What would you like the toronto blue jays to do with roberto osuna in august upon his return from a 75-game suspension?
|Start closing games||47%|
|Demote him to the minors||4%|
|Trade him for assets||35%|
|Cut him from the team||14%|
I suppose it was only a matter of time before I tackled this delicate issue head-on as it’s been the single-most requested source of feedback on my end. Not a day goes by when someone I meet or interact with in the industry asks the inevitable question: “So, Mr. Shapiro…what would you do about Roberto Osuna?”
Not surprisingly, my first instinct mirrors the results of this poll which was conducted on my twitter feed last week; a part of me truly understands why this player is so coveted and valued by the organization and their fans. This isn’t just any player on the roster; one could argue it is *the* player when it comes to projecting a rosy and optimistic future for the baseball franchise.
Unfortunately, this is precisely why poll respondents are literally torn down the middle when it comes to what tomorrow may bring. When half the fanbase is prepared to “forgive and forget” (which is as seemingly noble as it is abhorrent to many given the context), and the other half wants nothing to do with the athlete, it’s abundantly clear that the team is in for another round of controversy should he end up toeing the rubber in August.
For myself personally, I’ve done a great deal of soul-searching when it comes to this off-field controversy, if not simply for the fact that the faithful around these parts have never experienced something that’s hit their collective nerve this hard. We’re not talking about Ted Lilly in a choke-hold, Shea Hillenbrand writing derogatory comments on a clubhouse whiteboard, Yuniel Escobar using his face as a billboard for ignorance, or Kevin Pillar forgetting that the camera was on during a game and belting out a homophobic slur. No, this is something infinitely more profound that strikes at the core of why we enjoy baseball as a form of escapism and personal fulfillment. Conversely, it is also a reminder why Major League Baseball is still very much behind the proverbial eight-ball when it comes to understanding the consequences of how off-field actions are directly linked to the moral consciousness of their faithful and loyal followers.
Roberto Osuna didn’t just abdicate his responsibility as an employee and a celebrity athlete in the public eye, he literally damaged the social covenant between the fan and his or her team. The very fact that his legal proceedings will remain an omnipresent distraction while he attempts to rehabilitate his image is a stunning indictment at how tone-deaf the Blue Jays have been in handling this entire debacle. When half the fanbase isn’t prepared to simply open their arms and welcome him back into the fold, it’s important that the front office declare their intentions as to why and how Osuna will be re-integrated; is it for increasing his trade value for something imminent? Will it be about working with the player to become a community leader to stop the tragic increase of domestic abuse across the country? Or will this simply be a tepid effort to normalize the player using his star-studded pedigree with the hopes that spectators will choose winning over social justice and the eradication of violence against women?
A clear, unified voice needs to be heard and it’s incumbent upon Blue Jays management and the league to show real leadership in the face of something that should have been implemented a long time ago – namely, a zero tolerance policy against any forms of domestic abuse against women. It is a repugnant anachronism in our era that should be debated only by those who aren’t willing to acknowledge the importance of character when it comes to professional athletes, and in the absence of such, renders them as nothing more than financial assets in a sport which depends on their female fans more than ever for long-term success.