Catcher Derek Norris, who was fined and suspended under MLB’s domestic abuse policy back in September, was available to the media on Wednesday for the first time since the Detroit Tigers signed him in November. Tigers assistant manager David Chadd and manager Ron Gardenhire each offered comments on him as well. Despite the fact that this was always going to be the subject of the day, it didn’t go well.
For over two years, Norris has had a cloud of suspicion over his head after his ex-fiancee accused him of domestic abuse back in 2015. Norris strongly denied her charges in a statement back in June. However, he accepted his suspension as a result of Major League Baseball’s investigation without protest.
Norris didn’t directly address the abuse allegations or his suspension on Wednesday, talking instead about moving on and getting back to baseball. Despite repeated questions he and the Tigers should have been prepared for, he simply declined to answer. He touched on the allegations momentarily with the spectacularly tone-deaf maxim that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and otherwise made no substantive comment.
Meanwhile, the Tigers’ braintrust was wheeling out some of worst cliches in the book to defend signing Norris. Chadd brought out his family as credibility on the subject.
“Listen, this isn’t something we condone. I have two daughters and a wife of 30 years. Don’t portray me as somebody who is insensitive to this. I’m very sensitive. But we vetted all the information we could get from the Commissioner’s Office and they were on-board with us signing him.”
Meanwhile, Gardenhire doubled down on the “kid” routine, saying about the 29-year-old Norris, “I’m fine with the kid being out here.”
There are going to be fans who are never going to approve of signing Derek Norris. There are fans who are pragmatists, who see his modest skills as a catcher as just not worth the trouble. And there will be fans who are okay with giving him another shot. But the Tigers continue to put their foot in their mouth while using the Commissioner’s Office as a shield. The impression left is of an out of touch front office rendering nothing more than lip service to a serious issue.
The Tigers hired Derek Norris. As such, they’re responsible for adding him to the Tigers’ roster, and deciding to give him another shot. We’ve repeatedly heard Chadd’s relationship with Norris’ family referenced as part of their decision-making process, with the implication that Chadd is in some way vouching for Norris’ character. Avila has made much of Chadd’s connection to Norris’ family, and Chadd himself has insinuated that he’s close to the situation through those connections.
Through it all, and despite their clumsy and tone-deaf handling of the subject, the Tigers continue to claim they’ve done their due diligence. But as Katie Strang of the Athletic points out in her scathing piece on the matter, the Tigers never once spoke to Norris about his suspension or the allegations and investigation that prompted it.
Asked repeatedly whether he and Assistant GM David Chadd discussed the incident that led to his domestic violence suspension, Derek Norris answered: “ All Baseball. “— Katie Strang (@KatieJStrang) February 14, 2018
Perhaps the most baffling part of all this, is that the Tigers have had months now to better educate themselves on the topic and compose a more thoughtful response. They’ve certainly had every opportunity to speak to Norris about the situation. They were rightly hammered here at BYB and elsewhere for their comments when Derek Norris was signed.
Yet here we are, several months on, and comments from Avila, Chadd and Gardenhire still fit perfectly in the category of “things everyone knows you shouldn’t say when talking about domestic violence.” Worse than that, is the wide gulf between their comments and actions. The Tigers would like you to believe they take domestic violence with the seriousness it deserves. Their disinterest in vetting their own employee on the matter makes it pretty clear that they have little but hot air behind their statements.