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Jose Reyes' Arrest For Domestic Violence Puts MLB In The Spotlight

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Major League Baseball doesn't have much of a track record in dealing with players who've been involved in domestic violence cases, but that track record is about to start. A shortstop with the Colorado Rockies, Jose Reyes, was arrested in Hawaii on Halloween night after a fight with his wife turned physical. Police of Maui said yesterday she'd been taken to hospital for her injuries. It was only this past August that the MLB agreed to a new policy concerning domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse, and that happened after the league watched the NFL struggle with these issues. Mike Bates writes for the MLB Daily Dish. He joins us now to talk about this case and, actually, a new development in the NFL. Welcome to the program, Mike.

MIKE BATES: Hi, Audie.

CORNISH: I want to talk to you first about the MLB's new policy. We know this was hammered out with the players union. What does it say, and what could this mean for Jose Reyes?

BATES: Well, I think we don't really know what it means for Jose Reyes yet. This is really the first time this policy has been tested. The commissioner is allowed to put him on administrative leave while the investigation is ongoing. The punishment that the commissioner decides on is not subject to any kind of president. You know, I do think that this is something teams are going to be considering as they're deciding whether or not to acquire him in the future.

CORNISH: So help us understand what's different now.

BATES: Prior to this, the league didn't even have a policy in regards to domestic violence. Players were subject to discipline by their teams. But Major League Baseball essentially gave those teams a free hand, didn't interfere.

Under the current policy, the commissioner investigates and has broad powers in terms of how long a player is suspended. He is given time to investigate, during which time that player is on unpaid administrative leave. He's not on the field. Then that punishment is subject to review by a three-arbitrator panel.

CORNISH: Is this all that much different from what goes on, say, in the NFL? Is there any sense that baseball looked to the troubles football was having in crafting this policy?

BATES: I think Major League Baseball realized the NFL had a real problem last year and took affirmative steps to get out in front of the problem to give the commissioner powers that he didn't have previously. The commissioner did not involve himself in disciplining players or behavior off the field that didn't involve gambling.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, I do want to turn to an issue that has come up in the NFL, and that is with a Dallas Cowboys player, Greg Hardy. Over the weekend, the website Deadspin released photos of Greg Hardy's former girlfriend with bruises, and he was accused last year of beating and strangling her. He was convicted, and then that case was thrown out after he appealed and his ex wouldn't testify. Now, as far as the sport, he was suspended for four games, but he's now playing again. And do you think these photos - the kind of reintroduction of this new story - is going to force the NFL to revisit his case?

BATES: I don't know if the NFL is going to revisit his case, but I do think that, you know, the Cowboys are certainly embarrassed by Hardy's conduct of him abusing someone he supposedly cared about. I think one of the important things about Major League Baseball's policy is that it's not beholden to any kind of conviction or trial at all. The commissioner, Rob Manfred, has the power to make his determination outside of the legal system. And given what we know about the prosecution rates for domestic abusers, that's probably a good thing.

CORNISH: Mike Bates is a contributing editor with MLB Daily Dish. Mike, thanks so much.

BATES: Thank you very much, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.