Twenty-year-old me was excited about John Rocker. In 2001, when the Cleveland Indians sent Steve Karsay and Steve Reed to Atlanta in return for Rocker, the fan in me was thrilled that my favorite team was about to add a player who not only was just a few seasons removed from saving 38 games, but one who sprinted out of the bullpen as if he were shot out of cannon. Forget that he was also just a few years removed from being suspended for 45 days during spring training (and 28 days of the regular season) for referencing, in a story penned by Jeff Pearlman, "some queer with AIDS"—this dude was 6-4, 210 pounds, in his prime at age 26, and was going to be throwing baseballs as hard as he can in hopes of helping my favorite team seal a victory. I wore shirseys with "Belle" on the back while he was destroying clubhouse thermostats and chasing children down on Halloween night. I welcomed Roberto Alomar with open arms despite him having spit in the face of an umpire two years prior. If I was cool with these guys, of course I'd be welcoming of a guy who simply said a few dumb things in the heat of a magazine story.
Twenty-year-old me was an idiot. For reasons unbeknownst to me, that Pearlman story was seen more as a "holy hell, this guy is crazy, but hey he's good at baseball" than it was "this guy has no place in the game—I can't believe anyone employs him."
This was 15 years ago. I'd like to think I've matured a bit since then. Ignoring all of the required items like responsibility and career, the way I feel about the Indians potentially acquiring Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees is all I need to to support this belief. Save all the talk about probability of a deal taking place, the player's contract status, or what it would "cost" for it to happen—my level of care for these items floats between zero and infinitesimal. Chapman can throw 105 miles per hour. He's been one of the best closers in the game since he came up the ranks with the Cincinnati Reds. The Indians need bullpen help yesterday. Acquiring Chapman—again, regardless of cost—would make all the sense in the world. He would also be impossible to root for.
"Twenty-year-old me was an idiot."
We will never know all the details about what transpired on October 30, 2015. What we do know is that the relief pitcher was alleged to have choked his 22-year-old girlfriend, the mother of his child, over something on his cell phone. (Chapman would say he merely "poked her in the shoulder" and she fell down.) We know that, after the physical altercation, Chapman decided to go outside and punch the passenger side window of his car, subsequently leading to a sliced finger. We know that, after punching the window, the closer's next logical method of handling whatever was transpiring, was to obtain his handgun and blast off eight shots inside of his garage. We know that Chapman's girlfriend was forced to hide in the bushes outside of their home while she alerted authorities. We know that, according to filings, this was not the first time an incident has happened. We know that Chapman, who was ultimately not charged for any of these crimes, did not appeal the 30-game suspension that was given to him by Major League Baseball, the first suspension under the league's domestic violence policy.
A defiant Chapman stood by his locker during spring training, stating that he "had never hurt anyone in his life" and that "that's not his character, nor who he is." Forget that this is the same Chapman who threw at the head of former Indians payroll albatross Nick Swisher, twice, with one pitch sailing back to the screen. Each item listed in the police report in a vacuum was bad enough, let alone all of them occurring together in the vicinity of a four-month-old child. He would later change his tune, saying he "learned from the matter," but what he learned was left for debate.
http://www.scout.com/cleveland-sports/story/1687211-the-next-andrew-millerThe team will always be paramount to the players. It's the name on the front, they say. Sure, it's fun to root for kids like Francisco Lindor—he's perpetually smiling while making plays that get your jaw dirty. It's refreshing to see a team rally around a struggling catcher, harnessing the spirit of Jobu, who just so happens to be from a movie that features a fictional, equally fun version of the very same franchise. But in that same light, it's almost poetic that Chapman now plays for the hated Yankees, traded from the Reds following the incident in question. Just as it's impossible to wish good things upon the pinstripes, it's that much easier to wish good things for any batter who steps into the box against the hard-throwing lefty.
Rocker's time in Cleveland was short-lived, the reliever was eventually dealt to the Texas Rangers where GM John Hart found a new home. His cup of coffee with the Tribe resulted in a 3-7 record with just five saves and an ERA north of five. Every story penned about Rocker subsequent to his time in Atlanta included at least one paragraph referring to the time he referenced "Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people." Sure, he was known as an electric, fiery closer who sprinted out of the bullpen, but long after he served his suspension, he was still tied to his insanely insensitive remarks.
Chapman served his punishment, but by no means does this make the events of October 30 disappear. By no means does a suspension and forfeiture of game checks no longer tie him to a story that involved domestic violence, weapon deployment, and cries for help from front yard foliage. And by no means does it mean I have to root for him in the random chance he ends up wearing the uniform of my favorite baseball team.