As a Cubs fan, this past week has been weird. When I read on Twitter that Gleyber Torres had been pulled from the Myrtle Beach Pelicans lineup last Sunday, my heart dropped. Torres' not playing meant a trade for Aroldis Chapman was imminent. And then on Monday afternoon, it became official.
If you're not familiar with Chapman's past, I would encourage you to read up on it. Here are a few articles to start with: Yahoo, ESPN the Mag, New York Times. It's important to be informed on something before making an opinion. If you read those, you'll see that Chapman had a dispute with his girlfriend on a night last October. He admits to shooting a gun eight times, but denies that he tried to hurt her. His girlfriend, whom he still dates and has a child with, called 911 from the bushes outside the house. Charges were never pressed against Chapman because of a lack of cooperation from witnesses and the fact that police never read him his rights before getting arrested. Major League Baseball suspended Chapman 30 games to start this season, a length of time that Chapman agreed to before it was announced.
Since hearing the news, I've had many different thoughts run through my head. Because of that, it has been hard for me to come up with the words to describe how the Chapman trade makes me feel. So instead of giving you my take on it, I want to pull parts of different articles I've found helpful in making sense of everything.
Cubs' trade for Aroldis Chapman difficult to rationalize - Lauren Comitor, The Athletic
We can make certain decisions in life about who we surround ourselves with, but when it comes to sports, there isn’t much we control as outsiders. Everyone has their favorite team, their favorite players and their least favorite players, but fans are always going to watch.
And too often, we’re forced to watch with blinders on, ignoring the humans wearing those uniforms and what they do off the field, because we’re told that shouldn’t matter.
It’s a nearly impossible task, but one that’s become too much of a reflex as we see athletes with histories of domestic violence be cheered back onto the field.
The Cubs made a choice for their fans Monday, one that will stick with them no matter the outcome of their World Series quest.
And even if it were not part of my job, I would not stop watching the Cubs.
But that pit in my stomach will still be there the first time I watch Chapman pitch in a Cubs uniform. It’ll be there when he records his first save and his second and his third. And it’ll be there if Chapman ever closes out a World Series for the Cubs. I won’t be sick from nerves, but from the thought that someone capable of such violence could somehow bring such joy to millions of people — and how much sweeter it would have been to do it without him.
Of Two Minds: Cheers for Chapman - Will Leitch, Sports on Earth
In this piece, Will debates the Chapman trade by articulating the conflicting thoughts in his own head.
Opposed to the trade:
There are ramifications outside of the world of sports to implicitly endorsing guys like this. Somewhere, there's a woman being abused, or a kid who is watching his mother be abused, who has to watch Chapman being rewarded and celebrated. Who could watch Chapman strike out a guy and win the World Series and have everyone act like it's the greatest thing in the world. You can claim that sports are divorced from political realities, but you're kidding yourself.
And yes: The Cubs are the biggest story in sports, which makes this trade all the more appalling. They did this with everyone watching. They did this knowing they'd be hammered for it. Because they just didn't care.
In Favor of Trade:
There will be other jerks in that [World Series] parade. There were jerks during the Royals' parade last year, and the Giants' parade the year before that, and the Red Sox before that, and the Cardinals and the Yankees and the Phillies and the White Sox and Marlins before that. If you watch a game today, you will be rooting for a jerk. That's not what watching sports is about. If watching sports were a moral choice, you'd never watch sports at all. If you think that's unfair, well, it's just like every other field. Your favorite TV shows often stars jerks. Your favorite music is often made by jerks. Politicians who agree with your stances on issues are often jerks. The people who make your favorite sandwich are often jerks. You can't legislate the world. Chapman might be a jerk. But I don't hang out with him. We're not friends. He's a baseball player. And whether or not I like him, a fan's relationship with the Cubs is not about the personality of every player. It's much more personal than that. Sure, it's conflicting to watch Chapman. But it should always be conflicting, to watch anyone. That has never stopped us before.
Cubs go into damage-control mode after introducing Aroldis Chapman to Chicago - Patrick Mooney, CSN Chicago
During Theo Epstein's meeting with the media on Monday to discuss the trade, he articulated how important it was that he was able to talk with Chapman before the trade was completed. That conversation gave Epstein and Cubs owner Tom Ricketts confidence that Chapman wouldn't have any more issues. When asked about it on Tuesday, Chapman couldn't recall the conversation. That immediately called into question how "important" that conversation was. Patrick Mooney elaborates:
About that heart-to-heart conversation Cubs executives absolutely needed to have with Aroldis Chapman over the phone before signing off on a blockbuster deal with the New York Yankees: The Cuban closer had been sleeping on Monday before getting on the call and didn’t remember anything specific about what chairman Tom Ricketts and team president Theo Epstein said in terms of off-the-field expectations.
At least that’s what Chapman expressed through coach/translator Henry Blanco during an awkward welcome-to-Chicago media session in a U.S. Cellular Field dugout before Tuesday’s game against the White Sox, forcing the Cubs into damage-control mode with a player who began this season serving a 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.
Even allowing for the language barrier, this was a completely tone-deaf performance, because reporters asked Chapman about that phone conversation at least six times, getting versions of “It’s been a long day” and “I just got here” and how the Cubs expect him to help this team win the World Series.
Lastly, I asked Andrew Mearns a few questions regarding the trade. Andrew writes about the Yankees for Pinstripe Alley and was on our podcast last October. I knew he would have a unique perspective because the Yankees had just traded for Chapman last December. Here are a couple of his answers.
Q: When Aroldis Chapman was traded to the Yankees in December, what were your personal and professional responses? Has that changed over time? Was their any internal conflict when rooting for him, even months after the suspension ended?
A: Honestly, I was bothered by the Yankees acquiring Aroldis Chapman from the get-go. From a pure baseball perspective, it made plenty of sense, but the domestic violence allegations made it uncomfortable. I can't easily close my mind out from serious problems like that regarding athletes on my favorite team. It's hard to root for players who have shady backgrounds like that, and it seemed like most fans were far too dismissive of what happened at Chapman's house in October. The majority were cheering his high-velocity fastballs as he closed out games. I couldn't get behind it, and it's hard to think of any other times in my experience as a Yankees fan when I felt so indifferent about victories (which weren't exactly coming that often anyway). While I still supported the team, it just felt different. The fact that the Yankees organization used the possibility of suspension to their advantage by nabbing Chapman for a cheap price, only to profit from the move with far better prospects. Baseball is a business though, so this was just another cold reminder.
Q: When Theo Epstein says, "I don't feel like we compromised our integrity," do you agree with him?
A: No, I don't agree with Theo Epstein. He has said on multiple occasions that he values character in his players, and the circumstances around Chapman's suspension represent pretty poor character. Ultimately, anything he says is just going to be a crafted statement. Just like the Yankees, the Cubs are a business, and they're going to look out for the almighty dollar above all else. It's unfortunate, but so it goes.