Aroldis Chapman was almost given a Los Angeles Dodgers jersey for 2016.
You remember that, right? It was a huge deal that took social media by storm for a variety of reasons. What does this mean for Kenley Jansen? Will the Dodgers latch onto one of the game’s most elite closers long-term? Can he thrive with a winner?
And then…it all came crashing down. It was revealed that Chapman was involved in a domestic violence situation on October 30, in which he allegedly choked his girlfriend and shoved her against a wall in a fit of rage before firing eight gunshots in his garage with her four-month-old child in the house. The deal with the Dodgers immediately fell apart.
Chapman admitted firing the rounds in the garage, but denied choking his girlfriend. His girlfriend was so terrified she reportedly hid in the bushes outside of the house during the episode
With that violent baggage, and as someone who never thought twice about headhunting with his 103 mph fastball, the Dodgers washed their hands clean of Chapman and went on to have — and continue to have — an impressive offseason on par with their NL West peers.
The allegations, along with what we actually know about the circumstances on October 30 from Chapman himself, destroyed any chance of the Reds getting an elite return for an elite arm. However, there’s always one team that isn’t going to pass on the opportunity to acquire the talent and services of a pitcher like Aroldis Chapman on the cheap. That team is the New York Yankees.
On December 28, the Yankees sent Rookie Davis, Eric Jagielo, Tony Renda and Caleb Cotham to the Reds for Chapman. If your first instinct was to search all of those names on Baseball Reference, rest assured you’re not alone.
The Yankees did not have to surrender a king’s ransom to create baseball’s most fearsome late-inning three-headed monster of Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. With Chapman comes baggage, and the Yankees seemingly don’t care.
From an organization who once employed Mel Hall, Darryl Strawberry and Jose Canseco among many others who committed crimes against or toward women, it isn’t much of a surprise that the Yankees are willing overlook Chapman’s faults as long as it gives them an edge to win.
That’s especially true when the team’s principal owner still carries the last name “Steinbrenner.” Hal Steinbrenner commented on the allegations against Chapman today, just under a month since the trade was completed:
“In this country where allegations are brought against a person, that person is completely innocent until proven otherwise,” Steinbrenner said. “Not the other way around. I think we should keep that in mind right now.”
There’s a lot to unpack here, notably because Hal is very conveniently avoiding the fact that Chapman admitted to firing his gun. So, to suggest that he’s “completely innocent until proven otherwise” is dishonest at best; as far as what was reported to police, he’s absolutely guilty of something, by his own admission.
And even though police formally closed the case due to a lack of evidence and conflicting testimonies, that doesn’t make him completely innocent. He wasn’t proven guilty; he wasn’t exactly proven innocent, either. But since the case has been closed, Hal can spit out surface level diatribes like “innocent until proven guilty” and get away with it to a lot of people.
Hal’s remarks are coated with an American flag, but they remain transparent as anything he could have said. Regardless of the facts and violent nature of the allegations, that wouldn’t stop him at all from bringing Chapman on board.
Forget morality. That’s stupid. This is sports. All that matters is winning. And if the Yankees can win at a bargain, more power!
Major League Baseball is still investigating the case, and this can serve as a poster child for the league’s new domestic violence policy that was implemented last summer. A suspension can also work to the Yankees’ benefit; if Chapman is suspended by the league to start the 2016 season, he may not meet his six-year service time requirement for free agency by season’s end, giving the Yankees another season with the closer at very little cost.
And even if they lose Chapman for, say, 50 games, Joe Girardi can still utilize Betances and Miller for the late innings and be just fine. They made it to a Wild Card playoff game in 2015 primarily on the shoulders of those men. Adding Chapman to the fold by June becomes a “bonus.”
Everyone came out a winner in the Aroldis Chapman domestic violence case and subsequent trade — save for his girlfriend, of course. The Dodgers got to focus their efforts elsewhere and continue to build a low-key powerhouse in Los Angeles. The Reds got four prospects for their rebuild effort. And the Yankees were able to construct one of the most fearsome bullpens in baseball history well before ever throwing a pitch together.
Aroldis Chapman may just be the biggest winner after today. Even if he gets suspended for a time, he’ll get to pitch one year, maybe more than that for baseball’s most storied franchise, and as was proven today, will have his past transgressions cloaked and protected during his time in the Bronx by an owner willing to turn the other cheek on an alleged abuser, as long as he gets to win a game.
And that’s the saddest part of the whole thing.