There is no question that adding Aroldis Chapman and his 100 mile per hour fastball to the Cubs will improve them as a baseball team.
Chapman arrives with baggage, in the form of a domestic violence incident from last offseason. No criminal charges were filed, and after Major League Baseball investigated, they suspended Chapman for 30 games. He did not appeal this suspension and, as far as we know, this behavior has not been repeated.
I said I'd have further thoughts on this topic after I carefully considered everything involved, and so here they are.
Let me get this out of the way first. I've been criticized for criticizing players on other teams for this sort of behavior and wondering why management or fans for those teams would want such players on their teams. This is a valid criticism which I accept. Why have I done this?
The answer obviously is "talent." Clearly, it's a matter of perspective. As a fan of any team, you want the most talented players on your side to help you win. Giants fans, to this day, love Barry Bonds, even though he's still hated by most other baseball fans. Cubs fans rooted for Sammy Sosa despite never-proven allegations of his PED use, and many still love him and wish the team would reconcile with him. Cubs fans (and others) boo Ryan Braun every time he comes to the plate in their parks, even while he's loved in Milwaukee.
This is a natural thing to do. It's easy, as a sports fan, to love the guys on "your side" while thinking the worst of those on other teams -- "rooting for laundry," as the saying goes. It's human nature to defend your team and think the "other guys" are the worst. I'm not trying to say this is right, only that it happens, and I'm certainly guilty of having done this myself. As a passionate fan of one team in particular, it's not easy to look at these sorts of things dispassionately or objectively.
This brings me to Chapman and his past. Statements were issued Monday, after the trade was completed, by Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts and Chapman:
Those are things that needed to be said. Whether Chapman's statement turns out to be true, we can only watch his actions going forward.
Some of the discussion of this acquisition and the comfort level about having Chapman on the team shown by people here on Monday seemed to be different based on the gender of the poster. Domestic violence is no joke, and women are the disproportionate victims of domestic violence.
So I wanted to get a woman's perspective. I asked a female friend of mine who is also a devoted and knowledgeable Cubs fan and season-ticket holder for her thoughts. She asked not to be identified, and I understand why. I read what she sent me to some other female friends who are also knowledgeable baseball and Cubs fans and they concurred. I post her comments here in their entirety:
The story of the last 12-15 months of the Cubs for me has been one of pleasant surprise and delight that rebuilding really was rebuilding, that the team resisted the urge to trade to win Right Now, and that they had found the magic mix of young talent and grizzled veterans that would mature into a long-term team.
Among the qualities of that team, per management, was that they were looking for character in their players. Guys who could work hard but still be playful. Guys who both knew they were talented but also knew they were lucky and didn't take that luck for granted. The team has presented itself to date as a team that's easy to root for.
I feel as if I trusted this version of the team, threw myself wholeheartedly into the vision I thought I was being presented, and the Chapman deal betrays it.
I'm not entirely surprised, because the experience of the past five years for me has felt like profit comes before fans, but I was beginning to think maybe I misjudged.
So mostly it's a reminder that character means less than money, which I already knew.
And re: the apology - it doesn't read as an apology to me as much as a CYA. And while I respect he would like to keep what is private private and rebuild his family, I'd rather see an apology be not "I regret my decision" and more "I should never have laid my hands on anyone in anger, and I am working on strategies to ensure that I never do it again."
And if we want to keep it purely about baseball, management should have held out to get Dellin Betances or Andrew Miller. I don't want the rent-a-player.
While the statements by Tom Ricketts and Aroldis Chapman do address the issue, I believe my friend is correct in that a stronger statement (similar to what she wrote) would have been better. It is my hope that Chapman is doing exactly what my friend suggested, working on strategies to ensure that he never does that again.
We all have our favorite players, and those we don't care for as much. I share some of my friend's concerns about Chapman. The fact that he accepted his suspension without appeal helps, to some extent, as does the fact that the behavior from last offseason has not been repeated. Hopefully, he is getting the help he needs so that he never does anything like that again.
Aroldis Chapman will never be my favorite player. (For whatever it's worth, I think most of you know that my favorite current Cub is Kyle Hendricks.) Will it be good for him to help the Cubs win? As a fan of the team for decades, and now knowing this team could actually do what we've all dreamed of, win the World Series, obviously having a relief pitcher of his talent should make getting to that goal easier.
He's most likely going to be with the Cubs only through the end of this season and then depart as a free agent. That makes this a short-term issue. It will be difficult, though, for me to root for him, to cheer for him unconditionally. That's human nature, too. If Chapman helps the Cubs win the World Series this year, if he's the guy standing on the mound in the clinching game, sure, I'll be happy. The cheering I'll do will be for the team, though, not necessarily specifically for him.
I ask just one thing of you in commenting on this article. Please be civil and kind to each other. If that doesn't happen, I'll have to close comments. This is a difficult topic and you likely have strong opinions. Please be nice. Thanks.