It's summer, 2016, and the Indians are in 1st place. For years, they had flirted with mediocrity: rarely a last place team, even more rarely an above .500 team. They made the playoffs in 2013, only to lose in the one-game Wild Card to the Tampa Bay Rays. Besides that, it had been since 2007 since they'd won the division. Overall, they were looking at just two playoff appearances in 14 years coming into this season. It was unexpected, magical, and intoxicating.
One day, something came across my Twitter feed that left me both excited and nauseated: the Indians were in talks with the Yankees to acquire superstar closer Aroldis Chapman.
A little background: Chapman was among the best relievers in baseball at the time, a 3-time All-Star that held the Major League Baseball record for the fastest pitch ever recorded in a game (105.1 MPH). In October of 2015, allegations surfaced that Chapman, then the closer for the Cincinnati Reds, had choked his then-girlfriend in the garage of their Miami home after she found "something she didn't like" on his cell phone and confronted him about it. Eight gunshots were fired inside the garage, none striking the woman. Charges were not filed due to "inconsistencies" between the physical evidence and the allegations. Shocking, right?
At the time, the Los Angeles Dodgers were finalizing a trade that would have sent them Chapman, but swiftly backed off when the allegations surfaced — apparently believing that the quality of people that they employed, for some foolish reason. The New York Yankees, staying true to their nickname of the "Evil Empire," held no such moral high ground and traded for Chapman at a highly discounted rate.
Chapman, despite doing nothing wrong in the court of law, was suspended 30 games by MLB to start the 2016 season. However, once the dust settled and people remembered that Chapman threw hard (Ball fast! Pitcher good!), he was once again highly coveted on the trade market, just mere months and empty apologies later. The Yankees were in the position to trade him to the highest bidder, his stock rebuilt. It was the equivalent of flipping a house for profit, you know, if the house had choked somebody and fired 8 gunshots at them.
But it's a REALLY nice house! Did you see the brand new marble countertops?
So we're all caught up. The Indians were in desperate need of a reliever and here the Yankees were with one of the most dominating ones in the history of the sport, prepared to sell him off.
I am a diehard Indians fan above and beyond all other things. When most 8-year-old boys wanted to go to Disneyland and meet Mickey Mouse, I wanted to go to Jacobs Field and meet Jim Thome.
I will never not be disgusted at domestic violence among professional athletes. I hate Aroldis Chapman. If it were up to me, players like that would be banned from ever playing professionally again. But I will admit... my first instinct when I saw that the Indians were in talks to acquire him was not his violent past. It was, "What will we have to give up? He's just a rental, I don't want them to have to part with top prospects."
If you are not a baseball fan, this stance may sicken you. I am admitting to placing love of my team over the overall character of the players that play for them.
But where do you draw the line? He was punished by the league and served his time. If it were up to me, he'd be banned from the sport, but he's not. He's pitching against my team.
Fortunately, the Indians instead traded for Andrew Miller, so I was not forced to morally confront myself. But if I had to, I would have rationalized it. It sucks, but it's the truth.
This past October is the 3rd consecutive postseason that the Indians have been eliminated. All 3 times, the opposing team had a domestic abuser on the roster.
I will admit, though, when Rajai Davis hit that home run off Chapman in Game 7 of the World Series, it was that much sweeter because it came off Chapman. Fuck him.