It has now been a couple of days since Brian Cashman and the Yankees traded for hot flame throwing and hot take raising pitcher Aroldis Chapman. Cashman managed to get Chapman for just four minor leaguers because Chapman has been allegedly accused of domestic violence charges. This needs to be repeated and it really needs to sink into the collective brains of Yankee fans who do not quite seem to grasp this. The Cincinnati Reds took Eric Jagielo, Rookie Davis, Caleb Cotham, and Tony Renda in exchange for arguably the best reliever in baseball because of alleged domestic violence accusations. Whether or not you think those prospects are good or not is not the point. Whether or not you think this was a great move by Cashman is also not the point. The point is that the Reds gave Chapman away for scraps because his value was extremely low due to potentially being an awful human being. The Yankees, our beacons of Pride, Power, and Pinstripes, simply had better scraps available than the Marlins, as well as the same level of "no bunts given" about Chapman’s potential awfulness.
What’s done is done though. Aroldis Chapman will don the pinstripes and he, along with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, will create a three-headed monster bullpen as powerful as King Ghidorah himself. Everything mentioned thus far is simply the facts. The moral choice vs. the business choice regarding this trade has been discussed and will continue to be discussed as we see what unfolds with the investigation of said domestic violence allegations. Chapman’s possible suspension and the ramifications or potential benefits of it will also be talked about. This article is not about any of that. This article is about us, the fans, and the lessons we are ultimately taking from this.
Lesson 1: Root for laundry instead of rooting for humanity
Thus far, the first and most common defense of Chapman wearing Yankee pinstripes is that he is literally now wearing Yankee pinstripes. Once a player puts on that Yankee uniform, they are now part of a large pile of unwashed clothes in the pinstriped hamper. In a previous article I wrote,
"That ugliness is the fact that a lot of fans view their overall enjoyment of the sport they are watching as way more important than the actual people playing it. We see this all the time, in every sport, with a wide variety of different issues. When a human being puts on the uniform of your favorite sports team, they somehow become more (or less) than just a person. They become icons or heroes. They become head cases or problems. Most of all, they become assets or "laundry" as Jerry Seinfeld once famously said. There are many reasons and excuses as to why people view athletes like this. With the "rooting for laundry" analogy, it's just like Seinfeld said. It's easier to root for the team as a whole than a player on the team."
This was true in that article about CC Sabathia and it’s still true now. Chapman is no longer a person. What he did or didn’t do off the field is now essentially irrelevant in the eyes of many fans. All that matters now is that he comes out of the bullpen and strikes people out with an over 100MPH fastball. That’s fun to watch. It was fun to watch in the All-Star Game and it will be fun to watch when he’s on the mound in the Bronx. Baseball is fun. Nothing else matters. Oh wait, there is something else that matters, which brings us to our next lesson.
Lesson 2: Your talent level dictates how much or how little people will defend you.
We have now reached the part of this article in which fans are going to be called out for this whole "innocent until proven guilty" defense of Chapman’s character. To be blunt, this defense is absolute bullshit. It has little to nothing to do with how people think the judicial system actually works. It also has little to nothing to do with Aroldis Chapman, the human being, and everything to do with Aroldis Chapman, the athlete who has the ability to throw a baseball at 103MPH. The latter is why many fans are happy about this trade, and who could blame them? Again, watching an athlete throw a baseball 103MPH is a fun time for the whole family, especially when he is on your team. Make no mistake though, that is what people are coming to the defense of. Not the human being, but rather the 103 MPH strikeout talent. If fans could take that talent and inject into another less controversial person, most would do so.
Riddle me this, boys and girls: Ignoring the minor league players involved and the business aspect of this trade, if Aroldis Chapman had the same level of talent as Boone Logan or Chris Capuano, would fans still be so quick to give Chapman the same "innocent until proven guilty" defense of his potential domestic violence accusations? This might be a very cynical view of sports fans as a whole, but I can promise you the answer is no. Do not kid yourselves here. If Chapman comes to the Yankees and performs badly, fans will almost instantly drop their faux moral outrage over the judgement of his character and quickly turn on him, using said domestic violence allegations to condemn not only Chapman but Cashman, Hal & Hank Steinbrenner, Randy Levine, and the CRACKAH JAHKS guy at Yankee Stadium for trading for him in the first place. Again, this may be a cynical view of our fanbase, but I am 100% willing to throw down $100 to wager that I am right.
Lesson 3: Stop interrupting happy time with reality.
Unless you have been a fan of the Buffalo Bills, and only the Buffalo Bills, for the past two decades or so, odds are sports probably put you in a happier place. Even though this sometimes does not seem to be the case, the Yankees should have entertained their fanbase during that same awful "why do I still root for the bunting Buffalo Bills" two decade time frame. No seriously, next year is the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Dynasty Era Yankees. Let that thought sink in for a second while I quote myself from that previous article again.
"The bottom line is, whenever someone or something conflicts with a person's happy place, idyllic fantasy, make-believe world, or entertainment-induced stupor, they are irrationally and sometimes horribly quick to side with whatever keeps them in that place."
This is sure to be groundbreaking analysis here, but sports are entertainment and entertainment is what everyday people use to hide from many terrible facts about reality. This can range anywhere from one’s own personal problems in life to just the overall awfulness of the world at times. When real issues like Chapman’s creep into the fantasy, people understandably get annoyed. "Can’t I just watch a game without hearing about this?" is a common thing many fans have uttered sometime in their lives. It’s why a lot of Yankee fans don’t like Alex Rodriguez and love Derek Jeter. Both have amazing talent, but one plagued the team with controversy while the other did not. To put it simply, one is easy to think about in terms of just baseball while the other is not.
A lot of fans want all their players to be the Jeter, not just talent wise but also controversy-free wise as well. People just want to watch sports and save the drama for the real world or an episode of Mr. Robot. People want it to be simple and easy. Watching entertainment is easy. Fighting for human decency is a never ending battle that most people do not want to deal with when they are trying to relax, if at all. The question "When are people finally going to stick up for basic, simple morality from other people?" is then asked, debated, then usually ignored because sports are on. This scenario applies to so many things in life. Politics, awful holiday dinners with the family, etc. It’s why some people need sports to begin with. Baseball is fun. Dingers are fun. Wait, what were we talking about again? Oh right, morality. Let’s just save that discussion for another time, right? Right! Let’s go Yankees!
Lesson 4: Steroids and cheating are just as bad.
No. No, they are not. Sorry, but nope. If you think they are, stop thinking that right bunting now because your opinion on this is wrong.
Lesson 5: Our children need proper role models and did he just throw that pitch 105MPH? Good luck with that, opposing players. I love baseball.
Some parents want athletes and other entertainers to be good role models for their children. Like we learned in Lesson 3, they want it to be simple. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, because the underlying truth is that most parents want their children to be good people when they grow up or maybe, at the very least, be able to throw a baseball with their left hand. They want to point at an athlete and say, "You see, Billy? If you treat others with respect, work hard, and play the right way, you can live a happy life too." Again, there’s nothing wrong with that except that it’s not the whole truth.
One of the main arguments you always hear regarding steroids and cheating tarnishing the game of baseball is that these players teach young children that cheaters can actually win and prosper. Sorry Billy, but that’s also the truth. It’s true in baseball and it’s true in a lot of aspects in life. Despite the suspensions to A-Rod, Ryan Braun, and other such players, they still get paid a lot of money to play baseball. There is still no real incentive for minor league players not to take performance enhancers to gain that little bit of an edge when the penalty for doing so is minimal and difference between minor league and major league paychecks is astronomical. I’m no parent, but I’d probably have a hard time teaching an eight-year-old all of that when all he wants to do is cheer for future Yankee Bryce Harper when he hits the 4 Train with his home runs. That’s all most people want to do when watching baseball. "Wow. Chapman just struck out the side and didn’t throw a pitch under 99MPH." Baseball is fun and awesome. Sigh.
What MLB decides to eventually do about matters regarding domestic violence has still yet to be decided. There are already talks of a 40 or 50-game suspension potentially being in Chapman’s future. That would be about half or a little under half of the 80-game suspension for first time PED users. It would be far, far less that A-Rod’s suspension. If that is the case, just scratch Lesson 4 of the list since it’s hard to tell people that their opinion on that is wrong when Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball might potentially agree with them. House money is definitely on steroid users being punished more severely than players who commit much more serious offenses, like the ones Aroldis Chapman has been accused of. We shall wait and see but if that is indeed the case, how will the Helen Lovejoy crowd handle this in regards to thinking about what we teach our children? "Well Billy, you see...Um, how about I just get us some hot dogs and we watch the game? Oooh, there's the CRACKAH JAHKS guy over there!"
Lesson 6: Hope for the best but holy cow, the Yankees have the three best relievers in the majors right now. You can give each one more rest, as well as mix and match them. This is gonna be awesome.
This is the problem with simply rooting for the team over the human beings playing on the team. Wanting these athletes to be good role models for children or simply good people in general, while also just wanting to simply root for the team and not care about the off field stuff doesn’t always work out. Overall, you can continue to hope that Aroldis Chapman did not do the things he’s accused of doing. If he did do those terrible things, you can hope that he learns from that, potentially seeks help, somehow makes amends to the poor soul he abused, and maybe becomes a spokesperson against domestic violence after coming to his senses and realizing just how awful and traumatic that can be. Or you can just not care about any of that and watch him mow down suckers with a fastball that is consistently over 100MPH when it leaves his hand.
These are things that we, the fans, need to be concerned with. The Yankees don’t need to worry about any of that morality stuff because they know, just as most intelligent baseball fans know, that they have to put a winning team on the field in order to make sure fans keep purchasing those season ticket packages. Morality does not equal money. Winning equals money. Thinking about morality does not make people happy. Winning rings makes fans happy. You’ve seen the diamonds encrusted in those rings. Those aren’t cheap, you know. Oh boy, I sure hope the Yankees win the World Series this year. That brings us to our final lesson.
Lesson 7: So is Chapman or Miller going to be the game enderer?
Man, I cannot wait for baseball to start again. Sigh. Baseball is just the greatest. Sigh. Maybe one day.
Let’s go Yankees!