The hammer of justice


In MLB we often see the likes of umpire Joe West getting what we deem to be a little overly involved in the flow of the game to the point that he seems to think he’s the show. Luckily for West and luckily for our league, players rarely ever lose their cool to the point of striking an umpire (the Roberto Alomar spitting incident withstanding). Unfortunately Yorvit Torrealba took that bull by the horns on Friday in a Venenzuelan winter league game when he struck an umpire in the face mask. Torrealba was suspended for 66 games, which encompasses the remainder of this season and all of next season in the Venenzuelan league.

Torrealba is also the Texas Rangers’ backup catcher; GM John Daniels said only that he was reviewing the situation, but it is unclear if any action will be taken by the team. So the first question at hand is whether or not the Venenzuelan league took proper action. My response to that would be yes. 66 games is probably fair to all sides given the despicable act on Torrealba’s part. So onto the more important question; should the Rangers take any disciplinary action against Torrealba? That’s where it gets a bit nebulous…

I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m conflicted on this one. To further analyze, let’s break it down to a more grass-roots level; can you be held accountable by your job for what you do outside of work? Keeping in mind that any incident which occurs at work or on company property is fair game, I’m against companies disciplining their employees for what they deem to be off-duty misconduct (it goes without saying that it’s a different story if the employee is found guilty of a crime). What I’m saying is that if you or someone else posts a “drunk pic” on facebook of you at a party, your boss should not have any authority to reprimand you at work. We’ve all heard stories like that, and speaking for myself I can’t agree with employers who overstep their bounds. So based upon that argument, Torrealba shouldn’t be held accountable by the Rangers (or MLB) for what he did given that it didn’t happen in the context of a major league game…right?

This is a bit different in that athletes are a bit more of public figures than regular employees at ABC company. The NFL has even taken the step of instituting a personal conduct policy that comes with a laundry list of off-duty misconduct for which you can be held accountable. To futher compound the situation, Torrealba’s offense came in the context of a baseball game. This isn’t a situation where a player got into an altercation at a night club or anything like that. This was a heinous act that occured in a game, on television, and in front of people with their kids who paid to get in.

I will say this: I’m not questioning the suspension in the Venenzuelan league. In fact, I applaud that league’s commissioner for the swiftness and sureness of the justice that he brought down on Torrealba. I’m just unclear as to where I stand on that translating into justice in MLB. Again, bring this to a grass roots level; let’s say you work two part-time jobs (one at a grocery store, and one at a gas station). If a customer at the gas station does something to tick you off to the point that you lash out at him, depending upon the circumstances you might lose the job at the gas pump. However would the grocery store manager have the right to discipline you at that job as well? The initial response is absolutely not. However the store manager could figure that it stood to reason that many of his customers might be the same as those at the gas station. So might people not recognize the guy as the one who caused the problems at the gas pump and take their grocery business elsewhere?

My personal opinion is that an argument as such is ridiculous. What happens somewhere other than work has no bearing on what happens at work. However generally speaking when an employer wants to seize juristiction he goes ahead and does so. But if whatever happened could potentially affect his business, couldn’t he claim the right to do it? I would say that an employer should probably take the employer aside and explain that he doesn’t approve of what happened, and make sure that the guy’s aware that if anything of that sort happened at this company there would certainly be consequences.

But again, the question in Torrealba’s case is whether or not that would be acceptable. As a society we’ve turned into a fairly unforgiving group; we want people to have to pay over and over for their mistakes. If I had to choose a stance, I suppose I would say that we should look to the US Constitution, the supreme law of the land. The constitution protects against double-jeapordy in that you can’t be tried and/or convicted of the same crime twice. So given that the juristiction (the Venenzuelan league) which truly has the power has already handed down a penalty, MLB and/or the Rangers should severely rebuke Torrealba but not penalize him. That may well be an unpopular opinion, however as I said I’m conflicted over it. Having said that if Torrealba and his fellow players want to ensure that they aren’t in jeapordy of being held accountable “at work” for outside things, they might consider keeping their noses out of trouble.

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