You don’t have to read the words after this next sentence if you don’t want to: All you need to know is that if the Giants trade for Aroldis Chapman, they’ll have ceded the moral high ground to the Dodgers. That seems like a great reason not to do anything.
But the Giants need bullpen help, and they’d sure love to get a super-premium arm to avoid replacing an average reliever with an average reliever. Chapman is going to be a free agent and the Yankees probably aren’t going keep up in the postseason chase. It would seem to be a perfect fit.
Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman allegedly fired eight gunshots in the garage of his Miami-area home following an October argument with his girlfriend in which she told police he "choked" her and pushed her against a wall, according to police reports obtained by Yahoo Sports.
Nope. The Dodgers had Chapman. He was theirs. The trade was done. And they looked at that and said the same thing. Nope. That is not someone who should represent a franchise. That is not someone you want to cheer in the ninth inning of a World Series Game 7. That is not someone you want to cheer.
That is not someone the Giants should force their fans to cheer.
And make no mistake, there would be a ton of fans who would cheer. I wrote about it last winter:
Now Yankees fans will get to do the same thing, and most of them won't even have to trick their brain into working that hard. The allegations against Chapman won't be forgotten entirely, but they aren't going to lead the coverage if he succeeds with the Yankees. If you think that's too cynical, read the coverage of the Tigers trading for Francisco Rodriguez. Maybe every fifth one mentioned his 2012 arrest for domestic violence. Maybe. Most of the evaluations focused on him being a fine reliever who could help the Tigers' bullpen struggles. The further we move from the initial reports, the easier it all is for everyone to ignore.
We’re even further away now. It’s even easier to ignore if you’re so inclined. You can already imagine the egg-avatar tweets of support. "He didn’t hit her! She didn’t press charges! Let he who hasn’t shot eight bullets into a garage out of pure, unfettered rage cast the first stone!"
Those are all good points, except for the part where they’re completely terrible. Even if you believe in redemption and second chances, you can’t read the police report without coming to the conclusion that Chapman is a very, very damaged individual. It’s possible that he’s utterly remorseful and consciously working on his anger management. It has to be impossible, though, for the Giants to judge that. What are they going to do, look him in the eye and ask?
Nah, err on the side of still-damaged. Because that’s a team would do if the pitcher in question were Sanders Cramswell, minor-league free agent with mediocre stuff. The only reason to gamble that Chapman is a better human being now is because he throws baseballs much harder than anyone else. That seems like a pretty repugnant reason.
Don’t get too judgmental. Pick a player on the Giants with a long-term deal. A favorite player, an obvious franchise cornerstone. Imagine the same news coming about about him. Would you expect the Giants to immediately release him? Eat the millions and let another team have him for free? Doubtful. Your heart would break, and then you would hope for the redemption, the remorse, the indications that the player is really taking the right steps. It would be a tortured dance most of us would do to justify winning baseball games.
This is a conscious choice to bring that sort of player into a functioning, well-oiled clubhouse, though. It’s never okay to prioritize wins and losses over taking a stand on domestic violence, but actively acquiring a player suspended for it a few months ago is in particularly bad taste. It’s a team announcing "We will accept potentially horrible people into our organization because they help us win games, and then we’ll cross our fingers and hope that they’ve changed. And if they haven’t, well, at least we won games!"
The good news is that a) that doesn’t sound like the Giants, and b) I’m pretty sure there are other teams who could offer better prospects. That’s fine. For as much as Aroldis Chapman is the perfect fit, he’s also the worst fit. I have no illusions that all of the players I root for have an ideal moral center. I know a lot of them have the capacity to disappoint me immensely, if only because human beings can sure be awful.
All I ask, then, is for my favorite team to avoid the known goblins. I’d rather float in a sea of what-ifs rather than celebrate an uncomfortable victory. I’m sure I wouldn’t feel the same way while covering the parade, and that’s the problem, I guess. This is as much about the Giants saving me from myself as it’s about the Giants sliding down a slippery slope of amorality.
But it can be about both. There are other relievers. Here, go for the guy who was busted for performance-enhancing drugs. I can deal with that. Heck, I can thrive with that. So much experience on that front! Getting Chapman, though, would really, really send a disappointing message. Here’s hoping that we never have to deal with it.