Albertín Aroldis (de la Cruz) Chapman, the latest closer for the Chicago Cubs, has been under the spotlight since he first stepped onto American soil in 2009, after successfully defecting from his home country of Cuba.
To put it mildly, Chapman’s fastball is akin to Halley’s Comet. It can streak across the plate at up to 105.1 mph, the current confirmed MLB record. Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen was batting at Great American Ballpark in 2011 when Chapman supposedly threw a pitch clocked at 106 mph per the scoreboard. Unlike the famous comet, however, we get to witness this trajectory path of brilliance over and over again. The control issues Aroldis experienced at the beginning of his career have greatly diminished. At least with his fastball, more on that later …
Originally signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 2010, Aroldis has been setting pitching radars on fire and sending batters to the bench wondering if they ever saw the flash of white that just exploded in catchers’ mitts behind them. During a Spring Training game in 2014 against the Kansas City Royals, Chapman was hit over his left eye when catcher Salvador Perez smoked a line drive and he couldn’t get his glove up in time. It’s really scary to think that such a gifted athlete’s career could have been extinguished that day. Luckily, he battled back from the disabled list and proceeded to throw 15 out of 20 pitches over 100 mph when he returned to the rubber approximately two months later. Wow.
Why then, am I in such turmoil over the Chicago Cubs recent acquisition of this one-of-a-kind player? I’ll tell you. In December of last year, it was learned that Chapman was involved in a domestic dispute back in October. Reports confirmed that he fired gunshots from his Davie, Florida home and also included accusations that he choked his girlfriend. As a result of the allegations, Aroldis’s imminent trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers was nixed. He was eventually traded to the Yankees but would become the very first player to be disciplined without an actual conviction per new MLB rules enacted in August of 2015. After accepting and serving a 30-game suspension, Aroldis was marginally apologetic over the incident and insisted he never hurt his girlfriend.
Fast forward to July 25, 2016, the day news dropped that Chapman was signed by the Cubs. The following article from Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune describes my rolling emotions to a T: Chapman Trade. Rosenbloom aptly expresses the conundrum many Cubs fans, like myself, are faced with. How can I support a man who left his girlfriend cowering in the bushes? Yet, he has served his suspension and now wishes to leave his prior poor judgement decisions in the past.
Language barriers have not helped him to convey, if it actually exists, his remorse over what he did nor his acceptance of what the Cubs organization expects out of him.
Theo Epstein claims to have done all of his homework on Chapman and assures fans that the integrity and values of the Cubs have not been compromised or overlooked. So, after reviewing the facts of an incident which formerly had me incensed, I have decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. I will, like the rest of us, enjoy his compact windup, perfect leg kick, and delivery of pitches that primarily make contact with a glove only. In other words, I am willing to move forward but not forget Aroldis’s mistakes. Everyone deserves a second chance.
You can blow an occasional save, Chapman. Just don’t blow this second opportunity that you’ve been given. Help the Cubs win a World Series the right way, by keeping your domestic life drama free. Or your fastball along with your career will disappear into a black hole.