BY: ANDREW COHEN
(Photo Credit: The Athletic)
While the sports world has heard about Trevor Bauer's case, many are unaware that his story was not the first domestic violence incident by an MLB All-star this season. That belonged to two-time all-star, Atlanta Braves outfielder, Marcell Ozuna.
Ozuna, is in his first season of his fully guaranteed 4 year/$65 million dollar contract he signed with the Braves this past off-season. Amid playing the best baseball of his career, his season has been halted since Sandy Spring Police Officers were alerted to respond to a residence regarding an assault in progress on the night of May 29, 2021.
Once they arrived at the residence, the police witnessed Ozuna grabbing the victim by the neck and throwing her against the wall. Ozuna was then charged with both Aggravated Assault by Strangulation and Battery under the Domestic Violence Act. These are felonies that range from 3 to 20 years in prison. Ozuna was released from jail shortly after paying a $20,000.00 bond.
What happened next?
The Braves have kept him away from all team activities, similar to how the Los Angeles Dodgers handled the Trevor Bauer situation. However, unlike Bauer, the aggravated assault charges against Ozuna were dropped in July.
On September 9, 2021, Ozuna agreed to enter a diversion program that could result in his entire domestic violence case being dismissed. Ozuna is required to undergo a six-month family violence intervention program, 200 hours of community service, refrain from illegal drug use, and avoid any contact with his wife. However, if Ozuna completes all of these requirements within his first three months, the original six-month supervision requirement will be terminated immediately.
While he may have legally been off the hook, the MLB placed Ozuna on administrative leave as they continue to investigate the situation and continue to extend his leave, as they did most recently on September 18th. There seems to be no indication of when we will see Ozuna back on the diamond.
Can the Braves find a way to void their contract with Ozuna?
If the felony charges had not been dropped, the Braves would have a strong case to escape the remainder of their contract with Ozuna (around $61,000,000.00) and place Ozuna on the restricted list. If Ozuna went to jail, the Braves may have had a strong case for a breach of contract claim. However, even if the Braves attempt to act, they will likely wait until the MLB conducts their investigation on the manner. The Braves are hoping that the MLB places a lengthy suspension on Ozuna as they would have a better case for saving a few bucks.
Being that the remaining charges are most likely to be dropped, it seems extremely unlikely that the Braves would be able to recoup any amount of money contracted to Ozuna.
While we can all agree that Ozuna’s actions are unacceptable in any situation, many have different opinions regarding the correct way for the MLB and the Atlanta Braves to handle this situation. In my opinion, the MLB should handle these situations better than they currently are.
Although, we can all agree that it is the best move to hold Ozuna out of all team activities, the matter seems to be settled. This case is similar to Bauer’s case because the MLB is not taking any disciplinary action besides extending the administrative leave of the player, which does not solve anything. Both players are not currently charged, as Bauer has not been convicted of any charges and Ozuna had his charges dropped. As a result, the MLB should either let both players play if they are cleared under the law or enforce a strict/bright-line rule around domestic abuse like many other leagues have enacted. Instead, it seems that they are not taking any action while keeping the players away from the sport until the story cools down. As a result of not having a firm disciplinary rule around domestic related instances, it is tough to know how much longer this story will go on for. The ball is in the MLB’s court on whether Ozuna will be subject to discipline... and if he is, how harsh will it be?