Phillies

Phillies' Odubel Herrera suspended 85 games by Major League Baseball

Phillies' Odubel Herrera suspended 85 games by Major League Baseball

Updated: 8:01 p.m.

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball has suspended Phillies’ outfielder Odubel Herrera for the remainder of this season for violating the league’s policy against domestic abuse.

The suspension, announced Friday night, is for 85 games. It is retroactive to June 24. Herrera, making $5.3 million this season, will not be paid during the suspension. He has agreed not to appeal the suspension and will participate in a confidential and comprehensive evaluation and treatment program supervised by a joint policy board for MLB and the Players Association.

Herrera was charged with assaulting his girlfriend at an Atlantic City hotel on May 27. His girlfriend chose not to press charges and the case was dismissed by a New Jersey court earlier this week.

But MLB, as part of a joint agreement with the Players Association that covers matters of domestic, sexual and child abuse, still had the right to conduct its own investigation and levy punishment. The 85-game ban is the second-longest handed down since MLB and the Players Association agreed to the policy before the 2016 season. Jose Torres of the San Diego Padres received a 100-game ban in June 2018.

“My office has completed its investigation into the allegations that Odúbel Herrera violated Major League Baseball’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy,” commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement Friday night. “Having reviewed all of the available evidence, I have concluded that Mr. Herrera violated the Policy and should be subject to discipline in the form of an unpaid suspension that will cover the remainder of the 2019 season.”

In a statement, the Phillies supported the commissioner’s action.

“All instances of domestic violence and abuse are abhorrent and unacceptable, and we unequivocally support Baseball’s collective efforts to prevent domestic abuse,” the statement said. “We are encouraged by Odubel’s acceptance of his discipline as an indication of his willingness to learn from this and change his behavior appropriately.”

The Players Association released a statement Friday night on behalf of Herrera.

"Today, I accepted a suspension from Major League Baseball resulting from my inappropriate behavior," Herrera said in the statement. "I acted in an unacceptable manner and am terribly disappointed in myself. I alone am to blame for my actions.

"I’ve taken meaningful steps to to assure that nothing like this will ever happen again. I have learned from this experience, and I have grown as a person. I apologize to the Phillies’ organization, my teammates and all my fans. I look forward to rejoining the Phillies once my suspension is served and continuing to work on being a better partner, teammate, and person."

Herrera has not played for the Phillies since May 26. He was placed on administrative leave after the incident occurred May 27.

The 27-year-old from Venezuela is owed about $23.7 million through 2021. His contract cannot be voided, as part of the joint agreement between MLB and the Players Association. Releasing Herrera would require his approval and a negotiated settlement of the monies owed him, as per the joint agreement. The length of the suspension allows the team plenty of time to determine how it will proceed with Herrera. He could return next season, negotiate a release or be traded.

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Important week on tap for MLB — can season actually begin in early July?

Important week on tap for MLB — can season actually begin in early July?

Signs point toward meaningful MLB news coming this week. 

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday announced that teams could return to their facilities to train, which is meaningful nationwide given the fact that New York has had more than twice as many cases of COVID-19 reported as any other state.

In Tampa, Tropicana Field was reopened for limited workouts and more than a dozen Rays players participated. The Astros have announced that Minute Maid Park is open for workouts, too. The Angels' spring training complex is open to all players on their 40-man roster.

MLB and the players' association are scheduled to meet today. Understandably, the players' union has, so far, been unwilling to accept another pay cut on top of what it thought agreed to in March with prorated pay. Team owners have been adamant that it is not financially viable to pay players a half-season salary with no fans in stands. From their side, the losses would be too steep and would affect future finances.

Will the sides reach a compromise? They have to. We saw again over the weekend how many Americans are starved for sports when 5.8 million tuned into the Tiger Woods-Peyton Manning vs. Phil Mickelson-Tom Brady golf match, a number slightly higher than The Last Dance documentary received. 

MLB didn't need any more evidence that returning was crucial, but there it was. All parties feel a sense of urgency because the league doesn't want baseball to dip further in popularity, and the players want to play and get paid. If the sport were to disappear for a period of 18 months, it will fall off the radar for many casual fans. And a portion of die-hards will be so frustrated by the sides' inability to come to a financial agreement at a time when so many are suffering physically, mentally and financially and craving the escape of sports that even their viewership habits could change. 

MLB cannot afford that. It is not at the height of its popularity like the NBA.

The goal, when this is worked out, is still to hold Spring Training II in mid-June and open the season at the beginning of July. The closer we get to those dates without an agreement, the less likely it becomes that the regular season could start so soon. Players will need two or three weeks to prepare regardless of when a deal is struck.

It also looks increasingly likely that teams will stay within their own divisions. There would still be a good amount of interleague play between teams in close proximity to one another (think Yankees and Orioles for the Phillies), but the three-division, 10-team format idea is not as necessary if teams can play in their home states as opposed to just Florida, Texas and Arizona.

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The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

Dave Raymond, the OG Phillie Phanatic, was alarmed when he read the news earlier this week.

No Mascots!

Has Major League Baseball lost its mind?

Or worse, its sense of humor?

Don’t misunderstand, Raymond, the man who breathed life into that big ball of green fur from the time it debuted in 1978 until 1993, is all for ridding the world of this nasty coronavirus beast. He’s all for social distancing, frequent handwashing and everything else that goes with protecting folks from getting sick. He knows how serious this thing is.

And that’s why he’s hoping that MLB won’t follow through on its plan to ban mascots from games when and if the sport comes back with a proposed 82-game schedule in July.

“I understand that only essential personnel can physically be at the games,” Raymond said Friday. “But I would argue that in these serious times mascots are more essential than ever.”

After shedding the Phanatic’s fur and handing the keys to the ATV to the equally brilliant Tom Burgoyne 26 years ago, Raymond dedicated his professional life to the concept of fun. It’s serious business. Raymond has owned and operated companies that help professional teams and college sports programs develop mascots/brands. He has trained mascots and helped found a mascot Hall of Fame. His current focus is motivational speaking. Everything is centered around the Power of Fun — which just so happens to be the title of his book — and how it can make a difference in people’s lives.

In these trying times when lives have been lost, when people have gotten sick and when the world has wrapped a mask around its face and gone into quarantine, Raymond is preaching louder than ever about the importance of a little fun and the respite it can offer in difficult times.

“It’s a scientific fact that laughing helps a person emotionally and physically,” he said.

That’s why he believes mascots need to have their place in baseball’s return.

“Mascots are a reflection of the fans’ heart and soul and part of the reason fans get emotionally connected to their teams,” he said. “During this time, we need the connection they provide more than ever. I understand that fans can’t be in the stadiums, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still engage them through mascots and character brands. Baseball needs to be creative and carve out space for entertainment.”

Raymond proposes that mascots be featured on television broadcasts when the game returns. It would be kind of funny to see a camera pan over to the Phanatic sitting all alone in section 305. Maybe even have Bobby Vinton’s Mr. Lonely play in the background.

If the Phanatic absolutely, positively cannot be in the ballpark, then he could be featured through technology and social media. Raymond proposed live streaming the Phanatic, wherever he might be, watching the game. Run it across social media platforms and have fans follow along. Raymond also proposed prerecording videos that could feature fans playing catch with the final throw landing in the Phanatic’s glove as he stands on the field. Another idea: Replace the Phanatic’s middle-of-the-fifth-inning dance skit with a live Zoom call on Phanavision and let fans log in. He’d like to see this stuff in every major league city.

“I understand it’s safety first, but there’s still room to lighten things up a little,” Raymond said.

Raymond is sharing this message with mascots who have been sidelined all over the country, from the major leagues to the minor leagues to the colleges. He has personally tutored many of them. They are his friends. Some have been furloughed from their jobs.

“It’s really devastating,” he said.

On Tuesday, Raymond will host a Zoom webinar for mascots and officials from teams, leagues and colleges that he has worked with over the years. It’s titled What The Heck Should My Mascot Do Now?

For Dave Raymond, the answer is simple:

Follow the rules, but by all means, be creative, embrace technology and mascot on.

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