I waited for a few days to write this piece because I wanted to process my thoughts and feelings. As most of you are aware, I am a Rays fan but I do try to be objective in my analysis. I may not always succeed, but I try. I have no doubt many of you will call me out if I fail, and I thank you for it. (Just be nice, okay?) I did not want this piece to come off as a bitter fan because a rival, the Yankees, traded for a player and it made them better. After all, the Red Sox, an equally disliked rival, traded for Craig Kimbrel and while I wasn’t exactly excited, I didn’t feel the deal was, for lack of a better word, “dirty.” The Kimbrel trade was perfectly fair and baseball life went on. I also do not want to be a hypocrite. My favorite team had a known rapist, Josh Lueke, pitch for them. There’s no moral high ground here.
I asked myself this question–if the Padres, Rangers, Mariners or any other team I feel neutral towards had completed the Aroldis Chapman deal, would I feel the same? If the Rays had done this deal, would I feel the same? The answer is yes. I would feel the deal was somehow dirty. Not right. It would feel wrong. (Actually, if the Rays had completed this deal, I would have been livid.)
On December 6th, the Dodgers were reported to be making progress with the Reds on a deal for Aroldis Chapman. The prospect package was rumored to be considerable per Ken Rosenthal. The next day was insane as news broke that the deal was put on hold due to police reports that on October 30th, Aroldis Chapman choked his girlfriend and then fired gunshots in his garage while she hid in the bushes following an argument in Davie, Fl. Their 4 month old daughter was in the house; she was unharmed. No charges were filed “due to conflicting reports and uncooperative witnesses” and “no physical injuries.” Folks, please make sure you get bruised if you’re ever beaten. Video evidence is the gold standard.
MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre weighed in on the matter on December 8th, stating that Major League Baseball was not aware of the matter prior to Monday evening. Does that shock anyone else? How does this not hit anyone’s radar sooner? Interestingly, the Red Sox considered trading for Chapman but their own background check back in November revealed this information, and the Sox subsequently acquired Kimbrel on 11/13. Ethically, should they have disclosed the information to the Reds or MLB when they learned of it? It’s rumored they may have been responsible for the leak in December. Per Torre, baseball will take its time investigating the matter (surprise, surprise) although MLB is hoping for a resolution by spring. The lack of charges will not be a factor in the decision. MLB’s domestic violence policy does not require charges to be filed to dole out punishment. Coincidentally on the same date, the police declare the case closed.
The winter meetings begin. The deal appears off with the Dodgers, and the rumor mill swirls again. Might the Dodgers trade with the Yankees for Andrew Miller? The Astros, also rumored suitors for Chapman, also shy away.
Rosenthal and Morosi write on December 10th that the Reds are still actively shopping Chapman for a smaller return just to get him off their hands even though he is still under investigation. Any team willing to trade for him will have to deal with the public relations fall-out. Why risk it? As Rosenthal writes:
“A lengthy suspension could result in an extra year of team control over Chapman, who currently is on track to accrue the necessary six years of service by the end of the 2016 season.”
No team was on the radar at this point.
There was silence on Aroldis Chapman between December 10th and December 28th. Should teams be permitted to make trades for players under investigation? Is it fair to penalize the Reds? Is it fair that another team benefit?
Then on December 28th, the news broke. The Yankees stunned the baseball world. Aroldis Chapman was going to wear pinstripes in exchange for four prospects: third baseman Eric Jagielo, second baseman Tony Renda, and right handers Rookie Davis and Caleb Cathem. [Pro-tip: if you play in a dynasty league, don’t rush to pick up these prospects.]
The public relations condemnation has been swift and severe. Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito of the Bronx stated she was “very disturbed” and added that the team “was condoning this type of violence when you bring him on to be part of the team.” Like a subject in a fugue the message is repeated over and over in baseball: if you play well enough, we don’t care about anything else.
The Yankees already had a fantastic bullpen by any measure. This trade does not address their weakness, which is starting pitching. Sure, it makes baseball sense in a vacuum and you can never be too good. But morally, how do the Yankees reconcile this? The Red Sox and Dodgers wouldn’t touch this guy. The Yankees turned Alex Rodriguez into a social pariah for using performance enhancing drugs–they would not even market his home run records in 2015 and turned the whole thing into a joke–yet they trade for an actual social pariah. On a human level, it makes zero sense. Aroldis Chapman is not worthy of standing on the same mound that Mariano Rivera stood upon. But hey, at least he’s clean shaven.
I understand feeling awful about a player on your team. Nobody felt worse about a player on their rooting interest than I did when Josh Lueke, again known rapist, played for the Rays, and that was the Rays taking advantage of a player’s reputation and past to sign him inexpensively. I rooted against him because I knew the more he was awful, the sooner he would be gone. He was an expendable pitcher which actually made me angrier–pitchers like him are easy to get, even for a team with limited resources like the Rays. Why did they dumpster dive for a replacement caliber pitcher with that kind of baggage? Chapman is immensely talented and not as easily disposable. At the same time, the Yankees have great resources and did not need to exploit the system and sully their reputation. They didn’t need Chapman. They wanted him.
As an aside–Andrew Friedman, former Executive VP of Baseball Operations and General Manager of the Rays and current President of Baseball Operations of the Dodgers is a common factor in both the Lueke and Chapman decisions. Does Dodger financial flexibility allow for better public relations and/or moral choices? Was he overruled by ownership in either or both cases? If not, I would love to know how Friedman could justify Lueke but condemn Chapman. I know he was not the sole decision maker in either decision, but that is some serious cognitive dissonance.
Finally, I’d like to clarify that this is not a criticism of you, as a fan, if you root for the Yankees and continue to root for them. If we only rooted for teams based on the number of saints on the team, we’d root for no one. We have complicated relationships with our teams, and I am no one to judge.