SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — After a delay, Jeurys Familia is scheduled to be in a New Jersey courtroom Thursday to face allegations of domestic violence stemming from his Oct. 31 arrest.
Major League Baseball’s investigation of Familia’s case and the disciplinary action that is sure to follow, however, will not move quite as swiftly. While a suspension is almost assured, based on the precedents involving Aroldis Chapman, Hector Olivera and Jose Reyes, neither Familia nor the Mets are likely to know the length of the ban until close to spring training, a late revelation that could potentially throw the first two months of the regular season into disarray.
There’s a number of reasons for that. First off, MLB chooses to let the legal process finish up before taking a closer look at the details themselves, and that further examination may also include a deeper look into the player’s background for prior offenses. Secondly, commissioner Rob Manfred, along with the union, currently have their hands full trying to hash out a new collective bargaining agreement as the current one is set to expire Dec. 1.
Obviously, putting the finishing touches on the CBA is a huge undertaking, and could easily stretch into December, perhaps longer. And the timetable for Familia’s criminal case, beyond Monday, is unclear. Even with a legal resolution, the commissioner’s office needs to do its own due diligence before penalizing a player like Familia in accordance with the joint domestic abuse program, primarily to guard against any new information surfacing after the fact.
The NFL, as well as the Giants, learned an embarrassing lesson last month when additional evidence — not previously disclosed — came out against kicker Josh Brown, who initially had received just a one-game suspension, with pay, despite 20 alleged incidents of domestic abuse involving his wife. Almost a month after the Brown was first punished, police released more incriminating details that blindsided the NFL, and ultimately led to the Giants releasing Brown.
So far, Manfred has been successful in avoiding similar pitfalls with Chapman, Olivera and Reyes — the first three test cases for his 15-month-old program. Each received lengthy suspensions, and to this date, there has yet to be any surprises or relapses. The commissioner’s office will be just as thorough with Familia, and with Opening Day still five months away, there’s no rush for a verdict here.
“I think that it is usually difficult for us to complete our investigation before the criminal process has run its course,” Manfred said Wednesday at the GM meetings. “We have the luxury of not being on the field right now and we’re going to take advantage of that.”
MLB is smart to take its time with such a complicated issue, But from a baseball perspective, that certainly can make things a little more difficult for the Mets, who are in the midst of planning for the 2017 season. Sandy Alderson did not want to entertain questions about how a Familia suspension might affect his early roster strategy. Instead, he steered the conversation toward the tragedy of the situation, and his best wishes for the family.
As far as what the Mets intend to do in Familia’s absence, which could be substantial, it’s too early to tell. In trying to predict what Familia could get in terms of a suspension, the best comp may be Reyes, who was arrested in Hawaii after his wife showed visible signs of abuse. She later dropped the charges. Reyes still was suspended for 52 games.
With Chapman, his girlfriend complained of physical abuse, and he didn’t contest firing a handgun into his garage wall numerous times. But Chapman was not arrested after police arrived at his home, and Manfred settled for a 30-game suspension, a penalty the closer did not appeal.
To this point, not much has been released involving the Familia accusations, other than a police report saying that he had inflicted “bodily injury to another” and the victim — whose name was withheld — showed a scratch on the chest and bruise on the cheek. Monday’s hearing should provide a better picture as to what led to Familia’s Oct. 31 arrest. But as far as his future on the field, or when Familia might again throw a pitch for the Mets, that’s going to take much longer to find out.