MLB has announced that the league and its players’ union, which is one of the strongest in the Nation, have committed $3M a year for the next 2 seasons to multiple not-for-profit organizations focused on a couple of different things.
As you can see from the Tweet above (thank you to Cut4’s Jess Kleinschmidt), the organizations MLB is donating to is focused specifically on mental health, relationship skills and domestic violence survivors.
MLB is yet another organization that is now trying to put more emphasis on the importance of mental health. MLBs traces go back very early once we started learning about the affects of mental health. Their EAP (Employee Assistance Program) has been in place since the Commissioner’s Office introduced it in 1981 under the Bowie Kuhn administration. This is in place to help employees from the janitorial staff to the president of baseball operations deal with issues ranging from substance abuse to whatever mental health problems they have, promoting a healthier work environment and putting extra focus on the well-being of MLBs employees. In 2009, Dontrelle Willis of the Detroit Tigers hit the DL for mental health disorders, publicly speaking about things such as his anxiety. Joe Torre, MLBs CBO, has since put in place a protocol that players can hit the Injured List for mental health purposes as long as they are checked out by a mental health specialist, to promote the players getting the help they need. Major examples is Ben Zobrist, former Tampa Bay Ray and Oakland Athletic utility man who won the World Series with the 2015 Kansas City Royals and 2016 Chicago Cubs, hit the IL most of last season following his divorce. Another prime example is that of future Hall of Fame pitcher Zack Greinke, who took time off from baseball during his tenure with the Kansas City Royals. Greinke, despite many theorizing he’s on the Autism spectrum, that’s unknown. What is known, however, is that in 2006, during his break, he was diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder. Greinke is one of over 15 million adults in the USA dealing with Social Anxiety Disorder. He was one of the first major celebrities to come out and confirm he has it. The former Cy Young winner currently pitches for the Houston Astros, after stints with the Brewers, Angels, Dodgers and Diamondbacks. For MLBPA, they will reimburse the players (including former players) that end up paying for mental health treatment out of pocket.
As relationship skills are something everybody needs to focus on in every walk of life anyway, the other thing I want to hone in on is the domestic violence. The league seems to be in opposition over how we treat the players who commit domestic assault. For example, after the 2015 season, the Cincinnati Reds were about to trade flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman who had just been to his 4th consecutive All-Star game to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The night the trade was supposed to go through, the Dodgers refused when reports came out that Chapman was arrested for choking his ex-girlfriend and shooting a gun in her direction on nine different occasions within the altercation. Chapman was subsequently suspended without pay for some of the 2016 season and the New York Yankees decided that it was worth the bad press. Hal Steinbrenner even went as far as to saying people should “forget” about Chapman’s wrongdoings. The Cubs and Theo Epstein then dealt for him later that season in an attempt to (successfully) end the curse of the Billy Goat. Some teams have no remorse, such as the Rays immediately releasing Derek Norris in 2017, and others such as the Astros will gladly take the bad press. The Astros, embroiled in controversy right now, fired Asst. GM Brandon Traubman this past October when he lashed out at 3 female reporters about Roberto Osuna. Osuna was suspended by baseball for domestic assault while a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, and Traubman did a whole spiel praising Osuna’s actions at the females.
MLB, however, as a league has taken action. On January 2nd, MLB suspended Domingo German of the New York Yankees for 81 games for his domestic assault case. Addison Russell, kept by the Cubs for his suspension and the remainder of the 2019 season, got a major suspension for violently beating his ex-wife, in vivid, meticulous fashion. The Cubs caught a lot of rightful fire for that. The league has taken it extremely seriously, and not punished lightly for big market stars on big market teams. Teams such as the Rays and the Rockies (with the Jose Reyes incident) have been on the forefront of the league’s initiative to end domestic assault and making it a point that it is not okay for their players to commit heinous crimes under any circumstance.
All in all, MLB sending this much money to non-profit (that’s key, considering how much fire companies like the WWE gets for working with charities such as Susan G. Komen), organizations for three major issues in our country is huge. This is especially encouraging since MLB has a rampant domestic assault issue, as well as clubs such as the Angels have been questioned with their mental health programs after the untimely death of Tyler Skaggs.
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