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I made a mistake: I thought about this from the player’s perspective. I thought about the player. Or perhaps, I thought about it as mostly mattering with respect to individual players, as mostly serving to modify their behavior. On Thursday, Hal Steinbrenner reminded me of my error.

It’s not that I was unaware of the incentives that existed for teams when assessing what to do with players implicated in domestic violence incidents. I did. I fretted over it because, among other things, I want to be able to like baseball. We want to like baseball free of the worry we have when we like football. That feeling of being implicated. We should admit that the desire to like baseball is a not small part of our concern over baseball players engaging in violence toward their intimate partners. We would care about it on its own because we aren’t bad people, but we care a little harder in public because we don’t want to be bad people while liking baseball.

We know that liking bad people gets in the way of liking baseball, or should, and so we dislike those who are bad for their badness but also for the inconvenience their badness poses. Our stakes are inherently lower, and we like to be good. We worry about ourselves—an inherently personal concern—and so it is no surprise that I have thought mostly about players when evaluating domestic violence in baseball. They are clearly delineated and their victims individuals. They have victims. I didn’t worry about teams, but I should have. I should have worried more about the Yankees.

The Yankees had exactly the same incentives as any other team. There was, and is, nothing uniquely awful about them. The moment when they traded with the Reds was a moment that we could pick on, but who knows? Who knows if theirs was the first call answered, or the first prospect package that made sense. Who knows how much Aroldis Chapman’s contract status mattered. Maybe others tried to be icky just like this and failed. We don’t really know.

What distinguishes the Yankees wasn’t their innate moral fortitude, or lack thereof; what distinguished them was their options. What distinguished them was their ability to execute. And execute they did, all along the way. They saw a distressed asset and acquired him for far less than he was worth. They lost some games, realized they weren’t going to contend for a playoff spot, and turned that asset into Cubs prospect Gleyber Torres. In the process, they made the future cost of that asset more straightforward, freeing him from a qualifying offer.

Chapman wasn’t worth less in value so much as he cost fewer things. And when it was all said and done, New York proved to be a safe harbor, or a rich one. When that distressed asset was interested in no longer being so distressed, the Yankees made him wealthy, as the Yankees are wont to do. I can only speculate how comprehensive that strategy was, how fully it was designed in advance. They needed willing partners along the way, teams with their own incentives centered around these gross circumstances. As with any bit of mischief, it is hard to act alone. But they managed to get a lot without giving up much when it mattered, in part because of their initial willingness to execute on their options.

On Thursday, Steinbrenner was discussing Chapman’s popularity with Yankees fans and said, "He paid the penalty. Sooner or later, we forget, right? That’s the way we’re supposed to be in life.”

He did pay; the Yankees didn’t. In the future, other teams might under different gross circumstances, but the incentives will always exist for them to exploit, waiting for a moment to match. The first phase of Major League Baseball “dealing” with domestic violence was to acknowledge that baseball players hit women, too. The next phase is grappling with the incentives teams faces employing them once they do.

I’m not sure I know the answer. I know that much of the research tells us that zero-tolerance policies create their own perverse incentives, ones that move beyond whether policy works in the clubhouse and into the realm of it not working in living rooms. I know that it is hard to disincentivize teams from signing players with a history of domestic violence when they are available to be signed, and that we’ve taught teams to think of players as commodities and inefficiencies as prizes.

I know that employers aren’t the ideal arbiters of this sort of thing anyway. I know the Yankees aren’t unique, though it would be easier if they were. I know that we want to feel good about baseball, and have faith that human beings might be remorseful. I know that, after justice has been meted out, the taint of violence fades from view. Part of why Steinbrenner’s remarks were so upsetting is that they’re true; we do forget.

We worry about how to mention it. We search for words because the details aren’t as ready. This guy gets to work, so how do we talk about it; how do we deal? I imagine it will continue to be a hard, stupid, imperfect process, but I think part of it is at least acknowledging where we are. Teams will buy broken things under gross circumstances. Those are among their options.

I made a mistake. On Thursday, while telling us we’d forget something else, the Yankees reminded me of it.

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tearecrules
2/03
Ms. Rowley, what is your preferred COA for the league to do about players accused and/or convicted of a crime of domestic violence? It seems to me that a regime involving intervention, treatment, and a commissioner having an ability to impose any punishment isn't sufficient for you. What would Commissioner Rowley do about domestic violence in baseball?
jnossal
2/03
Put the accused to death is my guess.
roarke
2/03
Good article. Something I've wondered for a while is what a player would have to do to actually redeem himself in the eyes of the public. I recognize that this is a sliding scale and that some people would say that once you've committed violence against your SO, you can't be redeemed. Part of the reason it seems so hard to forgive these guys is that they rarely seem genuinely contrite - they may agree to go to anger management as part of their punishment, but too often the apologies are mixed with excuses. But what if a player did something horrible and then apologized and seemed genuine. Then they voluntarily entered anger management counseling. Then they started a foundation for battered women and seeded the foundation with a large chunk of their own money. Would that be enough? Should it be? If they made it their life's mission to educate people on domestic violence issues, could we forgive them then and root for them as if it had never happened? I'm not arguing that we should or shouldn't. Like Meg, I want to root for players because of the stuff they do on the field. I also want to be able to give people a second chance, but it's difficult given the circumstances.
jnossal
2/03
For some people, nothing will ever be good enough. That's a problem. When the approach to an issue like this becomes so visceral and personal that rationality is no longer on the table, you are just adding to the problem, forcing your own personal issues and emotions and demanding that public policy conform. That's just how to end up with bad policy. Forgotten in all this is the fact that Chapman had all charges dropped due to conflicting accounts and the opinion of the responding LEOs that no domestic battery actually occurred. There is zero evidence that he ever actually laid hands on anyone. In his statement, Chapman said HE was the one who was assaulted, amazingly corroborated by none other than the guy who assaulted him (the brother of the alleged victim). Any thought given to that? People should give the prosecutor's report a read before forming an opinion. Also, would anyone really care about this if Chapman was a AAA player? For anyone who claims a double standard for pro athletes, think about that. So, yeah, let's hound the guy for his entire career and on top of that, create a new set of MLB rules all on the basis of a loud argument between a player and a girlfriend who thought he was cheating on her. If nothing else, it will give indignant and shameless columnists something to fill slow news days for the next decade.
ackbar
2/03
This is beyond naive and almost pathologically disingenuous.
tearecrules
2/03
He admitted to poking her in the shoulder with his finger. It's assault. Had she been a cooperative witness and wanted to press charges he'd have been found guilty (more likely pled out to some lesser charge). Had he been found guilty the maximum punishment he'd have faced for a first time offender was 5 days in jail.
jnossal
2/03
She admitted to invading his personal space in a threatening manner. Only then did he push her with two fingers. At that point, her brother ran in and tackled (!) Chapman. Since when do you get jail time for putting up a hand against a person who is literally in your face while the guy who knocks you to the ground walks scot-free? It is very unlikely Chapman would have been convicted. No witnesses, no injuries. The alleged victim immediately recanted the allegation made on the phone, that she'd been shoved and choked. That and consistent statements from every other witness is precisely why the police filed a report saying no assault occurred and the prosecutor declined charges. Hope you feel better laying sentence on a person without waiting for legal charge and conviction. Or, dare I say it, evidence either. With any luck, it will be you, next time.
buddha
2/04
"With any luck, it will be you, next time." Here's your -1. You must be great at parties.
jnossal
2/06
I'm going to +1 your comment. Because ratings are obviously more important to you than making any kind of reasoned rebuttal.
jfranco77
2/03
This is both a well-crafted answer and also a good question. I suppose the answer for a lot of people would be "actually go through the legal system, be found guilty, do the time, come back and be contrite about it." But, of course, the legal system has a really tough time dealing with these kinds of issues. Sometimes the victim doesn't press charges or isn't cooperative enough, or the police just can't find enough evidence. Sometimes the accused just really didn't do anything. Because of this, once a player is accused, the "stink" will always follow them around, even though no legal action was taken. To some fans, seeing a player accused is enough to turn them off. No one can tell you someone else how to think, so no one can say that's unfair. There might actually be perverse incentives where it's better for the player to suffer some legal action and "serve their time" than just have something hanging over their head forever. Of course, the reverse is also true. Some fans would never stop seeing that "stink" but others would forgive a player if no charges were pressed. There just aren't any easy answers.
tearecrules
2/03
Honestly, had he actually been charged and found guilty he does a couple days in jail, and spends a year on probation. First time offender, no visible injuries. Even with the domestic violence modifiers it's class 1 misdemeanor. The criminal justice system just doesn't treat first time offenders who don't do serious bodily harm harshly (and even if they do it still might not bring down the hammer).
Silvergun
2/03
Good grief.
ackbar
2/03
This was thoughtful and much-needed given the relative free pass Chapman's career has received post-spring.
jnossal
2/03
No, really, I want an answer from Ms. Rowley as to what possible justification so has to demand anything from Chapman, the Yankees or MLB in regards to this issue. I'm sick and tired of Rowley and people like her claiming the moral high ground over an incident that didn't result in an arrest, a charge or a conviction. One where every witness, other than the supposed victim, made consistent and repeated statements that no assault occurred. That the alleged victim immediately recanted her original allegation, refused to press charges, showed no physical evidence of assault and admitted to being the physical aggressor in the case. For all that, Rowley apparenlty would like to brand Chapman (literally, I'm sure) with a scarlet A for you can guess what. And screw the facts, because that's not what is important, right? The entire Chapman saga is just a convenient vehicle to drive home personal political issues on a topic that is frankly overblown. News here, domestic violence, when it actually occurs, is a misdemeanor in most jurisdictions unless serious bodily harm ensues. The pillars of Western Civilization aren't going to collapse because some guy grabs his girlfriend's arm during an argument. Before you decide to comment or neg rate me, I dare you to first look up and read the prosecutor's report on the Chapman incident. Any decent person would do that before jumping to the debate over how long a sentence Aroldis Chapman deserves. I really want to know, is this site created for and visited by those who are dedicated to objective analysis or isn't it? Let's find out. Any replies that begin with "yeah, but" will be ignored.
tearecrules
2/03
You get a scarlet A for adultery. He'd have to go with a scarlet D.
jnossal
2/03
All all of you gutless wonders who like to negative comments without the courage to actually answer them, you get a scarlet C.
ackbar
2/03
Nothing says gutsy like the dude posting behind a pseudonym on the internet wishing that we gave men more benefit of the doubt on DV. A profile in courage.
jnossal
2/06
That's actually my name, Ackbar. You can look me up if you like, it isn't a common one. Courage is standing up for what you think is right, even if it is unpopular. Anybody can mouth vague ad hominem attacks and consider the matter settled.
tearecrules
2/04
Actually I like when Ms. Rowley takes to her Twitter to respond to comments on her BP articles. That is a true profile in courage right there...
megrowler
2/04
I'll respond to a couple different comments here. I think there is value in pointing out the unintended incentives and inefficiencies a policy creates. It helps to explain how and why teams act the way they do, which is certainly within BP's purview. As I noted in the piece, this was meant to focus on the fact that while MLB's domestic violence policy is useful in both modifying individual player behavior and sorting out how to deal with their infractions, it is not operating the same way for teams. That might not bother you, but it is noteworthy. That dynamic is not unique to the Yankees; they were not uniquely opportunistic so much as they were uniquely positioned to take advantage of a rather gross inefficiency. You are right that I am a bit stymied as to the solution. The way that a complex problem like domestic violence interacts with baseball as an employer and cultural institution is going to require many conversations (and pieces) to sort out. I had hoped that this would start a conversation by first doing the work of acknowledging the reality we find ourselves in. I acknowledge explicitly that Chapman "did his time," though I would push back on the idea that repeatedly discharging a firearm after an argument isn't concerning. We don't have to relitigate his case each time we talk about him. I am endeavoring to shift the unit of analysis away from him and to his employer. And until those baseball players who abuse their intimate partners quit doing so or the teams that employ them quit extracting gain from their worst moments, I'll continue to engage the issue. If that bothers you, I'd note that my name is always attached to my work, and we publish plenty of other stuff to read.
Junts1
2/05
Most of the critical replies seem to misunderstand that the article really isn't about the question of whether Aroldis Chapman has paid an appropriate price, its about the bad incentives for teams to use it as an opportunity to get better. In the history of BP we've seen the market inefficiencies change from OBP to team defense and gosh knows how many others. Having the market inefficiency be 'Some teams are more willing than others to take on players who have done something they shouldnt' isn't good for baseball. And the challenge is that there's not a good way to prevent that from happening without additional cost to the player, or the answer would be what the NFL did with Ray Rice: effective blacklist and the end of a career. Aroldis doesn't deserve that, but a market inefficiency of 'The Yankees may forgive domestic violence faster than the Red Sox' is not what you want team strength to come down to.
jnossal
2/06
I think you could have chosen a better example, there are certainly several from which to choose, including the recent Jose Reyes incident. Using Chapman as the centerpiece of the argument is too much like using the Duke lacrosse team as an example of the horrors of campus rape. I figured the firearm would come into play at some point. You may find it concerning. The prosecutor had another description: legal. I concede those two views aren't exclusive and MLB can certainly hand out penalties for behavior that might not be against the law, but diminishes their product. I have to say Chapman isn't done with his time and probably never will be. He didn't break the law, but will apparently always be held up as an example of domestic violence in pro sports. As previously noted, he'll be paying for this over the next decade, any time someone needs a convenient example of lax policies and the athlete who got away with it. I find that disingenuous given the facts of the case. The undercurrent is this guy didn't get his punishment, he was guilty, we all know it, but he slipped the bounds of the law and we refuse to be fooled. We may still like baseball, we may still like the team, but when Chapman is on the mound, we'll all turn our backs, just to show what good people we are. Never mind that the guy might actually (very probably) be completely innocent of all charges, legally and in fact. Maybe the approach to take with this piece is how the Yankees did their homework, correctly assessed that Chapman wasn't guilty and wouldn't be charged and took advantage of that. As noted by Mike above, yes, that's 90% of the article right there. It's the 10% that contains remarks like "mischief", "awful" and "icky" that turned the argument the wrong way. In my opinion. Yes, I could just read those pieces by writers who I agree with. But choosing to just ignore the other side of the argument is hardly fair, don't you think? Thank you for replying.
jdeich
2/06
All parties agree that right after a heated argument with his partner, Chapman went to his garage and fired a gun eight times into the wall and window. She fled the house with her infant daughter. If that happened to someone I knew, I would implore her to grab her stuff while the police are still present, leave town, and change her name. I would never tell her "Well, that's perfectly legal behavior. We certainly can't form a negative opinion about that upstanding gentleman. It might cause him distress! Isn't *he* the real victim here?"
misterjohnny
2/06
The personal reaction is far different than the legal reaction. Yes, he certainly is a risk to commit assault again, more than say I am. But he also apparently did not commit a crime. When should MLB get involved? Should they be involved? The Fortune 50 company I work for won't suspend me for Domestic Violence (DV), because I'm not a public figure. And that's really what this is about, isn't it? Appearances. For MLB, for teams. By DOING SOMETHING, MLB looks like they are good guys, doing something about DV. But the reality is, a suspension or fine is not going to be the thing that keeps a player from committing DV. That's not how DV works. I would be more impressed if MLB worked in the minors to counsel all players, to identify players with anger issues, and pay for psychiatric treatment for those players. And then allowed the judicial system figure out if a player deserves a punishment, but followed up with more treatment. But it is about appearances, not about reducing DV.