By Jason Keidel
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To hear Brian Cashman talk in chilling platitudes — “Given the circumstances that exist, the price point on the acquisition has been modified” — you’d think he just purchased livestock or shares of Microsoft instead of a baseball player.
But maybe you need an undertaker’s tone to turn a blind eye to the bio of the newest Yankee. Aroldis Chapman holds not just a baseball, but also a troubling history.
Chapman, who routinely short-circuits radar guns with triple-digit fastballs, is under investigation for domestic violence. Not the garden-variety shouting match, or a cranky spat between lovers. We’re talking gunshots; busting eight caps into a garage after an argument with his girlfriend on Oct. 30.
Allegedly. So say the police in Davie, Fla. If Champan survives the car wash of investigations by the cops and MLB, then the Yankees just look insensitive, if not ignorant.
Chapman is not just joining Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller as the three relievers with at least 100 strikeouts last year. He’s also joining Jose Reyes and Yasiel Puig as the three MLB stars being sized up for domestic-violence transgressions. Chapman has not been arrested, but police accounts are quite troubling.
Kim Gandy, president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, said in a telephone interview with The New York Times that the presence of a gun in the Chapman case “certainly adds to the seriousness of the situation, the fact that a handgun was used multiple times.”
In the Times article, appropriately titled, “Yankees Acquire Aroldis Chapman, a Potent Arm With Baggage in Hand,” Gandy also said, “The presence of a handgun makes it five times more likely that an abuse victim becomes a homicide victim.”
If Chapman is charged with a crime, then the Yankees look inept, and Cashman’s tone-deaf assertions about acquisitions and price points will bite him in his vocational buttocks.
Even if Chapman is exonerated, this is hardly a world-changing (or World-Series changing) event. Sure, the Yankees got a high-end reliever for scraps, but flooding the bullpen with gas-throwing behemoths doesn’t address their myriad needs for starting pitching or more lumber in the lineup.
Bullpens are essential. The Royals won the World Series because they didn’t wince every time they tapped their arm to summon someone to the mound. And the Mets lost it because an exhausted Matt Harvey was a better option in the ninth inning than their keystone-cop relievers.
So it’s safe to fall back on the baseball axiom that you can’t have too much pitching. But it’s way better to have — and harder to find — it on the front end. While David Price and Zack Greinke switched teams this offseason, the Yanks made no aggressive moves to procure an ace for a staff still lacking one.
And it’s important to note that the Red Sox and Dodgers — two teams with wallets comparable to the Yankees, and a similar penchant for spending sprees — refrained from taking on the Cuban flamethrower. (The Dodgers had a deal in place, but backed out.)
The Yankees don’t have the public or cultural currency to take big risks. Despite a yearly payroll around $200 million, they have won just one World Series since 2000. They no longer have their mail forwarded to October. And while they technically reached — See: backed into — the 2015 playoffs, they scored just as many playoff runs as the Padres, Rockies and Rays.
Teams are no longer petrified of pinstripes. And bringing in a pitcher whose character is in question to a team that prides itself on character is not the answer.
Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonKeidel.