By the night of Tuesday, June 13th, 10 rounds of the Major League Baseball draft had been completed and arguably the best pitcher available in it hadn’t been chosen. This isn’t, however, some kind of gross oversight by every front office. It’s actually not much of a surprise. If you know the story of Luke Heimlich, you’ll know why. In short, when he was 16, he was convicted of and admitted to molesting a 6-year-old girl; a member of his family. If for some reason you need to know or want to read more about it, you can do that here.
The crime is horrible. Never mind that he was merely a child himself when he committed it. He was old enough to know right from wrong at that time. Does the fact that he has, with one very high-profile exception, kept up with sex offender registering requirements absolve him of anything? Goodness no. There isn’t anything that will take away the lasting damage he caused to that poor young girl.
Does it matter that statistically, due to the young age at which he committed his crime and the subsequent counseling and rehabilitation he went through, that he is exceedingly unlikely to commit a similar crime again? I mean, since he’s in society it’s somewhat comforting, but still doesn’t change the past.
That said, there’s a very good chance that Heimlich won’t be drafted at all, and it will be for a reason other than his baseball ability. This doesn’t sit well with me. As a society, we are terrible at accepting when someone has paid their debt to society, and giving them a chance to reintegrate productively. We saw it with Michael Vick, who spent time in federal prison on dogfighting charges. Since his release, a genuinely remorseful Vick has made countless efforts to atone for his sins, speaking publicly and candidly about his acts and their vileness. Yet he’s still a pariah. He’s still the subject of comments like, “they should put him in a pit with those dogs and see what happens!”
Similarly, Heimlich is and will continue to be the subject of crude comments about castration and severe physical beating, and yes, murder.
The emotional side of this is easy to understand. I have a 17-month old daughter, and if she were to be the victim of such a terrible crime, I would probably want to kill the offender. I very well might – knowing full well that I would go to prison for a long time as the system tends to frown on vigilante justice. In what amounts to the height of irony, I’d probably be a folk hero too.
Even more ironic, many of these violent sentiments are coming from people who are likely against the death penalty on the grounds that it’s inhumane.
But before i deviate any farther than I already have from journalistic norm and convention with anecdotal and philosophical ramblings, let’s finally get to my damn point.
Major League Baseball is absolutely going to anoint itself an arbiter of moral justice here, and the farce that the once objective media has become in the social era is going to be its full-witting accomplice.
Already, you have absurdities like this one, who are trying to turn this into a sports hates women narrative. More will no doubt follow and have already arrived in this hyper-politicized era of being in a hurry to try and demonstrate of how evolved you are.
Yes, it’s true; for decades Major League Baseball turned a blind eye to rampant steroid use, and before that cocaine and amphetamines. It can even be argued on the former that steroids were not just an elephant in the room being strategically ignored, but an epidemic being suborned in the name of putting more asses in the seats. Yes, it’s also true; for more than a century, the sport had nothing resembling a domestic violence policy. In the last couple of years, MLB has come down rightfully hard on Aroldis Chapman, Jeurys Familia, Jose Reyes, and probably others who are escaping my immediate recollection. But before that? Crickets, right?
At the end of the day, somebody must ask the difficult question. Why should Heimlich not have the opportunity to earn a living as a baseball player? There really isn’t a logical argument to be made against it. He’s not going to be in any constant interaction with children, and yes, while children will be watching him play on the tv or from the stands, it offers a teaching opportunity for parents. Does it leave a bitter taste that he could potentially earn millions of dollars after what he did? Probably. But if he bought a lottery ticket and won, does the government or law enforcement have the right to confiscate that ticket? That’s what Major League Baseball is likely to adopt as a stance, and the media will be trumpeting it – and while the appearance might be of taking a moral stand against an unthinkable crime, it’s nothing more than a red herring of false credibility building.
I’ll repeat a sentiment from earlier. As a society, we are awful at accepting when someone has paid their societal debt. As long as he continues to fulfill his requirement to stay registered as a sex offender for as long as his sentence stipulates, or until he gets it somehow altered, he will be in compliance with his legal obligations. You can hate him, and you’d be in good company. You can find what he did abhorrent, and you’d be in unanimity with all sane people. You can be angry with me for writing something other than advocating Heimlich’s castration, as tempting as that may be, and that would be within the realm of justifiable. But if you are somehow justifying that he should be made an example of outside of what legal convention dictates because of his desired professional path, and the exposure that comes with it, you’ve the same level of authority when it comes to moral compasses that Major League Baseball does.
-Torsten Sporn, The Stain Sports