MLB faced difficult decision in Familia’s assault case

Jeurys Familia #27 of the New York Mets reacts in the ninth inning after giving up a three-run homerun against the San Francisco Giants during their National League Wild Card game at Citi Field on October 5, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball suspended Mets closer Jeurys Familia 15 games for violating the league’s domestic-violence policy.

That much is clear. The rest of the situation … not so much.

On Oct. 31, Familia was arrested on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in New Jersey. His wife, Bianca Rivas, called 911 and claimed her husband was “drink” and “acting crazy.”

He was arrested for allegedly causing a scratch to Rivas’ chest and bruise to her right cheek. But she later told authorities the scratch was caused by the couple’s son, and the cheek mark was caused by pressing on her head.

The charge against Familia was dropped, and record of the case was expunged.

Here is MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s statement on the suspension:

“Mr. Familia and his wife cooperated fully throughout the investigation, including submitting to in-person interviews with MLB’s Department of Investigations. The evidence reviewed by my office does not support a determination that Mr. Familia physically assaulted his wife, or threatened her or others with physical force or harm, on October 31, 2016. Nevertheless, I have concluded that Mr. Familia’s overall conduct that night was inappropriate, violated the Policy, and warrants discipline.”

Familia said he will not appear his suspension. Here is his statement:

“With all that has been written and discussed regarding this matter, it is important that it be known that I never physically touched, harmed or threatened my wife that evening. I did, however, act in an unacceptable manner and am terribly disappointed in myself. I am alone to blame for the problems of that evening. My wife and I cooperated fully with Major League Baseball’s investigation, and I’ve taken meaningful steps to assure that nothing like this will ever happen again. I have learned from this experience, and have grown as a husband, a father, and a man.”

ESPN’s Buster Olney explains how MLB came to the decision they did in this case:

If Familia is actually innocent of crime, why didn’t he appeal his suspension? The Record’s Bob Klapisch explains:

Because he, like Manfred, compromised. Had Familia’s side opposed a deal, Manfred could’ve responded with a 31-game suspension that, if upheld, would’ve cost Familia enough service time to keep him from becoming a free agent in 2018. Could MLB actually have prevailed against Familia? Probably not, although it should tell you something that Familia is giving up approximately $700,000 without a fight. He attended 12 counseling sessions and is leaving the Mets without a closer for most of April. He wouldn’t have done so just because of an ordinary disagreement.

CBS Sports’ Jonah Keri weighs whether Familia’s suspension was too short as compared to similar cases:

CBS New York’s Boomer and Carton also discussed whether the suspension was too lenient:

Deadspin’s Lindsey Adler thinks MLB made the right decision:

There will certainly be people who think that 15 games is too harsh or too light of a punishment, an irony given the fact that such suspensions aren’t much more than public relations strategies. But look beyond the 15 games and you’ll see MLB setting Familia on a path that may actually improve his behavior and secure the well-being of his wife. Ultimately, that’s what matters.

Newsday’s David Lennon says MLB was faced with a difficult situation:

Naturally, everyone now will compare Familia’s suspension to Aroldis Chapman’s 30, the 52 that Jose Reyes got and Hector Olivera’s 82-game ban. Is what Familia did only half as bad as Chapman, who fired off a gun multiple times in a fit a rage as his girlfriend cowered in the bushes? Or much less horrible than Reyes and Olivera, both of whom were arrested after brutal physical evidence of domestic violence? Excuse the crude analogy here, but this isn’t baseball. You can’t crunch numbers and put a value on this. Trying to even apply precedents gets dicey because these cases don’t follow regular disciplinary procedures. Test positive for a performance-enhancing drug and MLB’s rules are easily laid out in black-and-white.

The New York Daily News’ Kristie Ackert says the decision sends mixed messages:

If they found ANY evidence of ANY type of domestic violence, then MLB needed to hand down a serious suspension. Fifteen games is an expensive slap on the wrist. Manfred has the freedom to make arbitrary suspensions — 52 games for Jose Reyes in 2016, 30 for Aroldis Chapman. If 50 games is a good enough penalty for a first-time performance-enhancing drug cheat, then it’s a good starting point of a mandatory suspension for evidence of any type of domestic violence. But without that guideline and definitive rules to determine violation and punishment, MLB, the players and the rest of us are left in this grey area that we find ourselves in with Familia’s suspension, despite the supposed three months of investigation.

What do you think? Was MLB’s 15-game suspension of Familia fair?

Debate by downloading our app on iOS at or on Android at You also can play online at