The recent placement of Tampa Bay Rays' shortstop, Wander Franco, on administrative leave by Major League Baseball (MLB) has sparked inquiries into the league's protocols and procedures. This move comes in accordance with the sport's joint policy on matters of domestic violence, s*xual assault, and child abuse, during the ongoing investigation into allegations against Franco.
The investigation stems from allegations of an inappropriate relationship leveled against Franco on social media. Additionally, authorities in Franco's native Dominican Republic have initiated an inquiry into his alleged involvement with a minor, as reported by the Associated Press on August 15.
The attorney general's office confirmed the existence of this investigation. Ángel Darío Tejeda Fabal, a prosecutor from the Dominican Republic's province of Peravia, disclosed that the case was being investigated by a division specializing in minors and gender violence.
While the more serious aspects of this situation will be addressed in due course, there are pertinent questions surrounding the mechanics of MLB's administrative leave and its implications. Here, we provide answers to some of these queries.
MLB's Immediate Player Leave Authority
Administrative leave, as defined in the 2022-26 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between MLB and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA), enables the Commissioner to place a player accused of a "Covered Act" on leave immediately, for a maximum period of seven days.
The Commissioner's Office can also request an extension of up to seven more days, subject to consent from the MLBPA. Alternatively, a player may be placed on leave if charged with a crime or if credible information corroborating the allegations is received.
In simple terms, administrative leave sidelines a player while MLB investigates allegations of domestic violence, s*xual assault, or child abuse. It's important to note that these investigations occur outside the realm of legal proceedings, and MLB retains the authority to impose discipline, even in the absence of criminal charges or convictions.
Given the allegations of an improper relationship with a minor, Franco's case likely falls under the category of "s*xual assault" within the joint policy, due to considerations of age of consent. As per the CBA, "s*xual assault" encompasses a range of behaviors involving nonconsensual s*x acts or s*xual contact, inferred when coercion or lack of consent is present.
Administrative leave is not a form of punishment, explicitly stated in the CBA. Instead, it serves as a mechanism for investigation, removing the player from the roster while allowing interviews with investigators. The player continues to receive their regular salary and accrues service time during this period.
A player on administrative leave can appeal for reinstatement through arbitration, and reinstatement criteria consider the safety of victims and potential disruption to the player's club. The restricted list primarily creates roster space for the player's team during administrative leave.
While on leave, the player is no longer part of the active or 40-man rosters. Placement on the restricted list is automatic for players on administrative leave. The duration of Franco's leave depends on the investigative process's timeline.
Extensions typically require MLBPA consent, but an open-ended timeline seems to have been agreed upon in this case. The resolution of the investigation could lead to disciplinary action, reinstatement without punishment, or a decision deferred until legal proceedings conclude.
The pace of the investigation, as seen in previous cases like Trevor Bauer's, can determine when a resolution is reached. In summary, the Wander Franco case has placed MLB's administrative leave procedures under scrutiny. As the investigation unfolds, the league will determine appropriate actions based on the evidence and the broader context of the allegations.