The Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers are tied at a game apiece in the 2016 National League Championship Series as the two teams get set for what should be three exciting nights of October baseball in L.A. beginning on Tuesday night.
In addition to being the most exciting time of the year in Major League Baseball, the month of October is also designated as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month here in the United States.
This month there will be a concerted effort to educate the public on this important issue. It is an opportunity, as the National Network to End Domestic Violence states, to “raise awareness about domestic violence” and to join efforts to end that violence.
One of the key players during this NLCS for the Chicago Cubs is closer Aroldis Chapman, obtained by the team just prior to this season’s non-waiver trade deadline from the New York Yankees.
A 28-year-old flame-throwing left-hander who defected from Cuba in 2009, Chapman is a four-time NL All-Star who holds the MLB record for throwing the fastest pitch (105.1 mph). He is the acknowledged hardest thrower in the game today, and one of the hardest throwers of all time.
In addition to being a key player on the baseball diamond this October, Chapman also has a link to that other October event relating to domestic violence awareness.
Chapman is an accused domestic violence abuser.
At this time a year ago, on October 30, 2015, Chapman was involved in a domestic violence incident.
He was accused of pushing his girlfriend against a wall inside of his home and choking her after she had confronted him over something that she had found on his cellphone.
As reported by Tim Brown and Jeff Passan of Yahoo.com last December, Chapman is reported to have fired eight gunshots in his garage as part of the incident.
As the Brown-Passan piece reveals, the October incident was apparently the culmination of the buildup to a breakup between the couple, who had lived together for some time and who have a child together.
Of course, Chapman had his own version of the events, which paint him in a far less abusive light, though he did later admit to firing the gun and apologized for that action.
“I’m apologizing because of the use of the gun; it was bad judgment on my part,” Chapman said through a Spanish translator per NJ.com’s Ryan Hatch back in March of this year. “But I also want to say that I never hurt my girlfriend. I want this to be very clear.”
As reported by ESPN last December, police did not make any arrests because of inconsistencies in stories and lack of physical evidence of injuries. Assistant State Attorney Marcie Zaccor also said there was insufficient evidence to charge Chapman in the incident.
Chapman would subsequently become the first player ever suspended by Major League Baseball under its newly enacted domestic violence policies, receiving a 30-game suspension at the start of the 2016 season.
He chose to accept the punishment without appealing, per SBNation’s Marc Normandin.
“The Major League Baseball Players Association and its members do not condone the mistreatment of others by playing or non-playing personnel. At the same time, the MLBPA remains committed to protecting and ensuring the rights granted to Players under the applicable provisions of the sport’s new Joint Policy on Domestic Violence. As such, the MLBPA supports Mr. Chapman’s decision to forgo his right to an appeal.”
For victims of domestic violence and their advocates it’s a very typical story. High-profile abuser gets off relatively lightly, in part because of their celebrity status.
Meanwhile, accused abusers have their side of the story as well. Despite no criminal charges, they fear that their reputations may be permanently tarnished by exaggerated accusations.
Whatever the actual truths are in the Chapman domestic violence incident, it is clear that there was indeed domestic discord and violence, that a gun was indeed present, and that the gun was fired.
The incident came to light as his team at the time, the Cincinnati Reds, who had signed him back in 2010 following his defection, were attempting to trade him to the Dodgers (the team he’s now facing in the NLCS).
That deal fell through amid the uncertainty. The Reds were then able to ship him to the Yankees on December 28, 2015.
Chapman pitched with the Yanks for approximately three months following his suspension before being dealt to the Cubs at the July trade deadline this past summer.
Three weeks after the trade was completed, a DJ employed by the Cubs to provide in-game music over their PA system at Wrigley Field was fired after he played the song “Smack My B*tch Up” by Prodigy as Chapman walked off the mound following a save against the rival St. Louis Cardinals.
The song choice and the firing of the employee was just one in a number of controversial incidents that surrounded the acquisition of Chapman in his early weeks with the North Siders.
After a couple of possible misunderstandings and/or misinterpretations in those early weeks with Chicago, Chapman chose to largely keep his mouth shut and let his arm do the talking.
Over the 2016 season’s final two months, Chapman was better than ever. He saved 16 games and registered a microscopic 1.01 ERA.
In his time with the Cubs, Chapman also posted a 0.825 WHIP, 0.82 FIP, and an incredible 401 ERA+ mark. In 26.2 innings he allowed just 12 hits with a 46/10 K:BB ratio.
Following the trade to the Cubs, Chapman conducted an interview in Spanish with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez in which he made the following statement in part:
“I’ve grown tremendously from that time. I’m with my girlfriend still, with the family, and I feel that I have absolutely changed as a person. I’m working to be a better person.”
With his tremendous on-field performances with the Cubs since the trade, and considering that the “Lovable Losers” haven’t won a World Series since 1908, some of the team’s fans have had to make peace with cheering for a player about whom they continue to maintain personal misgivings.
Billy Witz at the New York Times quoted a typical Cubbies fan, Caitlin Swieca, at the end of August.
“It’s a moral dilemma,” Swieca said. “There’s definitely two conflicted feelings: the feeling of wanting to just watch a game and not let the domestic violence thing bother you, and the feeling of not wanting to let the domestic violence issue just fade into the background.”
Swieca decided to turn the dilemma into a positive. She publicly pledged to donate $10 for every save converted by Chapman, and then worked with Margaret Duval and the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic to raise awareness and money under the Twitter hashtag #pitchin4DV, gaining over $5,000 in pledges.
The Cubs survived a tough challenge from the San Francisco Giants to win the NLDS in four games and are now in the midst of another tough battle with the Dodgers in this NLCS.
For his part, Chapman has appeared in all six of the postseason games. He has allowed just one run and four hits over 5.1 innings with a 9/2 K:BB ratio, continuing his regular season dominance.
If the Cubs are to indeed win this NLCS, and even go on put an end to their legendary“Curse of the Billy Goat” by winning their first World Series in more than a century, Chapman is going to play a large role.
But no matter how important the winning of that World Series may seem to Chicagoans, it will never be more important than the ongoing issue of domestic violence.
Over the past year, Chapman has played a huge role in both situations. He hopes to put the issues of last October behind him now, and end this October in much better fashion than a year ago.