Sunday, February 13, 2022

PEREYRA: MEXICAN LEAGUE A HAVEN FOR ABUSERS

            While Major League Baseball is relentless and vetoes violent players, Proceso writer Beatriz Pereyra has written an extensive column that says the Mexican Baseball League opens its doors to them regardless of the complaints they have faced. So far there are eight baseball players who have been kicked off major league teams and their subsidiaries for sexual assault and family violence, mainly, who have been hired by Mexican League teams.             In an interview with Pereyra, LMB president Horacio de la Vega acknowledges that they currently lack protocols to deal with the issue, but advances measures to uproot violent behavior. The following is a recent Proceso column by Pereyra, given the Google Translate treatment:

The Mexican Baseball League has become a refuge for players and managers expelled from Major League Baseball for having engaged in sexual harassment and abuse of women, as well as as domestic violence perpetrated against their partners and children.


From 2018 to date there are at least eight documented cases: Yasiel Puig (Veracruz), Addison Russell and Mickey Callaway (Monclova), Danry Vásquez (Campeche and Aguascalientes), Luke Heimlich (Dos Laredos), Roberto Osuna (Mexico City), Sergio Mitre (Tijuana and Saltillo) and Omar Vizquel (Tijuana).


Of those, only Vasquez, Russell and Callaway have admitted guilt. The rest deny having committed the abuses and there is no evidence that they have been in rehabilitation. There is also no sign that the clubs they come from or joined have clear policies on how to deal with these people, beyond simply firing them or hiring them to give them a second chance.


In February 2021, five women who spoke on condition of anonymity reported to sports information website The Athletic that they were sexually harassed by Mickey Callaway when he served as pitching coach with the Cleveland Indians (2013-2017), manager of the Mets (2018-2019) and pitching coach for the Los Angeles Angels (2020).


According to the accusations, Callaway sent emails, text messages and on social networks in which he even asked them to send him nude photos. He also used to make comments to them about their appearance, making them uncomfortable, and on one occasion he “brought his genitals close to the face of a female reporter” when she was interviewing him.


Following a three-month investigation, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's Office announced that it has placed Callaway on its list of ineligible managers, meaning no team can sign him. “Having reviewed the evidence, I have come to the conclusion that Mr. Callaway violated MLB policy. Harassment has no place in Major League Baseball and we are committed to providing an appropriate work environment for everyone involved in our game," Manfred said.


Callaway accepted the sanction and limited himself to issuing a statement: “I apologize to the women who shared with the investigators any interaction that made them feel uncomfortable. I never intended to make anyone feel this way and I didn't understand that these interactions could do that or violate MLB policies. I take responsibility for the consequences,” he said.


But Mickey Callaway has nothing to worry about. In Mexico he already has a job. In 2022 he will be the manager of the Monclova Acereros. It is not the first time that this club hired a man who has no place in the Major Leagues.


For the 2021 LMB campaign, one of Monclova’s most striking signings was that of Addison Russell, a former Chicago Cubs infielder who was suspended 40 games for violating the MLB's domestic violence policy.


In October 2018, Manfred announced the punishment when Russell was on administrative leave – he couldn't play, but was paid – while allegations of domestic abuse made by his ex-wife were investigated.


"My office has completed its investigation into allegations that Addison Russell violated MLB's domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy." The player accepted the punishment and decided not to appeal the suspension.


Domestic violence allegations against Russell were posted by a third party on social media in 2017, but the player's then-wife refused to speak to MLB. In September 2018, the victim confirmed that she did suffer physical and emotional abuse during her two-year marriage.


Not only did the Monclova Acereros resort to hiring former major league players who, unable to get a contract in the United States, saw in Mexican baseball the opportunity to continue playing.


The Campeche Piratas did it with Danry Vásquez, who in August 2016 attacked his partner on the ballpark steps of the Corpus Christi Hooks, a Class AA minor league affiliate of the Houston Astros.


When the images were made public in March 2018, they were used as evidence to open a case against him. After he was arrested, Vasquez was released on bail and reached a plea deal. The case was later dismissed, the player paid a fine and promised not to attack a person with whom he was in a romantic relationship again.


Vasquez apologized in court to fans because his behavior "was unprofessional." By then, he was under contract to a team in Pennsylvania, the Lancaster Barnstormers who fired him as soon as the video was made public.


“As soon as the nature of the incident became apparent, the Barnstormers decided to sever the link. There’s no other option but to end the relationship. Neither I, nor the Barnstormers as an organization, can condone or be associated with this behavior," Lancaster manager Ross Peeples said.


The video shows how Vásquez slaps his girlfriend, knocks her down with the blow, drags her down the stairs. In a break he hits her in the face again, she falls from her and picks her up violently. The images were captured by the stadium's security cameras.


After having played in 2018 with Campeche, the player has been on the roster of the Aguascalientes Rieleros in the 2019 and 2021 campaigns.


From Heimlich to Mitre


The first LMB team to start signing players with a history of violence against women was the Dos Laredos Tecolotes. In March 2019 they announced the hiring of Luke Heimlich, a pitcher who shone at Oregon State University and was considered one of the best prospects in college baseball in the United States.


Despite his talent, he was not drafted by an MLB team when it became known that in 2012 he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing his six-year-old niece when he was 15 years old. In statements to the press, Heimlich has denied that he committed the abuse and that if he pleaded guilty, it was because of the poor advice he received.


In an interview for the Hitazo baseball website, the president of the Tecolotes, José Antonio Mansur, declared that his intention was to give the player a second chance. “The LMB has all his criminal records, in addition to a letter from MLB indicating that he is not suspended; so it is a matter of seeing if we are going to crucify a man for life or give him a second chance, as it should be.


“It would be a good example of how someone who is already free, who has already paid for his mistake, can rejoin. After discussing it with my family, I think he deserves it. We shouldn't close the doors to a 23-year-old boy for his own good and to show that the LMB is open to reincorporating people,” said Mansur.


In May 2018, 23-year-old pitcher Roberto Osuna was arrested by Toronto police while playing for the Blue Jays. The arrest was due to a complaint from his partner, who accused him of having beaten her. After serving a 75-game suspension, Osuna was traded to the Houston Astros.


The case remained in limbo when the complainant stated that she would not appear in court to testify. The parties signed a peace bond and the charges were dropped. In August of that year, Osuna gave an interview to USA Today in which he assured that the fans have judged him without really knowing what happened. He did not talk about the details of the case, but anticipated that the truth would be known soon, which never happened.


In April 2021, the Veracruz Águilas announced that former major leaguer Yasiel Puig would wear their uniform. After spending time with the Dodgers, and a brief stint in Cincinnati and Cleveland, the player did not get a contract for the 2020 season.


Puig arrived in Mexico with the shadow of the accusation of a woman who denounced him for having sexually violated her during a basketball game, accusations that he has denied and for which he considers that the doors to return to the MLB have been closed.


An investigation by the Washington Post revealed last December that since 2017 two other women had signed confidentiality agreements with Puig: they received money in exchange for not making public that they were sexually assaulted and beaten by the player.


Puig denied all three accusations and clarified that having paid does not imply that he is responsible for what he is accused of. The Cuban will not return to Mexican baseball in 2022, as he signed a contract with a South Korean league team.


In October 2020, when there was no LMB season as a result of the pandemic, Blanca García, wife of Omar Vizquel, announced that the former major league player, an 11-time Gold Glove winner, was physically and psychologically abusing her. The Venezuelan was then serving as manager of the Tijuana Toros.


In the multiple complaints she made in different media and on her social network accounts, García also aired an incident that Vizquel had when he was manager of a team in the Minor Leagues: “It made me very disgusted and very indignant and that was the point of breakup that I couldn't take anymore, because the abuse wasn't just me. That was a big part of what led me to make the decision to divorce.”


In August 2021, two weeks after the Toros removed Vizquel as manager,the complaint was made public that one of the bat boys of the Birmingham Barons, the double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, filed for sexual conduct aggressive. The young man, who suffers from autism, recounted how Vizquel exposed himself naked to him, forced him to rub his back and deliberately showed him his member.


In a statement, the club reported: "After first becoming aware of an alleged incident in late August 2019, Chicago conducted an internal investigation that resulted in termination of employment with Vizquel."


On December 27, Vizquel announced that the divorce process with his wife had already concluded and that the judge dismissed the charges of gender violence. Regarding the bat boy's lawsuit, he said that, since the case is still open, he cannot comment, but he denied the facts and announced that "it will also be clarified."


Sergio Mitre, 41, is currently being tried for the femicide of Inés, one year and 10 months old, the daughter of his ex-partner Liliana, who points out that he had beaten the girl until she died (NOTE: Mitre has been found guilty and faces up to 60 years in prison). However, the player carries a history of violence from the United States, where he has attacked ex-partners, minors and animals.


In Mexico since September 2019, a video has been made public where the player is seen running naked from a hotel room in Saltillo chasing a woman, also without clothes, whom he dragged back to the room in front of security personnel.


As a result of what happened that night, Sergio Mitre was arrested, spent four days in jail, was prosecuted for domestic violence and the case ended in a conditional suspension. The process consists of the aggressor acknowledging his responsibility and agreeing to comply with a series of reparations and protection measures for the victim.


The Saltillo Saraperos, who initially condemned the violent acts and suspended the player indefinitely, rehired him for 2020. At the beginning of that year he met Liliana and Inés, and while the LMB was inactive – as a result of the pandemic – the girl's murder happened.


Code of ethics


The president of the LMB, Horacio de la Vega, tells Proceso that while Mitre's trial is over, the league has permanently suspended him.


“In the case of players or managers who’ve had this type of unacceptable behavior and who are currently active in the league,” said de la Vega, “it is for such individuals to take responsibility for their actions and reinsert themselves into professional sports in an impeccable way, with exemplary behavior in all aspects of his life, in particular his behavior towards women, and that his activity in professional sports serves as a second chance to make up for his faults.”


The president acknowledges that the LMB lacks a policy to act in this type of case, but that "it is respectful of the autonomy of its clubs and the hiring of personnel."


However, he anticipates that for the 2022 season a Code of Ethics will come into force, "an unprecedented effort in the almost 100 years of existence of the league" which will include precautionary measures and the uprooting of violent behavior against women. He also said that the LMB will develop permanent campaigns for the prevention of gender violence and will teach courses to suppress "incorrectly normalized behavior in our society."


The central task, he adds, "will be prevention, awareness and education to have players with social awareness, gender and values ​​that promote inclusion and equality. We will be very respectful of authority, and if there are players who are legally impeded to participate in our circuit, what is available will be followed.


“The position of the LMB is that any offender be prosecuted, in accordance with all applicable laws in Mexico, as well as with the legal systems of other countries. In the event that the authorities require the support of the LMB, it will be granted.


"Similarly, at the time there are accusations of any kind against personnel of any of the clubs, the league will proceed accordingly with exhaustive investigations."