By John Dundon
Former All-Star Jose Reyes made his return to New York earlier this week and was serenaded by beaming Mets fans at Citi Field who greeted the oft-injured infielder with a thunderous standing ovation.
Reyes’ return comes after a 52-game suspension for a domestic violence incident last October involving the 33-year-old infielder’s wife. The details are gruesome: EMT’s were called to Reyes’ home after the then-former Met had allegedly pulled his wife out of bed, choked her and thrown her into a glass door.
As a result of the incident, the Colorado Rockies chose to place Reyes on waivers despite the large sum of money still owed to him as they pursued trade opportunities. No suitors came calling, thus Reyes became a free agent. Apparently the Mets couldn’t resist the temptation to rekindle an old, albeit burnt-out, flame.
“We believe he deserves a second chance to return to our organization,” said Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson, adding that the once athletic shortstop had undergone MLB-mandated counseling.
Reyes came up with the organization and spent seven seasons in Queens before leaving in free agency for the Miami Marlins, a division rival. He had subsequent stops in Toronto and Colorado before coming home to New York.
The ugly fact of the matter is that this isn’t about second chances. It’s about wins and losses in a sport, a game. If the Mets had four infielders playing at a high level, Reyes wouldn’t have been given this blessing, he’d still be an unclaimed free agent.
The warm reception fans gave Reyes also reeks of this disturbing truth that doesn’t seem to go away: those in the sports realm only care about what men and women do in the athletic arena.
On Tuesday, as Reyes stepped into the batter’s box for the first time since being suspended, Mets fans opted to brush over the attack he committed on the mother of his children. There was no voice to remind the sports world of the alleged assault just eight months ago.
It’s a reaction that should be viewed as a proverbial slap in the face to victims of domestic violence everywhere.
“I find it (the fan reaction) extremely disheartening and disturbing,” said Gretchen Shaw, Associate Director for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “We as fans have a responsibly to say:Look, this is not OK. Especially with something like domestic violence that is so fueled by apathy.”
Advocates for victims of domestic abuse weren’t the only ones to speak out. New York Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called the Mets’ controversial signing of Reyes “outrageous” as she lambasted professional sports teams for prioritizing wins and losses over the lives of women.
“It’s outrageous how little women’s lives seem to matter when someone can throw a baseball really hard, wins Super Bowl’s, or has a good jump shot,” Mark-Viverito said in a statement.
“Domestic violence kills thousands of women every year and it’s time professional sports actually takes it seriously. The Mets should be ashamed. We need to be better.”
Reyes, who went hitless in his first game back with the Mets, emerged unscathed from a fanbase that could be relentless at times when they’re dissatisfied with a player. But the media did not let him off the hook.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) July 6, 2016
Prosecutors in Hawaii, where the alleged assault occurred, dropped domestic abuse charges against Reyes after his wife declined to cooperate with authorities.
“I’m a human being, and human beings make a mistake. Nobody is perfect,” Reyes told reporters before his Citi Field debut Tuesday.
While he’s been apologetic, that doesn’t change the facts of the incident. This is not the first time an accused domestic abuser has apologized, nor will it be the last. Moreover, it’s common for domestic abusers to be repeat offenders. The American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence cited a study on its website from 2000 that said 41 percent of reported domestic violence offenders committed another assault within a 30-month period.
Reyes has said all the right things. He’s donated money and time to anti-domestic violence coalitions. He’s attended more than the mandated amount of counseling. The fact remains, though, Jose Reyes did nothing to be cheered, nothing to be revered. He did exactly the opposite.
Mets fans have let him, and the organization, off the hook.
Although the domestic violence charges were dropped, Reyes now has a reputation that will follow him for the rest of his life: a wife beater.
But as long as Reyes can keep that batting average up, in the eyes of Mets fans, he’s forgiven.