The Cubs officially traded for Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman on Monday. The tall Cuban’s baseball skills are undeniable: A fastball consistently over 100 miles per hour combined with a devastating slider. Chapman is the most dominant closer in baseball, yet his addition makes me uneasy.
My main objection is moral, though even as a baseball move it is far from a sure thing. Giving up four minor league assets for a couple months of a reliever is hardly a guarantee of success. Still, there is a strong baseball case to be made. Chapman moves Hector Rondon to a setup role. Pedro Strop, Travis Wood, and new additions Joe Nathan and Mike Montgomery move to lower-leverage spots.
My real issue is with the off-the-field concerns Chapman brings to the Cubs. Unless you have been off the grid the last few months, I suspect you know the story. Chapman was suspended 30 days for a domestic violence incident with his girlfriend that included a gun. Myles Phelps at Cubs Den wrote an excellent article that gives all the details.
This leaves me and many other Cubs fans in a difficult spot. How do you cheer for a player with such a checkered past? Unfortunately, I have been in this spot more than once as a fan and I just want to give a quick view of the moral dilemma it creates.
I’m a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks, have been since I pulled for Jeremy Roenick and Tony Amonte as a kid. One of my favorite players in recent years was Patrick Kane. Last year Kane was accused of sexual assault in Buffalo, New York and I could not feel comfortable cheering for him during the scandal. The treatment of female reporters covering the case by so-called Hawks fans was just awful and beyond the pale. Even after charges were dropped I felt guilty when the Hawks won on a big Kane goal.
My favorite football team is the St. Louis, now (again) LA, Rams. In the early 2000’s, Rams defensive end Leonard Little was one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL. Little also had been convicted of DUI manslaughter in the death of man in a traffic accident. He served prison time and then signed with the Rams after his release. The victim’s family appeared on television to say how painful it was to watch Little out there on the field and it was hard for me not to think about it with every great play he made.
I feel the same way at this moment. I have been a Cubs fan for as long as I can remember. As many of have said recently, I cheer for laundry. Hell, I actually want to see John Lackey pitch well. Yet, I still will be thinking about the horrible thing that Aroldis Chapman did. I will be happy when Chapman saves a win for the Cubs. And then I will feel that same guilt I felt watching Little. We should all feel that way, violence against women is wrong and should stop.
I don’t know if this made me feel better or not, I just had to say it.