Red Sox backing away from Aroldis Chapman trade led to Yankees’ downfall

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 05: Aroldis Chapman #54 of the New York Yankees reacts after Jackie Bradley Jr. #19 of the Boston Red Sox scores in the ninth inning tying up the game at Fenway Park on August 5, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 05: Aroldis Chapman #54 of the New York Yankees reacts after Jackie Bradley Jr. #19 of the Boston Red Sox scores in the ninth inning tying up the game at Fenway Park on August 5, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /
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Aroldis Chapman not on Yankees’ ALDS roster, unlikely to pitch in postseason

On Sunday afternoon, the baseball world found out that Aroldis Chapman would not be on the New York Yankees’ ALDS roster.

The reviled pitcher – known for being the first player suspended under MLB and the Players’ Association’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse policy as well as postseason implosions that seem quite karmic – skipped a mandatory workout before the Yankees’ first round of the postseason.

Evidently, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Chapman has been fined and told to remain at home in Miami. A free agent next month, he may never pitch for the Yankees again.

Given how Chapman rebounded from several October catastrophes and some despicable off-field conduct, it’s surprising that there was a last straw. As the first player disciplined under the policy, he’d become its poster boy. For many, his presence in the league was unacceptable, yet he seemed untouchable.

Chapman’s downfall and the Yankees’ struggles have been intertwined for more than half a decade, but that, of course, was the organization’s choice. They not only acquired Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds after finding out that he’d choked his significant other and fired a gun several times in their garage while she hid in the bushes, but then profited off him. After he served his 30-game suspension, the Yankees flipped him to the Chicago Cubs at the 2016 trade deadline for Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, Adam Warren, and Rashad Crawford. Whereas a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy bars the guilty party from participating in that year’s postseason, the DV policy originally allowed players to contribute to their teams’ playoff contests so long as they’d completed their suspensions. So, within the same season, Chapman served the policy’s first suspension and then won a World Series ring.

Then, after Chapman and the Cubs won the World Series and he became a free agent, the Yankees re-signed him to a five-year, $86M deal, the largest contract for a reliever at that point in baseball history.

The Boston Red Sox wouldn’t dare.

No, really, they didn’t.

Red Sox considered trading for Aroldis Chapman before his domestic violence incident

In early November 2015, the Sox were considered one of Chapman’s most aggressive suitors. But while doing their due diligence, they discovered the incident and immediately pivoted to acquiring Craig Kimbrel from the San Diego Padres. Less than a month later, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Reds were in agreement on a trade for Chapman, but the deal evaporated when the scandal became known to the league and the public.

In addition to being an obvious moral victory, not acquiring Chapman turned out to be the right move from an on-field aspect, too. The Sox won the division in each of the next three years.

Then, in 2018, as they steamrolled the opposition en route to the playoffs, another problematic opportunity presented itself. The Sox had the opportunity to acquire closer Roberto Osuna, whom the Toronto Blue Jays were trying to unload while he was on trial and serving a 75-game suspension for violating the policy. But even though Kimbrel wasn’t his old reliable self, Osuna was not for the Sox, either. Then-GM Dave Dombrowski was adamant: “We did not pursue that situation.” It was a proud day for the organization.

This is not to say the Red Sox are without blemish in this area. When Steven Wright received a 15-game suspension for what was reportedly a verbal altercation at the beginning of the 2018 season, the Sox not only kept him but also re-signed him for 2019. It wasn’t until that season – replete with an 80-game PED suspension – ended that they released him.

And late this season, they signed Jeurys Familia, who’d also served a suspension after a domestic violence arrest in October 2016. The charge was dismissed and the league only handed down a 15-game ruling at the beginning of the 2017 season. While the league’s investigation did not find evidence of physical assault or threats of that nature, they declared that Familia had been “inappropriate” and “violated the policy.”

But nearly two decades before MLB enacted the policy, the Sox were the first team to suspend a player for domestic violence or assault. In 1997, they suspended Wil Cordero for eight games after he was arrested for assault and battery against his then-wife, and then released him minutes after their final game of the season. In the pre-policy era, the Sox tried to put him on the restricted list and even wanted him to go to therapy, and the Players’ Association prevented them from doing both. But Sox fans had made their disdain for Cordero known at Fenway Park in the second half of the season.

For the last several years, they’ve done the same to Chapman and many others, including their own players on occasion.

Every form of domestic violence is unacceptable. How the league and its teams handle these situations tells the world what their priorities are. Some players suspended since the policy began never pitched in the majors again, but many of the worst offenders returned.

Hopefully, this isn’t just the end of Chapman’s time with the Yankees, but also in baseball.