Jose Reyes Has Been Honored for His Off-Field Behavior

Known primarily for his work as the former executive director of the MLBPA, Marvin Miller was an NYU-educated economist by training. His efforts as union head eventually led to the elimination of the reserve clause and start of free agency for MLB players. It was Miller who negotiated the players’ very first collective bargaining agreement, brought arbitration to professional sports, and did all of this despite contending with anti-semitism from the team owners on the other side of the bargaining table and a disability leaving him with limited use of his right arm. Miller was called by Hank Aaron “as important to the history of baseball as Jackie Robinson.”

In light of Miller’s relevance to the livelihoods of its members, it’s not surprising that the MLBPA makes some effort not only to preserve his legacy but also to honor those who continue it. To that end, the union gives an award every year for off-field service and community leadership. The Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, started in 1997 and rebooted in 2000, is considered “one of baseball’s top honors[.]” The award is based on popular vote by the players, with the recipient being the teammate whom the voters “most respect based on his leadership on the field and in the community.” Each team has its own top vote-getter honored by the MLBPA.

In 2017, the list of top vote-getters contained an impressive collection of players notable not just for their exploits on the field, but for their charity work off of it, as well.

Among [2017]’s nominees are players involved in providing clean water and other necessities to poverty-stricken villages in remote parts of the world, supporting the needs of servicemen and women and their families, building schools, ensuring clothing and meals for inner-city poor,  raising funds for research and respite to cancer victims and their families,  rescuing abandoned and mistreated animals,  and sending truckloads of emergency supplies to victims of natural disasters.

While the Marvin Miller Award itself honors just a single player per year, each team’s top vote-getter receives a $2,500 grant among other honors.

The overall winner of the prestigious award, named for the founding executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, will receive a grant for $50,000. Grants of $10,000 and $5,000 go to the players who place second and third, and the leading vote recipient from each club (listed below) will receive a $2,500 grant.

Additionally, the 2018 Player of the Year will receive a $50,000 grant and the eight league-wide Players Choice Award winners will receive grants of $20,000 each.  Runners-up in all categories receive $10,000 and third-place finishers $5,000.

Just as in 2017, many of this year’s team representatives contributed towards worthy causes. You can see the whole list of credentials for yourself, but here’s a small sampling:

Nelson Cruz – Seattle Mariners

Nelson’s compassion ranges from promoting education to ensuring the most vulnerable people of his hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz in the Dominican Republic have the necessities to lead safe, healthy lives. To date, he has sent two ambulances, a fire truck, wheel chairs, medicines, school supplies and baseball equipment back home and he is currently raising money to build a police precinct on property he purchased.

Colorado Rockies – Ian Desmond

For every RBI and run scored in May, Ian donated $1,000 to the Children’s Tumor Foundation. He drove in 15 runs and knocked in 14 runs that month. CTF aims to end Neurofibromatosis, and Desmond has regularly fundraised and organized events in support of CTF.

Corey Knebel – Milwaukee Brewers

Corey’s charitable efforts go towards animal care and children living with disabilities. He has contributed to multiple charitable foundations, including the Miracle League of Milwaukee All-Star Game, Autism Speaks, the Brewers Community Foundation and Love Your Melon.

Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels

Since 2016, Mike has served as an ambassador for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County, using his platform as an MLB superstar to educate the community about the value of the organization’s one-to-one mentoring programs. His role is to enhance recruitment efforts through social media advocacy, marketing and fundraising. Trout has also made monetary and equipment donations to his hometown Millville Thunderbolt Club, which supports Millville (NJ) High School athletic programs.

Adam Jones – Baltimore Orioles

Throughout his big-league career, Adam has enthusiastically advocated for the empowerment of Baltimore’s local youth. Working closely with The Boys & Girls Clubs of Baltimore, Jones has helped provide local youth with educational opportunities that have helped kids achieve academic success, develop financial literacy and ultimately pursue higher education. He has also donated funds to Living Classrooms, Stocks in the Future, Harlem Lacrosse, Sharp Dressed Man and the Baltimore Urban Baseball Association.

You get the idea. Of the nominees, 29 are noted for their charity work for causes ranging from melanoma (Freddie Freeman) to muscular dystrophy (Rhys Hoskins) to pediatric cancer (Mookie Betts). Victor Martinez helped Make-A-Wish foundation grant the wish of a child with cancer. Martin Prado funds student-athletes. Ryan Zimmerman funds multiple sclerosis research. I could go on, but the point is that the list is largely a who’s who of men with a significant, positive community impact. All 29 appear to be worthy selections.

You’ll notice I said “all 29.” That’s not a typo. Because while basically every one of the award’s team representatives seems to have made some real contribution in the community, one player’s resume appears to offer less in the way of philanthropic bona fides.

The Mets’ top vote-getter for the Marvin Miller Award is Jose Reyes, and even the write-up for Reyes seems unconvinced that he belongs among this particular group of players.

Jose Reyes – New York Mets

In his 16th season, Jose earned the respect of his teammates with the professionalism he demonstrated in transitioning from everyday player to role player. He took on the responsibility of mentoring young players, including the Mets’ promising young shortstop Amed Rosario.

Where all 29 other entries directly cite some manner of work in the community, Reyes’s does not. Some earnest research reveals no charitable efforts that might be appropriate for inclusion here.

Nor is it as though the Mets were bereft of players qualified for recognition. David Wright managed to repeatedly attend charitable events despite his ongoing rehab. Michael Conforto, meanwhile, visited children in the hospital, and Noah Syndergaard funded a baseball camp for underprivileged kids. Those sorts of endeavors seem to be much more in the spirit of the honor than the acceptance of a reduced role, however cheerfully undertaken.

More to the point, there’s this: while the argument in favor of such a recognition for Reyes appears rather weak, the argument against it seems pretty robust. Reyes, of course, received a 52-game suspension when he choked his wife and threw her into a glass sliding door in a Hawaii hotel, leading to his arrest. The attack was sufficiently disturbing that the hotel staff called 911. A year later, Reyes was sued by Christina Sanchez for his failure to pay her the full amount of his court-ordered child support. He had a child with Sanchez after he was already married to wife Katherine Ramirez.

To find out what Reyes had done to merit the honor, I reached out to the MLBPA, which declined comment through a spokesperson. I also reached out to several Mets players, none of whom responded. In addition, I contacted KPMG, the accounting firm which tabulated the votes; they also provided no comment. The New York baseball media seemed just as confused with the selection, the New York Daily News writing bluntly:

There’s really only one award that should be unequivocally given to a Met this season. And it’s the Cy Young to Jacob deGrom.

It most definitely is not the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, for which Jose Reyes was selected as the Mets’ representative on Friday.

FanGraphs’ own Dan Szymborski added probably the best take I’ve seen, as follows.

The first rule of holes is one quite familiar to lawyers and laypeople alike: when you’re in one, stop digging. Justified or not, Major League Baseball — and, specifically, some MLB players — have dug MLB a bit of a hole regarding women as fans. Earlier this year, Jeva Lange wrote a piece for The Week entitled “Women Love Baseball. Why Doesn’t Baseball Love Them Back? in which she states that “MLB’s disregard for the women in the stands extends to its treatment of alleged domestic abusers in the game.” Since then, we’ve seen Addison Russell suspended for domestic violence, and the Astros circumvent their own purported zero tolerance policy to acquire Roberto Osuna while he was suspended for domestic violence. In other words, a perception exists that MLB has a domestic-violence problem.

Under the circumstances, it would seem that Reyes — whatever counsel he provided to Amed Rosario — isn’t the ideal person to honor for a group that is also attempting to fight the perception that they’re insufficiently tough on domestic abusers. In the looming labor strife between MLB and the MLBPA, the union will need public opinion. Public relations experts tell you that perception is reality, and incidents like this will just make that public support harder to obtain. Beyond that, praise for alleged domestic abusers has a negative impact on the report of such abuse, suggesting that an accolade such as this one for Reyes might negative impacts we never see.

The first rule of holes is to stop digging. Voting for Reyes forces the MLBPA and its members further down into this particular hole. What’s more, it was entirely avoidable.

Sheryl Ring is a litigation attorney and General Counsel at Open Communities, a non-profit legal aid agency in the Chicago suburbs. You can reach her on twitter at @Ring_Sheryl. The opinions expressed here are solely the author's. This post is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.

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Sammy Sooser
5 years ago

“We have a zero tolerance policy unless we can really get him on the cheap, he beat the crap out of his significant other while on another team, and when he shows up, he’s completely remorseless.”

Boy, are the Astros checking boxes. As for Reyes – what can you say, at this point? Death, taxes, and lolMets.

5 years ago
Reply to  Sammy Sooser

Here are the facts about reyes the virus 1) 2007 and 2008 biggest collapses in MLB history Reyes hit under 200 during both collapses and made everyone lose focus and urgency. 2) the blue Jays were under 500 with Reyes then they got rid of him and they started to win and went to the ALCS 2 years in a row 3)Rockies got 16 games worse after they acquired Reyes 4)The Marlins got rid of Reyes in the first year of a 5 year contract 5)2017 mets underachieving disaster 22 games under 500 with Reyes 6)2018 once again disaster, overall 30 games under 500 since Reyes returned. 7)last game Shea stadium history loss with Reyes. First game citi field history loss with Reyes. Reyes is the rare athlete that infects guys around him his laughing and overall personality doesn’t allow guys to have the right mindset to perform at their highest capabilities which is why the biggest collapses in history happened with Reyes . it’s been 2 decades of the same disaster result. Mets were in the World Series in 2015 before he showed up

5 years ago
Reply to  nickcarter

I gotta hand it to you, whatever the hell this is, you are very consistent at it.