MLB

What did the Padres know, what could they have done about the Mike Clevinger allegations?

Where there was once “Sunshine” for the Padres, memories of tie-dyed, free-running pitcher Mike Clevinger and a delivery resembling a rugby scrum gave way to ominous clouds.

The mother of Clevinger’s 10-month-old daughter made allegations of domestic violence and child abuse on her Instagram story Tuesday morning. Olivia Finestead accused the former Padres starter of physically assaulting her and throwing used chewing tobacco at their child. A Major League Baseball investigation into the allegations involving Clevinger, who signed a one-year deal with the White Sox this offseason, has begun.

Until a full set of facts emerges — though they all too rarely do so in a comprehensive and unflinching way in the insular world of pro-sports investigations — it’s crucial not to over-amplify every claim thrown to the wind. It is equally important that something so serious is not ignored.

However, there is the appearance of a timeline problem for the Padres at first blush — at least from a public-relations perspective.

Speaking to The Athletic, Finestead said Clevinger choked here in June and beat her in a hotel room while the Padres were on a road trip against the Dodgers two weeks later. She included photos allegedly showing injuries related to violent run-ins on Instagram.

What could worry fans and others trying to sort and sort out what the Padres knew and could do about it emerged when Finestead said she had been talking to MLB’s Department of Investigations since the summer.

In short: The Padres had to be aware of the existence of the allegations and MLB’s involvement before Clevinger hit mostly regular rest through the summer and fall.

It is of course miles more complicated and complex.

There is a tangle of protocols and processes woven throughout baseball’s collective bargaining agreement and the commissioner’s office. In the document “Terms of Common Policy on Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse,” for example, a bullet point states that “A club may not discipline a player for a violation of the policy unless the commissioner defers his disciplinary authority to the club.”

So no, the Padres weren’t allowed to act unilaterally. In the case of former Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer, for example, the Dodgers and MLB jointly placed the player accused of sexual assault and domestic violence on administrative leave. There was also an active criminal investigation underway by the Pasadena Police Department.

These situations can develop. Evidence and information gathering follow uneven schedules. Victims may change their minds about whether to participate and the level of detail over time. Claims remain claims until they turn into something more actionable.

It’s unclear where the troubling situation with Clevinger will lead, although the level of smoke related to someone willing to share their name publicly raises reasonable questions about real fire.

The Padres want to get down on the right side of the story with this, as far as what they heard, when they heard it, and how they responded. There is an obligation to share any information that comes to MLB. They could have handled everything by the book. They could have found out from the league before they learned about it themselves.

It’s impossible to know for sure, however, as the team, when contacted by the Union-Tribune, declined comment beyond a statement acknowledging the investigation and adding “we cannot comment further at this time.”

Were the allegations part of the rationale for allowing Clevinger to wade into free agency, along with coughing up five runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Dodgers in the NLDS and failing to record an out against the Phillies in the NLCS? Were there character issues behind the scenes?

Because now we don’t know.

Even though Clevinger has become the White Sox’s to sort out in a baseball-related sense, the Padres have to cringe at the details in question centered on a player under their clubhouse roof at the time.

The Padres, riding with competitive tailwinds, wanted the storylines heading into 2023 to revolve around the club shelling out boatloads of money to prove they plan to contend at all costs. They hope questions this spring can revolve around an avalanche of offense unleashed by Manny Machado, Juan Soto and Xander Bogaerts.

Clevinger is left to take responsibility for his own actions. As he should.

The Padres, for their part, remain agonizing over what they can say or what they might have done in the moment without MLB’s direct and confident involvement. However, it’s hard to believe that baseball would be anything but cautious and comprehensive after the Bauer mess.

So we — and the Padres — wait.

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