, bad waiters, the guy who cut them off in traffic, etc. Shawn Chacon probably had anger management problems. The vast, vast majority of domestic abusers manage their anger just fine with everyone except their intimate partners, which means there is something other than just “anger” at work. Hopefully, Osuna is participating in a legit Batterers’ Intervention program, and not just anger management classes.

Anyway, like I said, I agree with a lot of what you wrote with regard to the way the criminal justice system handles domestic abusers. I don’t think we should lock Osuna up and throw away the key. However, I also believe that it’s okay, and in fact appropriate, for there to be consequences to Osuna specific to the very narrow circumstances of being an elite MLB player. I’m not saying you’re doing this, but I have seen A LOT of people lately invoking strawmen to argue against consequences for MLB players’ bad conduct. Like, “oh, so you think anyone who wrote anything offensive as a kid should never have a job again?” or “what about due process? Innocent until proven guilty?” I have not seen anyone say that Osuna should be jailed without a fair trial. Nor have I seen anyone argue he should never be allowed to work again. But that doesn’t mean he has a right to, or should be, a major league baseball player, nor is a trial required to determine that. I think that with everything that is packaged in being an MLB player - the fans, the involvement in the community, etc. - it is fair to say that certain actions are disqualifying, when they wouldn’t be for an accountant or a scientist or a waiter. In no small part because, like in this situation with Osuna, it is grossly unfair to so many fans.

Sorry for the lengthy comment. But there was one other thing I want to respond to. You wrote:

There is no right answer for this, but continued blackballing him from the game (which is not currently happening, but is what some commentators have suggested would be an appropriate punishment) seems sanctimonious and disproportionate to the offending to me. Someone nearly gets killed because you are drunk driving?? Sure, blackball that person.

I know you’re referring somewhat tongue in cheek to Matt Bush, but it’s... disappointing that you’d imply that a car accident is somehow (morally? qualitatively?) worse than domestic violence. Domestic abusers “nearly kill” their victims sometimes, too, and like everyone has already said many times, we don’t know the extent of what Osuna did to his girlfriend, so it seems highly inappropriate to try to compare it in severity to what Matt Bush did to his victim. And comparing physical injuries is wrong, anyways, because it discounts the deep, serious psychic damage DV does to its victims. I promise you that if you were to offer DV victims the ability to “undo” being abused in exchange for being seriously injured in a car accident, most would take that offer in a heartbeat.

JMay said...

Thanks for your well reasoned perspective, Marvel. And yours onosideboard. Both have a place in this discussion.