Aroldis Chapman took a step back last year, walking a ton more guys than he had previously. Yesterday Dusty Baker told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that Chapman had some family issues that may have affected his focus, and that, for him, family problems are trickier than they are for other guys:
“Last year he had some off-the-field stuff going on, Cuban family stuff. That makes it tough … Right now he’s different than most,” Baker said. “Most of the other Latins can go home. He can’t go home. If he goes home he might not be able to come back out.”
One always has to take this stuff with a grain of salt — the spring lends itself to guys talking about past troubles as if they were isolated incidents — but I think Dusty Baker has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to talking about and dealing with his players’ personal problems.
I’ve mentioned this a lot in the past, but I thought that Baker’s public handling of Joey Votto’s anxiety issues a couple of years ago was near perfect. He was likewise great in dealing with Mike Leake’s weird shirt-theft thing. Baker seems to get that kind of stuff — and is able to talk about that kind of stuff — in a way that is more clear and intelligent and with more empathy than most managers.
It’s one of the reasons, I’ll wager, why he’s so popular with his players, basically everywhere he’s been.