Odubel Herrera is in camp with the Phillies right now, though he does not currently have a spot on their big league roster after being designated for assignment last month.
He was arrested on Memorial Day last year in Atlantic City, after police say a physical dispute with his girlfriend left scratches on her arms and hand print markings on her neck. Charges of causing bodily injury and simple assault were dismissed when the 20-year-old victim decided not to move forward with the case.
In Clearwater this week, Herrera apologized, saying this via Matt Breen at the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“What I can tell you about that night is that I’m very sorry,” Herrera said. “We have had a very long relationship. Like every couple, sometimes you argue. Sometimes there are problems. But we’ve grown as a couple. We have a healthy relationship. We’ve learned from that.”
“There’s no one who regrets this more than me. It’s one of those things that I learned from and tried to get better from,” Herrera said.
Major League Baseball mandated that Herrera donate money to the Pa. Coalition Against Domestic Violence, but a Phillies spokeswoman said Herrera pledged to donate for two additional years. The incident at the Golden Nugget, Herrera said, was the lowest point in his relationship with his girlfriend, but it “is not my regular behavior.” He said he takes “full responsibility” for what happened. And he’ll work this spring to show the Phillies that he’s changed since they saw him last.
I’m gonna offer an unpopular take:
It sounds to me like Herrera is saying and doing the right things. If he and his girlfriend have worked through their issues, and he’s committed himself to learning from this while putting his money where his mouth is, then I think we should respect that effort. We should also respect her decision not to proceed with the case, which is her prerogative and not to be determined by people who have nothing to do with the situation.
I think it’s worth pointing out that a large portion of Philadelphia sports fans gave Michael Vick a second chance, and he turned his life around while using his platform in a positive way. In a comparable situation to Herrera’s arrest, Nigel Bradham went on to win a Super Bowl after serving a one-game suspension for punching a cabana boy in the face and breaking his nose. Brett Myers pitched one day after punching his wife, yet you rarely hear about that incident these days. We’ve had our fair share of athletes committing off-field infractions, but the sticking point is whether they work to try to better themselves after making those mistakes.
“Zero tolerance” sounds virtuous in theory, but that concept generally eschews nuance and disregards the unique nature of each specific situation. If people apologize for their actions, work to change who they are, and prove that they’ve learned and matured, then that’s something I think we should recognize.
We should also be consistent with how we treat these incidents, lest we become hypocrites. If Odubel was hitting .374 with 25 home runs, the takes you’re reading on Twitter and hearing on sports talk radio would be much different, for obvious reasons.
My two cents.