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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #10: Aroldis Chapman gets baseball’s first domestic violence suspension

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

In August of 2015, Major League Baseball announced its new, comprehensive policy regarding players involved in domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse cases. While there are treatment and counseling provisions to the policy, most people were curious about the discipline aspect of it all, as players had rarely been disciplined for ugly, off-the-field transgressions and, when they were, never consistently.

As for that discipline: there was to be no minimum or maximum penalty, but rather the Commissioner could issue the discipline “he believes is appropriate in light of the severity of the conduct.” More importantly the league, no doubt aware that prosecuting domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse cases can be a difficult matter, even when violence or bad behavior has unquestionably occurred, declared that discipline would not be contingent on an arrest or a conviction.

The league would have around two months after the announcement before having to put the policy into action. It would be over six months before they’d levy their first suspension.

On October 30, then-Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman was alleged to have pushed and choked his girlfriend in his home before firing off at least eight gunshots in his garage. Someone called the police. When police officers arrived, his girlfriend was found cowering in the bushes, frightened by what had transpired. Chapman was not arrested on that night and no charges were filed, but something ugly had definitely occurred.

The incident would not be known to the public until December, however, when a trade of Chapman to Los Angeles was aborted after the Dodgers found out about the incident. Soon after, Chapman was traded to the Yankees, who acquired arguably the game’s best closer at a discount price by virtue of the controversy surrounding him. When they did so, they were aware that he faced discipline from Major League Baseball and were willing to be without him for a time. Indeed, being without him for an extended time actually worked in the Yankees favor, potentially delaying Chapman’s free agency for another year, keeping him under team control.

As it was, the discipline came down on March 1. Chapman would have to sit out 30 games. It was an agreed-to suspension with Chapman giving up his right to appeal, most likely in exchange for a lighter suspension than MLB was first inclined to give. Such a thing would prove to be in Major League Baseball’s best interests too, as it set a precedent for future players to negotiate their suspension and keep the league’s discipline away from arbitrators who may overturn or lessen the league’s sanctions.

Chapman rejoined the Yankees in early May. On July 25 he was traded to the Cubs, who he helped to a World Series title. A couple of weeks ago he signed back with the Yankees as a free agent on the largest contract ever given to a relief pitcher. Paying that price was probably a lot more palatable to the Yankees given that they got Chapman cheaply the winter before and got a package of excellent prospects from the Cubs for him in the deal last summer. For New York, Chapman’s acts at his home on October 30, 2015 turned out to be a cornerstone of their rebuild.  Given the World Series ring and the giant contract, it’s fair to say that Chapman’s career was not harmed in any way by his suspension either.

Reasonable people may disagree as to whether 30 days was a large enough penalty for Chapman’s actions, but Chapman was the first player suspended by Major League Baseball under the domestic violence policy.

Adam Eaton sustains leg injury after tripping over first base

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Nationals’ outfielder Adam Eaton was carried off the field after stumbling over first base on Friday night. In the ninth inning of the Nationals’ 7-5 loss to the Mets, Eaton appeared to catch his ankle on the bag as he ran out an infield single, suffering a leg injury on the fall. He was unable to put pressure on his left leg after the play and required assistance by two of the Nationals’ athletic trainers as he exited the field.

Eaton is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday, but Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker told reporters that it “doesn’t look too good.” It’s the first significant leg injury the outfielder has sustained since 2014, when he went on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring strain. He’ll likely be replaced by Michael Taylor in center field for the next couple of games, though that could be a temporary fix as the Nationals seek a better solution during Eaton’s recovery process.

Madison Bumgarner likely sidelined through the All-Star break

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It’s been just over a week since Giants’ left-hander Madison Bumgarner got a serious scare after a nasty dirt bike accident. He escaped with bruised ribs and a Grade 2 strain of his left shoulder AC joint, but there was some speculation that the injuries would cause a significant, if not permanent, setback in the southpaw’s career. Thankfully, things aren’t looking quite so bleak today. Not only will Bumgarner not require surgery, but he could return as soon as the week following the All-Star break, the Giants said Friday.

Of course, that timeline is wholly dependent on how smoothly the recovery process goes, so nothing is set in stone yet. NBC Sports Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic estimates 2-3 months of rest and rehab, including “two months before he can get back on the mound and then another three to four weeks of throwing and rehab starts before he’s big league-ready.” It’s a long and laborious schedule, but still looks much better than any surgical alternative.

Prior to the accident, Bumgarner was working on a solid start to the 2017 season. He maintained a 3.00 ERA, 1.3 BB/9 and 9.3 SO/9 through 27 innings with the club, though his average 1.75 runs of support per start fed into an 0-3 record.