Aroldis Chapman Avoids Charges, But What Happens Next?

By Paul Sondhi

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Just two years after the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera, chose to hang up his cleats, the New York Yankees have acquired Aroldis Chapman to finish off games for them for a long, long time.

Chapman is a big name around the league for a variety of reasons, one being his all-time velocity and ability to strikeout batters at an ungodly rate. In his previous six MLB seasons as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, Chapman aggregated a 2.17 ERA and 146 saves to 18 blown saves. Once held back by his native Cuba, the fiery southpaw has made an indelible mark during his time in the majors.

Combined with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, the Yankees now boast the best bullpen in baseball. If New York’s starting pitching figures itself out, this iteration of the Bronx Bombers will be a serious contender to win the 2016 World Series. We are still a few months away from the beginning of the regular season, but I don’t doubt that Yankees’ fans are salivating over the potential of this year’s squad.

The other part of Chapman’s notoriety has to do with an incident Chapman was involved in back in October. Just after being signed by New York, reports came out that the soon-to-be 28-year-old was involved in a domestic dispute involving his girlfriend in Chapman’s Florida home. The closer was accused of firing shots in his garage and choking his girlfriend. Just a couple days ago, prosecutors decided not to pursue the case further and dropped charges.

Yankees’ owner Hal Steinbrenner commented last week that his newly minted reliever was “innocent until proven otherwise.” The facts of this case may never be known, as it seems as though Chapman’s girlfriend decided not to fully cooperate with the justice department after the fact. As it stands, Chapman is not guilty of anything. The MLB is currently investigating what happened and may punish him before the season begins.

This is not Major League Baseball’s Ray Rice moment. There is no video of the supposed fight, and the news is simply fluttering in and out of headlines during the deadest time of the year for baseball fans. While I’d love to write a piece denouncing Chapman as another athlete with an inflated ego who is really just another scumbag, I can’t quite do that. Stating anything further than “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” isn’t, in my opinion, the right response to this news.

That being said, Rob Manfred, baseball’s year-old commissioner, has a chance to set a strong precedent by coming down hard on Chapman. We’ve already seen Steinbrenner flake out on having a real opinion about the case, but Manfred doesn’t need to do the same thing. I hesitate to suggest that Chapman should be made an example of, but where the justice system may have very well failed to discipline him, the commissioner’s office should dole out a significant punishment. It can’t be the same punishment than the one Chapman might have gotten if he was convicted, but it can certainly be a significant one that stays in the headlines a bit longer than the rest of the bits of this story have.

As for Yankees’ fans, they’ll have to be content with cheering on another athlete that is seemingly falling short of the lowest societal and moral expectations. As it is time and time again in the NFL, when the game starts, the fans will forget.

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