It’s an odd marriage for sure, with a divorce likely after only a couple of months. The mostly young, entertaining babes who are the Chicago Cubs will now be hanging out with the Cuban Missile, Aroldis Chapman. The lanky, stone-faced lefty is the new bullpen closer for the miracle Cubbies, and to call the circumstances controversial would be a gross understatement.
“We’ve had this in our heads for a long time, and I understand that some of our fans might have some strong feelings,” noted Theo Epstein, Chicago’s president of baseball operations, who calmly explained the scenario. “I respect that, but Aroldis Chapman is an impact pitcher, a game-changer. If not now, when?”
Indeed, Aroldis Chapman is a rare and unique commodity, still only 28 years old. He throws the ball 104 mph with regularity, in addition to a wipe-out slider. In my opinion, Chapman is also a reckless individual with a thug-like demeanor. He carelessly drives cars even faster than his pitch velocity and thinks nothing of randomly firing a handgun in fits of rage. At the start of the season, the Cuban bad boy served a 30-game suspension for domestic battery, allegedly choking his girlfriend during an argument last October. No charges were filed because the victim failed to cooperate, even though she called 911 and was found hiding in the bushes when authorities arrived. That sounds a lot like the Jose Reyes case in Hawaii. The spouses want protection from police but are afraid of retaliation from the guy they trust the most.
Another risky issue is that Chapman will be a free agent after the current campaign, and the Cubs could be left holding an empty bag. It’s possible, of course, Aroldis might re-sign with Chicago, although the competition will be fierce and the pitching market relatively thin in 2017. You can bet the Cubs will be forced to match offers from other wealthy clubs like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and the San Francisco Giants. One gets the impression, though, Epstein and his people despise the “Lovable Losers” label that Northside folks have been conditioned to accept. In case you haven’t noticed, Chicago is pulling away in a strong NL Central division. The general mood seems to be that there is no time like the present to go for the jugular.
From the Yankees prospective, the decision to move Chapman makes sense. They could have kept him the entire year and received a high draft pick in 2017 if he signed elsewhere. Instead, general manager Brian Cashman grabbed four players in the swap, the principal prize being 19-year-old Gleyber Torres. One of the top prospects in the country, Torres is a shortstop by trade, but the Yankees feel the power-hitting Venezuelan can slide over to third base, or maybe even left field. And with the left side of the Cubs infield set for eternity, Torres was expendable.
Before pulling the trigger on this blockbuster deal, the Cubs asked the Yankees and MLB officials for permission to talk to Chapman personally about his checkered past and, specifically, the incident last fall with his common-law wife at their home in Davie, Florida. Apparently, Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer liked what they heard.
“I regret that I didn’t use better judgement,” admitted Aroldis, who sprayed eight bullets through a locked garage door and window pane. “My girlfriend and I have worked hard to strengthen our relationship and raise out daughter together, and we would appreciate the opportunity to move forward without revisiting an event that we consider a part of our past.
“Out of respect for my family, I will not comment any further on this matter.”
I believe Chapman is remorseful, only because this latest flair-up has become an annoyance. and the suspension cost him a lot of money. This is a guy who has always beat to his own drum, and the power generated from his golden left arm went to his head a long time ago. Sadly, he is not alone. I can think of dozens of athletes who are self-centered, temperamental ticking time bombs. Because they are so-called “superstars,” laws only apply to other folks, which is why strong domestic violence policies are on the books in all professional sports leagues. Fortunately, the majority of players in Major League Baseball, as well as the NFL, NBA and NHL are grateful for their celebrity status in life and have a genuine interest in giving back to their communities.
Since the trade for Aroldis Chapman, Las Vegas odds-makers have installed the Chicago Cubs as 3-1 favorites to shoot for all the marbles in the World Series. That in itself is historic, which seems to prove that the actions of club owner Tom Ricketts and Epstein were justified. Just win, baby.
I have to wonder, however, if basically borrowing a player as a “hired gun” (excuse the pun) in the pursuit of victory falls short of moral values, especially in the eyes of fans at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. What would Ernie Banks think, or Harry Carey? We’ll never know. The only certainty is that the Chicago Cubs have added the magical piece of a complicated puzzle that could lead the team to destiny. I guess that’s all that really matters.