I’ve read a number of articles, even on this site, about the necessity of the Cubs recent trade for former Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman. When these sportswriters (mostly male, it must be mentioned) discuss the tradeoffs of such a move, they usually stop at the Cubbies tough loss of young players. This new team, a club which holds the promise of greatness, is built upon a seemingly endless foundation of hot prospects. We’ve come to jealously regard this talent because what if, after all, not this year? Don’t worry, the expert writers say. Chapman’s got the supplementary goods Wrigleyville Nation needs. It will all be worth it.
I’m inclined to agree with SB Nation writer Grant Brisbee, who observed on July 26:
“Flags fly forever, so that’s why the Cubs are OK with trading a piece of their soul to be named later, too. This is a cynical move to acquire a player with a domestic violence suspension because he throws baseballs harder than everyone else. There’s no way to feel good about it from any perspective.”
Yesterday Chapman blew a save in a 4-1 loss. The game was going swimmingly with a strong Arrieta start before the bullpen botched the game. I didn’t witness the denouement of Saturday’s Seattle matchup, however. Do you want to know why? Because I can’t watch a guy who shot up his own garage and choked his girlfriend pitch a baseball game as if nothing has happened. Especially not for my team, not this new, supposedly more humane version of the loveable losers.
Chapman was suspended for 30 games THIS SEASON for violating the MLB’s new domestic violence policy. As a long-time Cubs fan, and as a female sportswriter, I ask members of Wrigleyville Nation: are we really prepared to conveniently forget that? Are we in fact guilty of the cynicism of which writers like Brisbee accuse us?
At the risk of going full-bore Pollyanna, we were supposed to be better than this. The Cubs organization should have wanted no part of Chapman. We have dance party rooms and petting zoo field days. Violence and recklessness are not the Maddon/Epstein values. Right? To follow my work is to know I want to the Cubbies to prevail as much as any other diehard. It’s in my very bloodstream. But not at the expense of moral degradation.
Deep down, I think many fans have to acknowledge that the Cubs spectacular 2003 NLCS implosion felt karmically appropriate. With some exceptions, that was not a likeable bunch (I’m looking at you, Moises Alou). Poor Steve Bartman. And who will ever be able to view the accomplishments of Sammy Sosa without the taint of the doping scandal which followed? Even as fans like me pitied themselves for yet another humiliating almost, I knew Dusty Baker’s team wasn’t built to get us there, inside or out. Ever.
This was supposed to be a new era. On our way to being the lovable losers no more with a Q rating so high that Stephen Colbert publicly rubbed three players for good luck. During a press conference announcing the trade, Cubs General Manager Theo Epstein seemed to anticipate the controversy Chapman’s arrival in Chicago was bound to cause:
“Obviously we take the issue of domestic violence very seriously, so it was our responsibility to look into this thoroughly, to look at all the facts. And again we understand that there would be lots of different perspectives on this, that there would be lots of strong feelings on this and that people would feel differently. We understand that and we respect it.”
An unnamed American League executive recently said the Yankees “got real good return” on the Chapman trade. And in the immediate run, the Cubs have improved their shot at a long-awaited title. In the transactional world of sports, maybe in the end, that’s all that matters. So why bother invoking lofty religious metaphor, as Epstein did in concluding, “We made a trade today that fills a lot of faith in our big league club. I said when we first got here that every chance to win is sacred. And we believe that.”
Go Cubs, go. Let’s hope we can all live with ourselves in the proverbial morning.
Becky Sarwate is the current President of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, founded in 1885. She’s also a part-time freelance writer, award-winning columnist and blogger who lives in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago with her partner Bob and their beloved pup, Jude. Her collected works are published athttp://www.beckysarwate.com