Playing Catch: Aroldis Chapman’s Domestic Violence Suspension

Feb 23, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman (54) walks back to the clubhouse after he pitched in the bullpen at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman (54) walks back to the clubhouse after he pitched in the bullpen at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

We’re kicking off a new weekly column where our editor, Isaac Marks, tosses around an idea with one of our staff writers. For this edition of Playing Catch, Logan Bannon joins him to discuss the Aroldis Chapman suspension, details about Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy and the impact it might have on Jose Reyes.

Isaac Marks: News came out yesterday that commissioner Rob Manfred ruled on the first of three domestic violence cases, suspending Yankees All-Star reliever Aroldis Chapman 30 games. Chapman has accepted the suspension without appeal. What are your initial thoughts?

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Logan Bannon: I’m so mixed on this. On the surface, it seems light to me given the severity of the situation. I compare it to the NFL because that’s where we are all more versed in domestic violence suspensions. This would be comparable to a 3 game suspension (3/16 = 30/162). I’m not sure if that’s fair to compare, but that’s where I turn when I don’t have any other point of reference.

That being said, it’s a weird situation. He wasn’t even arrested and the story isn’t very definitive. The only thing we know for sure is that he fired his gun 8 times in his garage. How can Manfred do anything worse when nothing else is proven?IM: I think this the right call. The comparison that I think of first is the Johnny Manziel car incident last year. The facts were disputed, no charges were drawn or arrests made, we just know that Manziel and his ex-girlfriend had an argument that caused enough of a ruckus to involve officers. It’s similar with Chapman; all we know is that Chapman and this woman had an argument and that Chapman went into his garage, alone, and fired off eight shots.

No arrests were made, no charges drawn, and most of the publicly known facts are disputed. The fact that he was even suspended is a big step considering the NFL probably wouldn’t have done anything.

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LB: That’s the part I think is weird. The league has to make a distinction between what supposedly happened and what officially happened.

What makes it even weirder is that there aren’t really rules. Basically, as I read it, Manfred can do whatever he wants and really the only power-check is that the players can appeal. He doesn’t have to explain himself so he can use whatever story he wants to believe, whether it’s correct or not. Am I the only one who sees this as scary? Am I completely misunderstanding the policy?

If this were the NFL, it would be whichever outcome is seen most favorably in the public eye. I’m not sure who I trust more to make the right call: Rob Manfred or ESPN.

Coming back from the tangent, I guess what I’m getting at is this: If this were not painted as a “Domestic Violence” incident and was instead an “Athlete being dangerously reckless” incident, do you think it would have been handled differently?

IM: Nope, you’ve got it right. That’s the domestic violence policy. It’s a fine line MLB and the MLBPA are walking though. The policy allows for each situation to be treated uniquely by not providing a strict suspensions outline like the drug policy, but that could backfire if it comes down to the minutiae of an incident. If there’s one detail that changes things from incident to incident, then the motives would be called into question.

Not necessarily, both are pretty big stains on the league’s image (see Hardy, Greg). Either way, both domestic violence and gun control are hot topics right now and would be treated similarly.

LB: It’s that backfiring that I am concerned with, especially early on.  If there is no precedent, who is to say what is a fair or unfair punishment?  I guess at this point, I just have to trust it.  Once a few cases are processed, that should give everyone a rough idea of what to expect.

Branching off that, what do you think this says about the Reyes situation?  Obviously, there’s still a lot still to come with his legal process, but this gives us a little insight, right?

IM: Well the public would be the judge, right? Or the appellate judge, depending on how crazy the suspension is. But regardless, you’re absolutely right, these few cases are essential to setting the tone going forward.

I’d say the suspension will fall between 100-162 games. It’s interesting that Manfred is letting the legal system play out and I wonder if he’ll consider the games missed during the trial as part of the situation. What are your thoughts?

LB: I think 100-162 seems too long. Again though, it depends on what Manfred thinks is important. If the official legal outcome plays a big part, then your prediction seems more reasonable since Reyes is getting charged while Chapman isn’t. That being said, I think he’s going to get somewhere around 70-81. There’s obviously a huge variable still in play too. Reyes’ trial is on Opening Day. Guilty or not could be the difference between 50 games and the full season suspension you are suggesting.

I would think you’d have to count those games as part of the suspension, right? I mean, the only reason he’s not playing is because the MLB has him on leave.

IM: I look at it this way: Chapman got 30 games for a reported domestic violence incident that required the cops to come. Reyes was arrested, sent his wife to the hospital, was released on bail and is going through a criminal trial. If the police get involved to investigate a domestic violence case is worth 30 games, then by adding 30 games for each thing that happens Reyes would be at 150 games. That’s a pretty elementary way to do it but Reyes’ issue is much more serious than Chapman’s was. If Manfred is going to take the hard stance and use the suspensions as a preventative measure, then he cannot go easy on the Reyes decision.

I actually wouldn’t. The biggest difference is that Reyes is getting paid while on leave and he doesn’t under suspension. Being put on leave usually happens when a decision is being made on a suspension or firing and typically isn’t included in the final decision. MLB basically tabled the decision for later.

I’m shocked that Chapman is not appealing the decision. What do you make of that?

LB: I agree it’s definitely worse. I don’t know if your math makes any logical sense but I agree with the rough idea behind it haha. 100-162 games certainly would send a message. I’m starting to agree with you the more I think about it. At first I thought it seemed too excessive but looking at the PED policies, a full season suspension doesn’t seem as radical as I first thought.

As mundane as this sounds, my reason for why they would count those games is that it would make it nice and even. I look at the A-Rod suspension and they reduced it down from “the rest of 2013 and all of 2014” to “all of 2014.” Let’s say they want to give him a full season. If they count it, that means he doesn’t miss 5-10 games in 2017. He misses all of 2016, then is done and over with before 2017 starts. They might not technically include those games, but maybe it will be a 152 game suspension if handed out 10 games in.I was just thinking about appeals with Reyes because that will complicate everything too. In Chapman’s situation, it makes a lot of sense that he is not appealing. There was a New York Post article that explained it fairly well. Because of service time requirements, Chapman would not be eligible for free agency after 2016 if he misses more than 41 games. An appeal could put him past that mark, delaying his free agency another year. Generally, I never understand why someone WOULDN’T appeal because there isn’t anything to lose, but his situation makes a lot of sense.Given that Reyes doesn’t have anything like that. I would expect him to appeal once a decision is handed down.

IM; My math wasn’t intended to be good, just to illustrate a point; Reyes’ should garner a much larger suspension than Chapman.

That’s a very good point. I didn’t realize there was a service time component factoring into the decision. Like you said, under this structure it makes absolutely no sense to not appeal every decision made because that’s the only safeguard against outlandish punishments. That being said, the appeal process could delay a player’s time off the field even longer as Chapman’s would have been if he went through that process.

LB: Here’s another thing that’s been keeping me up at night: Is it unhealthy for me to be hoping that Reyes gets a bad suspension?

Obviously, you hope that the allegations aren’t true and nothing happened, in which case his suspension will be minimal. But I have to address the elephant in the room that nobody seems willing to touch. If Reyes gets a long suspension, that means we are not going to be responsible to pay a large amount of money ($22 million in 2016) to arguably our worst player. That is saved money that could be better spent on players who could contribute more than Reyes, either now or in the future.

IM: I mean, it’s the problem of “am I a good human being” or “do I want my team do to well”? Since we’ve clearly established we both have no regard for professional athletes and only think of them as commodities *sarcasm*, no it’s not terrible. For the Rockies, Reyes’ suspension saves them money that they can distribute elsewhere. It doesn’t mean that they will, but they can. You never want to wish for someone to lose their livelihood, but since we’re bloodthirsty fans we only care what’s best for the team.

Next: Spring Training Wrap Up Week One

As we make our way through Spring Training, there’s a lot of new names out there and many different things going on around Rockies camp. On each Friday of March, we’ll be reviewing three big things that happened in camp. Here are three things from the first week of Spring Training games.