(Updated: 5 p.m.)
Seven losses, zero wins and now a major piece of the roster has been arrested for domestic violence. And we’re only in April.
The Braves’ season, which has jumped the rails even sooner and more dramatically than most could have envisioned, took an ugly, real-life turn Wednesday when left fielder Hector Olivera was arrested on domestic violence charges at the team hotel in Arlington, Va. (just outside of Washington D.C., where the team is for a series against the Nationals). Olivera appeared in court later in the day and was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery.
The Braves released a statement reading, “We are extremely disappointed and troubled to learn of the allegations involving Hector Olivera. We will continue to gather information and will address this matter appropriately as we determine the facts. Major League Baseball has placed Olivera on Administrative Leave effective immediately.”
It may be a while before we learn details of the reported incident and of Olivera’s guilt or innocence. That said, this is the last thing the Braves needed in a season when their on-field product is an embarrassment and the only thing they have going for them is the feel-good storyline of rebuilding with young, hard-working players and doing things the right way.
Olivera isn’t young (31), but he’s relatively new. Braves executives John Hart and John Coppolella took a significant risk when they acquired the high-priced, former Cuban defector from the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-team trade last July, sending away a package of players that included starting lefthander Alex Wood and touted prospect Jose Peraza. The Dodgers paid Olivera a $28 million signing bonus but the Braves remain responsible for his salaries from 2016 to 2020 ($32.5 million).
I spent some time with Olivera in spring training and, while he’s not the most comfortable player around the media, he seemed eager to prove his worth and was cognizant of perceptions that he needed to perform quickly, given his age.
“I’m going to be patient and work every day and not think about the next day,” Olivera said through his translator, coach Eddie Perez. “I want to do the right thing. I’m not in a rush. I’m not feeling pressure. I don’t want to feel pressure. If I go 0-for-4 today, I’m going to come back tomorrow. I know what I can do and the Braves know what I can do.”
Here’s a link to that column: Olivera has limited time to meet expectations.
Olivera has started slow this season, hitting .211 (4 for 19) with two RBI and five strikeouts. But he’s not alone in that area. The Braves are the second-worst hitting club in the majors at .203 and rank 26th in runs.
What they can’t afford is bad PR to go with bad baseball. And if at the end of this investigation it’s found that there is a legitimate victim of domestic violence, a .211 batting average will be the least of Olivera’s problems.
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