Chicago Cubs: Does Presence Of Aroldis Chapman ‘Taint’ Club’s Wins?

With all due respect to Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, Aroldis Chapman is the most electric closer around.

Granted, Chapman is far, far away from the prowess of Rivera and the durability of Hoffman, but watching the “Cuban Missile” close and throw pitch after pitch over 100 miles per hour is just an amazing scene. Friday night, pitching in his first postseason game as a member of the Cubs, Chapman showed why Theo Epstein was so hellbent on trading for him in July. Pitching around a two-out double by Buster Posey, the All-Star closer wrapped up a 1-0 Cubs victory over the San Francisco Giants.

Chapman, who went 1-1 with a 1.01 ERA in 28 games (16 of which were saves) and a 46-10 K-BB ratio in 26.2 innings for the Cubs, said the following after his first career postseason save through his translator (Chicago Sun-Times).

“I felt the emotion of the crowd. I love it because everywhere I go I hear about this team, and I just felt that emotion from the crowd. It gave me energy in the ninth inning. It was an incredible experience.”

Of course, some have an issue with the fact that the Cubs, taking advantage of the New York Yankees’ mediocrity in July and their desire to trade veteran pieces away, went and landed a player suspended 30 games for domestic abuse. Leading the Chapman hate train is Chicago update sports anchor Julie DiCaro, who has spent the past few months calling out the entire organization and bashing the entire team for trading for and accepting Chapman.

After the Cubs’ game one win on Friday night, DiCaro took to Twitter with her latest take on Chapman.

Disliking Chapman for what he did to his wife? Fine. Saying that the wins by an entire 25-man roster and coaches feel tainted? Yikes.

Chapman, for those who may not remember, was involved in a domestic violence case where he allegedly fired eight gunshots in his garage and then choked his girlfriend before police were called and handled with the situation. Chapman’s version of the case was a bit different, as he claimed he was attacked by the brother of his girlfriend after he accidentally knocked her over, was not allowed to leave by his friends, got upset, hurt his knuckle punching a car, and fired a gun shot in the garage. Regardless of which version was true, the Cuban-born reliever served a 30 game suspension for the Yankees before returning in early May.

Ever since his suspension – which he accepted without an appeal – concluded, Chapman has been a model player both on and off the field, enough to where the Cubs were alright with trading for him. There were no interviews-gone-wrong with the Yankees, no locker room fights between him and players who were happily married and anti-domestic violence; all that mattered was Chapman maturing and pitching well enough to shut down games in the ninth inning.

Still, the divide about rooting for Chapman remains strong, with many – including DiCaro – continuing to bash the Cubs for their midseason acquisition; and rooting for Chapman is a gray area, I’ll admit that much. Back in February when Chapman was still with the Yankees, I made the following point about supporting the then-newest Bronx Bomber that many people seemed to agree with and understand.

“I can’t profess to knowing what really happened that night or who to believe, but I do know that until the truth comes out — and perhaps even past then — I will support Aroldis Chapman the baseball player. Will that support and trust go down if it turns out that Chapman’s version is entirely false? Yes, of course, but Chapman is here now to win and, if he focuses on that and atones for what he did before, I can’t fault him anymore than I’ve faulted Rodriguez or [former New Jersey Nets point guard] Jason Kidd. Alex Rodriguez, to be blunt, messed up and has turned things around big time. Ray Rice messed up big time and is trying to turn things around, even though he knows the chances of playing in the NFL again may not be as high as he wants them to be. Greg Hardy messed up big time and has shown zero remorse for it, and I really hope Chapman doesn’t follow in Hardy’s footsteps. If the case shows Chapman is guilty, then fine, but I want to see what he does afterwards; I want to see if Chapman atones and tries to make things better, because that’s the true show of character we need from the Cuban Missile to determine if he’s worth rooting for or not.”

And Chapman has, to a degree, atoned himself. We’re talking about a man who not only accepted his punishment, but has stayed out of trouble and any off-the-field issues since the season started; this isn’t a repeat offender, nor is this a case of a Greg Hardy who has showed virtually no desire to change or admit that he was wrong in his own incidents. Granted, we don’t know what’s going on in the Chapman household outside of games, but the man has seemingly learned from his mistakes; and the moment most people realized that was when he accepted the punishment and didn’t make a big deal about it when he came back to the Yankees.

Aroldis Chapman Chicago Cubs
[Image by Stacy Revere/Getty Images]

What DiCaro and these anti-Chapman fans have done for months now is immediately bash someone without listening to their side of the story or even giving them a chance. Chapman did an awful thing, don’t get me wrong, but it’s on us as sports fans and human beings to at least listen to what he has to say and see if he regrets it and how he’s learning to better himself. Hope Solo got into a domestic abuse and Americans still supported her when she returned to the pitch, right?

As is to be expected, many baseball fans – and not just Cub fans, surprisingly – disagreed with DiCaro and defended either Chapman or the Cubs organization.

Aside from the ‘quit watching sports or stick to *insert female action*’ tweets, many of these are fair responses. When she realized that not everyone agrees with her because it’s human nature to look at things differently, DiCaro began taking her anger out on some Twitter users who respectfully disagreed. Take this tweet, for example, to a Cubs fan from Iowa who said he supported Chapman.

What does Iowa have to do with how he feels about Chapman? That’s a low blow that doesn’t even make sense and, as DiCaro would say, it’s an odd hill to die on…

For what it’s worth, I have some respect for DiCaro because she puts up with idiot trolls on a daily basis who say they want her to be raped, killed, shot, or for her to go back into the kitchen. If you’re a female trying to get into the sports media business, DiCaro and her story (she was a rape victim in college) provide some good inspiration and motivation; just watch her appearance in #MoreThanMean if you don’t get what I mean.

But, her anti-Chapman stance has gone a bit too far in the eyes of many fans. We get it, you don’t like Chapman, but the best solution as a fan is doing what Yankee fans did with him, what Knick fans are doing with Derrick Rose, what Minnesota Viking fans are doing for Adrian Peterson and so on:

  1. Give the guy a chance to redeem himself instead of automatically going into defense mode and claiming that he’s an awful human being.
  2. Root for the team, not for the player. Plenty of Yankee fans felt uncomfortable with Chapman and many Met fans weren’t entirely alright with Jose Reyes’ return, but they rooted for their teams because baseball is a team game.
  3. Don’t immediately dismiss and insult others for disagreeing. This goes for the people who disagree with DiCaro, too. I’ve done my best to hear her opinions out, but I disagree and that’s alright. Those in the same boat as me should not be crucified, nor should those in the same boat as DiCaro.

At the end of the day, even if you don’t like Chapman, don’t claim that he’s tainting the Cubs’ victories. That’s unfair to the rest of the guys, many of whom I’m sure were a bit hesitant about adding a domestic abuser to the roster. Julie, Chapman wasn’t the one who started the game for the Cubs and kept the Giants scoreless, nor was he the one who hit the game-winning home run. That’s not right to lump those guys in with one bad apple, an apple who by all accounts is trying to atone for his sins.

That’s why it’s on us as sports fans to not forget the past, but also accept the possibility of a brighter future. Chapman screwed up, but maybe we can give the guy a chance to make up for himself. That’s the American Dream that made Chapman flee Cuba for here, isn’t it?

[Featured Image by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]