The New York Yankees’ closer Aroldis Chapman has been suspended for the first 30 games of the 2016 MLB season by commissioner Rob Manfred for violating the league’s new domestic violence policy. This new policy was created by way of an agreement between the MLB and the players’ union last season in an attempt to prevent baseball from having the same issues the NFL has had with its players. Chapman is the first player to be suspended under the new policy, and Manfred handled the matter thoroughly. This is true especially when compared to the NFL and its commissioner Roger Goodell, who has botched almost every decision concerning domestic violence incidents to date. Manfred was guided by the NFL’s blunders and made a domestic abuse policy to get out in front of the issue before it caught them off guard.
Chapman accepted the suspension, costing him approximately $1.85 million of his $11.3 million annual salary. A source with direct knowledge of Manfred’s plan said that the commissioner was ready to suspend Chapman for 35 to 40 games before Chapman and his lawyers negotiated a reduced suspension. He most likely did not appeal because of his eligibility for free agency after this coming season. Since the MLB free agency is based on service time, and a player needs at least six years of service in the league to be eligible for free agency, if Chapman had been suspended long enough, he may have lost his right to become a free agent after this season. There is speculation about whether or not Chapman said something to convince Manfred to reduce the suspension because, even after the suspension was announced, in a statement, he said that he did not harm his girlfriend. This shows a lack of remorse and responsibility for his behavior. Based on his statement, some are afraid that he will repeat his actions because he did not really admit to any wrongdoing. It also displays just total ignorance on his part because, as executive director of the National Coalition against Domestic Violence Ruth Glenn argued, if he had not done any harm, then why would the MLB have suspended him? Furthermore, why would he accept the suspension if he did no harm to his girlfriend?
Contrary to the NFL’s first domestic violence case with Ray Rice, where the NFL had clear video evidence and let Rice off with a light punishment at first, nobody knows exactly what happened in Chapman’s case. According to the police report, Chapman choked his girlfriend after an argument that started when she “found something on his phone that she did not like.” He also fired eight gunshots from a handgun in his garage. Florida prosecutors did not press charges against Chapman because of a lack of sufficient evidence, conflicting accounts of what occurred and uncooperative witnesses. Some reports say that Chapman fired his gun during the altercation with his girlfriend, while others say he fired it in frustration following the incident.
Although Chapman is a great player, the Yankees made a dubious decision in trading for Chapman because they already have two great pitchers in their bullpen in similar roles—Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. Chapman will be missed, however, as he has earned the third most saves in the major leagues since his first season in 2012. But Miller and Betances are going to help fill his role and are already doing so, as Miller has saved 36 games in 38 opportunities last season. While acquiring Chapman probably gives the Yankees the best bullpen in baseball, the Yankees need better starting pitching because of injuries and age problems. Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka is working his way back from an arm injury for the third time since he arrived from Japan, and although he has done very well, he has not fulfilled expectations. Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda have also struggled from multiple injuries, and CC Sabathia not only has struggled from injury, but his pitching has also gotten much worse with age. Lastly, although the Yankees have a very promising prospect in Luis Severino, he is very young at 22 years old and cannot be relied upon to perform consistently.
More importantly, the Yankees made a questionable decision from a public relations or an ethical standpoint by trading for Chapman in the first place. This is especially true considering the Yankees traded for Chapman after the Los Angeles Dodgers rescinded their trade with the Cincinnati Reds for Chapman after learning the reports of his domestic violence incident. The Boston Red Sox also stopped pursuing Chapman once they learned of the domestic violence incident. Seeing most of the teams were no longer interested in trading for him, the Reds dropped his price, and the Yankees capitalized on the opportunity. Essentially, the Yankees traded for Chapman based on his value as a player and the fact that they did not have to give up much to acquire him, overlooking his problems off the field. It is a major problem in sports today that teams overlook players’ personal indiscretions because of their talent. If sports have rules protecting “the integrity of the game,” then they should also have rules ensuring the integrity of the people who are playing those games.