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On Roberto Alomar And The True Sadness

As soon as I saw the Roberto Alomar news on Friday – that he was placed on baseball’s ineligible list and banned from baseball essentially after an outside investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct against him – I knew I needed to write something on the topic.

I didn’t want to rush to something though, because it’s a complicated topic, one that is likely more complicated if you are older than I am and actually have an emotional connection to Alomar thanks to his play for the club in their championship years in the early 1990’s. Now, two days later, I am glad I waited because it has allowed me to see what others have said (Thanks to BlueJaysAggr) and formulate my own words in a different way. Our reactions to these things can have a big impact, unbeknownst to us, and thus it is important to get it right.

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One approach was from Rosie Dimanno of the Toronto Star, who chose to shame the victims of sexual misconduct, by listing the awful behaviour directed her way from baseball men while she was doing her job, and saying that she did not report those incidents because she is “not that delicate a flower”. Clearly, this was the worst possible reaction to the Alomar news, and she deserves no more space in this article dedicated to her writing. She should be embarrassed to have even had that thought, let alone write it, and the Star and everybody associated with it should be ashamed for having it associated with them.

Then, there was the approach from Mike Wilner of the Toronto Star and Scott Stinson of the National Post, who seemed to focus on fans of the Blue Jays as the victims here, as they are now deprived of the ability to cherish Alomar without this stain. Wilner used the word “sad” five times in his column, not once in reference to the acts Alomar committed to deserve this punishment, but rather “because his alleged actions have ruined all the wonderful memories we have of the Jays glory years.” That’s missing the mark in my opinion, and Stinson echoed those feelings while discussing the news in his article, bringing up his memories of “wearing Alomar’s number 12 when I played baseball in high school.”

This angle just feels wrong to me. The fans are not the victims here, and making it about us and our experience isn’t right.

Lastly, we have Shi Davidi’s article at Sportsnet, which, as expected, hits the nail squarely on the head. Shi goes into the background of why this investigation and its outcome were so serious, addresses all the expected naysayers and their comments within the article, discusses the facts and statistics of cases like these in Canada, and finishes with this sentiment when he wades into the “sadness” of the situation for Blue Jays fans, saying “the real loss here is the damage inflicted on another person’s life.”

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That’s the truth. If you have memories of the Blue Jays doing great things with Alomar, that’s fine. Those memories are not gone, even if his banner at the Rogers Centre will be when the team returns. You will continue to have them – nothing will take that away.

But just like you have those memories, this woman, and likely many others – because men like Alomar rarely only act in this way once – will continue to have their memories of Alomar’s actions towards them. They are the victims, not Blue Jays fans. This woman was a baseball industry employee, and that she had to experience this while just trying to do her job is exactly the type of garbage that needs to change. The Mets have been hemorrhaging employees because every few weeks more and more reports are coming out of just how toxic of a culture their workplace has been for women to be around. That does not fly anymore, and it never should have.

I remember first reading about Alison Gordon about five years ago. She was the first woman to ever cover the Blue Jays in the clubhouse, all the way back in 1979. She detailed her experiences in a 1984 book, Foul Balls, one of which was a player drunkenly offering her $200 to sleep with her after his teammates told him they’d give him $500 if he did do it. The horrifying truth fact is that we are over 40 years later and Alomar’s misconduct likely falls into something as bad as that team-wide sexual harassment, or even worse, sexual assault. 40 years later, and baseball is just now having the conversations and reckonings that maybe women trying to do their jobs shouldn’t be the victims of gross and unwanted behaviour.

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The Blue Jays did the right thing disassociating themselves from Alomar. He is a product of an earlier era when these things happened left and right, went unreported, and no consequences were ever seen. But that era is over. It should have been over way before 2014 when this event occurred, but the only way for things to change is for actions to have consequences, and now Alomar will need to face his.

The true sadness here is not that fans of the early 90’s Blue Jays will have tainted memories of those clubs. The sadness here is that these women have had to endure the actions of these baseball men for far too long. Our reactions to these stories matter. Don’t make it about you and your memories. It isn’t about you. Take this moment to speak up for change. Take these moments to say that men like Roberto Alomar don’t deserve to be anywhere near baseball, so maybe the next time one of these men are about to do something regrettable, they will think twice and stop themselves.