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Thoughts in the wake of Chapman’s 30-game suspension

Aroldis Chapman

A few thoughts following commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision to suspend Aroldis Chapman 30 games. 

1. The Yankees knew something like this was coming

Sure, they didn’t know what the exact punishment would be, and they didn’t know when it would be announced, but realistically the Yankees knew Chapman would be suspended. At the very least, they were prepared for it as a very likely scenario. They were banking on Chapman being worth the prospect price, even without a full season. They’ve had two months since acquiring Chapman to prepare for this inevitability.

“We talked through all of it,” Brian Cashman explained earlier this spring. “I would just state that he is going to be playing in the Majors this year. He’s going to play for somebody this year, performing and working, not denied work, and so we made the determination that he would be here. He was going to pitch somewhere. And we determined that it would be here.”

The Yankees 30th game this season is May 8, meaning Chapman should be eligible for activation on May 9 (and apparently he’ll be eligible on May 9 even if multiple games are rained out before that). That is, of course, assuming he’s able to stay game-ready throughout the suspension. How the Yankees plan to approach that is probably a question to be answered tomorrow.

Chapman USAT2. In theory, the Yankees have a bullpen to weather the storm

Without Chapman, the Yankees still have a proven closer and a dominant one-two punch at the back of the bullpen. It puts a little more pressure on Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, but that’s nothing new. Those two were expected to do the heavy lifting last season, and there’s little reason to think they can’t do the same for a little more than a month this year.

Also worth noting that during those first 30 games of this season, the Yankees have five off days and only once play more than six games in a row. That should help keep some guys rested and available. Chapman will return one week into a stretch of 20 games in a row, which is pretty decent timing, all things considered.

This spring, the key is to comb through the many other relievers in camp to find another dependable arm or two. Could be Chasen Shreve, who was terrific in the first five months of last season and filled in as the seventh-inning guy for about a month while Miller was hurt (basically the exact role the Yankees have to fill while Chapman is suspended). They could also consider veteran Vinnie Pestano, who had some good seasons as a late-inning setup man in Cleveland. There are also plenty of young, upper-level relievers — Nick Rumbelow, James Pazos, Branden Pinder, Jacob Lindgren, Nick Goody, Johnny Barbato — worth consideration.

The Yankees are light on experience but deep on options for their bullpen. In that way — with two high-end relievers still in place, and plenty of off days early — they’re in a fairly good position to withstand the Chapman suspension.

3. Everything should stay the same after the suspension

There was some chance Chapman could be suspended long enough to postpone his free agency, but 30 games doesn’t do it. He’s still on track to reach free agency at the end of the 2016 season, meaning his stint with the Yankees is likely to last only one partial season. Players association director Tony Clark clarified on Saturday that — unlike players suspended for PEDs — players suspended under the domestic violence policy are eligible for the postseason, so Chapman should be available should the Yankees advance to the playoffs.

Once Chapman returns to the active roster, his situation should be unchanged from what anyone expected heading into spring training. Does that mean he will instantly become the closer? It certainly means Girardi will still have that option. Whether that remains the plan will be up to the manager, and presumably subject to change depending on how things go in that first month or so.

One thing that has changed after the suspension: the league now has precedent for any other domestic violence suspension. Not every case is the same, but there’s now a baseline to set expectation.

Chapman4. Strange that Chapman decided not to appeal

It was exactly one week ago that Chapman left no doubt that he would fight any punishment handed down by the commissioner.

“To me, if it doesn’t go my way, I’m just going to appeal,” he said last Tuesday. “I haven’t hurt anybody. … I never hurt anybody ever in my life.”

Clearly Chapman had a change of heart. Could be that the league gave him incentive to do so — wouldn’t be stunned to learn the league threatened a larger suspension if Chapman did appeal; perhaps long enough to put his free agency in doubt — but in the league’s statement, Manfred said that Chapman “acknowledged conduct on that day to be inappropriate under the negotiated Policy, particularly his use of a firearm and the impact of that behavior on his partner.” Perhaps the use of a gun, more than any physical abuse of the girlfriend, was the tipping point?

All we know for certain is that one week ago, Chapman was absolutely planning to appeal. By this afternoon, he’d changed his mind.

5. We still don’t know what exactly happened that night

Chapman had plenty of opportunities this spring to tell his side of the story, and he’s declined. I have no problem with that or any judgment of that, it’s just a fact. The police report paints a picture too vague for any arrest or any charges. It seems stories have changed and opinions have varied and it’s unlikely we’ll ever have absolute clarity.

We only know that something happened, that Chapman insists he hurt no one, but that he acknowledges making some poor choices. The commissioner’s statement suggests the involvement of a gun, even though no one was shot, was a key factor in the decision. It’s interesting that various people have stressed that abuse doesn’t have to mean physical violence, and it seems possible that Chapman’s actions — even if he’s right and no physical harm was done — were indeed abusive.

There’s nothing good here. Clearly something not great happened that night, and it was enough that Major League Baseball felt the need to punish a player (perhaps to send a message that anything of this sort will not be tolerated). What’s left is to see what happens next. Of all people, it was Alex Rodriguez who took that point of view this afternoon.

“He’s going through some serious issues,” Rodriguez said. “But that presents an opportunity to kind of make strides forward in your life way beyond baseball.”

Associated Press photos

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Posted by on March 1, 2016.

Categories: Misc



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