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This Week In Baseball: MLB Gets New Domestic Violence Policy Right

By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports

New Domestic Violence Policy

Over the weekend, the MLB and MLB Players Association announced that they had come to an agreement on a new Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy for its players. While the league like its contemporaries is late in addressing these issues, the MLB seems to have instituted by far the most fair and comprehensive policy of any of the professional leagues.

In case you haven’t had the chance to look at the policy it can be found on the MLB’s official twitter account here:

The disciplinary power, like that of the NFL, lies first with Commissioner Rob Manfred, but that’s where the similarities end.  Baseball has implemented a three-person panel including a representative from both the MLBPA and the league along with an agreed upon impartial arbitrator to hear all appeals of punishments. This means that unlike the NFL, there won’t be the same farcical appeals with the commissioner acting as judge, jury and executioner in all cases. 

More importantly, is the treatment and intervention section.  The league established a Joint Policy Board comprised of experts in the fields, and reps from both the MLBPA and Commissioner’s office. The reason this part of the policy is so important is because the league isn’t just stopping after punishing the player for the offense and moving on.  Instead, they will be using this Joint Policy Board to devise a treatment plan for the offending party and following through on it. 

“An expert member of the Joint Policy Board will submit his or her proposed treatment plan to the full Board for approval. The expert who prescribed the Treatment Plan will be responsible for overseeing the player’s compliance with the Plan.”

Baseball has had issues with domestic violence cases going unpunished in the past, and this new policy on the surface seems designed to combat that problem.  At the very least, the league and its players have exhibited common sense and legitimate concern over the handling of these important issues. Could it be a proactive attempt to avoid the kind of scrutiny that the NFL has seen in the wake of the Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald situations? Absolutely.  In fact, that’s more than likely what it is.  It would be naïve to not acknowledge that.  But, you have to applaud the league and its players for working together to address an issue that is a large problem among not only professional athletes but society and one that the league itself has done little to nothing about in the past.

What will it take to give more protection to fans?

I’ve touched on this topic previously in this space, so there’s no reason to completely rehash my case for extending the netting at ballparks. This past week gave us two more examples of why the league needs to do something. On Sunday night, a fan in Chicago was struck by a foul ball off the bat of the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber.  That was after an incident on Friday night in Detroit when a foul ball hit a female fan behind the Detroit Tigers dugout. 

The incidents, combined with the one from earlier in the season at Fenway Park leave me wondering what it’s going to take before the MLB addresses the issue.  Are we looking at the same sort of scenario as the NHL where it took a young fan dying before netting was put up around most of the rink?

It’s not just the media and fans that are reacting to these situations either.  Justin Verlander of the Tigers after witnessing the incident on Friday night made multiple comments urging the league to take action.

That last tweet is particularly prescient. You can argue all you want that fans need to pay better attention at games (as Cubs manager Joe Maddon tried to do) but the simple fact is, these fans don't have the reflexes of major league players and even those guys get surprised by foul balls headed their way. Something needs to be done to protect the paying fans, preferably sooner rather than later so that a tragedy can be avoided. 

Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that's where you'll find him. Agree/Disagree? Thoughts, comments, complaints? Email or tweet him. 

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