Thursday, March 10, 2016

As Yankees' Chapman takes the field how will fans react?

New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman made a mistake; a terrible one that will deservedly follow him for the rest of his life. He’s been suspended 30 games by Major League Baseball for his involvement in a domestic violence incident with his girlfriend, who is also the mother of his child. He steps on the mound in a game for the first time Thursday. What type of reaction will he receive, and is there a correct one?

Aroldis Chapman
Photo credit: Keith Allison
Chapman might have physically harmed his girlfriend (he continually denies it), but at the very least he intimidated her by retreating to his garage with his gun in hand and proceeded to fire eight rounds into it. The gunfire he admitted to, and apologized for, but I do wish Chapman understood that his action in the garage, while his girlfriend frighteningly hid in the bushes and his child was in the house, is abuse in and of itself. He doesn’t, but hopefully he can learn from his indiscretions as he moves on.

Obviously not being a woman, I cannot fully understand what any female (whether abused in the past or not) feels about this situation. I’ve never had to intimately deal with this type of circumstance. Women are well within their rights to resent Chapman and to protest his presence on a baseball diamond. If female fans (or male fans for that matter) choose to boo Chapman and hold up signs admonishing his actions, so be it, he deserves it. I tell women who want to make life difficult for Chapman by making their voices heard to go for it.

Chapman’s taking the field for the first time cannot and should not overshadow what he did, but at the same time fans ought to be able to cheer for him if they want. I’m talking about baseball fans cheering for the player who is working to help their favorite team win. I’m not speaking about idiots who believe and outwardly suggest that women deserve to be abused in various forms. That’s asinine, and there is no place for that in the game, or in our society.

I will suggest there are fans who simply want their team to win and will cheer wildly for Chapman when he takes the mound, and that does not mean they condone his off-field actions. Chapman is a big part of the equation to the Yankees’ success this season. Chapman’s blazing fastball is exciting to behold, and his presence adds to an already dominant backend of the bullpen. Fans of baseball will eat that up all the time.

In my opinion, it is possible to root for the player, respect his abilities in the game, and not want to emulate his persona. Fans who decide to root for Chapman don't necessarily want to hang out with him, but they do want him to pitch well for the Yankees. If Chapman excels, the Yanks might win, and when we are talking about a baseball game, that’s all fans want.

When reasonable fans walk away from the field, they can praise Chapman’s performance and still understand that great athletes are not always the best people. We can explain to our children that treating women, or any human being, with decency and without violence is vital to advancing our society. We must add that an athlete or any person who lives in the limelight is not removed from that responsibility.

When Chapman steps on the rubber today, on May 9 or next season, whether you boo or cheer, understand one’s feelings about him can be split two ways; into the player and the person.

Note: I understand some readers might take issue with my stance here and I fully respect your opinion. Please feel free to leave a comment while being respectful of mine.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for His baseball commentary has also been published on The Cauldron via Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.