Newly-acquired flamethrower Aroldis Chapman got off on the wrong foot when he was introduced to the Chicago media yesterday. In the visiting dugout at U.S Cellular field, the Cuban-born Chapman spoke through the Cubs’ designated Spanish translator, coach Henry Blanco, to nearly 30 reporters.
Chapman seemed to dance around questions about his domestic-abuse incident that led to a 30-day suspension earlier this year.
When he was pressed about what the Cubs asked him in regards to the incident, Blanco translated the following for Chapman: "They told him what they expected for him, welcomed him to the club and he's going to be a part of the team. Hopefully, a guy that helps us to the World Series.”
Frustration mounted as reporters couldn’t get Chapman to give a direct answer about the incident. Finally, a reporter asked about was precisely discussed in Chapman’s phone call with his agent, Barry Praver, owner Tom Rickets and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. After pausing for a few seconds, Chapman briefly commented in Spanish, and Blanco translated, “He was sleeping when they had a meeting with him on the phone, so he's trying to remember what he talked about.”
Chapman, known for his heater, was immediately under immense heat on social media for the comment. The already-controversial Chapman had made the problem even worse. Snoozing off during such an important phone call? Really? The Twitter-sphere didn’t take kindly to that comment.
Minutes later, ESPN’s Pedro Gomez conducted an interview with Chapman in Spanish. The closer looked much more comfortable in that setting and was able to clear the air on questions he had been asked just minutes earlier.
"I knew that no matter where I was traded to, this would resurface — that the controversy is going to follow me," Chapman told Gomez. "But I'm with my girlfriend. Our family is together. We're working toward making things better in our lives.”
The Cubs media relations team was finally able to exhale as the lefty got more comfortable in his interview with Gomez.
“And now that I remember,” Chapman continued. “Because they just asked me in the previous press conference what the owners asked me — one of the things they did ask me was about being a better person and being a better neighbor to people. And that's something that I think that I am now, much more so.”
While Chapman’s comments with Gomez helped, the issue was still rapidly gaining attention on social media; as a result, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein decided to hold an unplanned presser in the visiting dugout.
“I think there is a lot to be said that he was nervous and not speaking his native language and being translated,” Epstein said. “We talked to him about the incident and made sure that statement reflected his real feelings on it. Tom laid out the exact same standards that he lays out to everyone in spring training.”
Manager Joe Maddon later dismissed the issue, commenting that the question may have been lost in translation.
As of this year, every MLB team is required to have a full-time Spanish-speaking translator. Coach and former player Henry Blanco has been serving that role all year long, and while this created a brief issue, it seems that it’s time to put this matter to bed.
Whether it was lost in translation or if Chapman was simply uncomfortable with the swarm of media attention, it seems like this was an honest mistake. Chapman’s comments to ESPN’s Pedro Gomez prove that he is working to make himself a better man, and that he was in fact engaged during his conversations with Cubs’ executives.