Major League Baseball has suspended Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman for 30 games for violation of the league’s domestic violence policy. The suspension will begin at the start of the regular season. He will be allowed to continue to train with the Yankees during spring training. While Chapman had previously said he would appeal any suspension, he has changed his mind and has agreed not to do so.
The length of the suspension — 30 games — will be hotly debated by many. Some may say that domestic violence is more serious than, say, performance-enhancing drugs, thereby justifying a stiffer penalty. Some may counter that an off-the-field transgression should not be punished as harshly as an on-the-field transgression. There will also be room for arguing that, while this suspension is 30 games, Major League Baseball is not limited from going higher in cases which it deems to be more serious than this one. And, of course, there will be debate about “seriousness” as well.
No matter where you fall on that, the facts as we know them are serious and they are this: Chapman was alleged to have pushed and choked his girlfriend in his home on October 30 before firing off at least eight gunshots in his garage. He was not arrested on that night and no charges were filed. Major League Baseball, however, has made it clear that their new domestic violence policy sets forth a higher standard than that set by law enforcement thereby allowing it to impose discipline arising out of domestic violence situations even if the player is not charged with a crime.
Another implication of a 30-game suspension: Chapman will not be suspended for so long as to prevent him from reaching free agency this year based on accrued service time. If the suspension had been in excess of 45 games he’d be under team control for one more year. Had that occurred it almost certainly would’ve resulted in an appeal from Chapman that would likely have the effect of undermining MLB’s desire to appear decisive in this case. It’s hard to imagine that such considerations were not taken into account when the penalty was decided. Indeed, this has the air of a negotiated or plea-bargained penalty, designed to make this as neat and tidy as it could be under the circumstances. For better or for worse.
Whatever you think of it, this was Major League Baseball’s first-ever suspension under its new policy. From here on out, Chapman’s 30 games will be a baseline against which all other penalties are measured.
Commissioner Rob Manfred offered the following statement:
“I asked my staff to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the incident involving Aroldis Chapman on October 30, 2015. Much of the information regarding the incident has been made public through documents released by law enforcement. Mr. Chapman submitted to an in-person interview with counsel present. After reviewing the staff report, I found Mr. Chapman’s acknowledged conduct on that day to be inappropriate under the negotiated Policy, particularly his use of a firearm and the impact of that behavior on his partner. I am gratified that Mr. Chapman has taken responsibility for his conduct, that he has agreed not to appeal the 30-game suspension, and that he has agreed to comply with the confidential directives of the Joint Policy Board established under the parties’ Policy to ensure that a similar incident does not occur in the future.”
Aroldis Chapman’s statement soon followed:
Today, I accepted a 30 game suspension from Major League Baseball resulting from my actions on October 30, 2015. I want to be clear, I did not in any way harm my girlfriend that evening. However, I should have exercised better judgment with respect to certain actions, and for that I am sorry. The decision to accept a suspension, as opposed to appealing one, was made after careful consideration. I made this decision in an effort to minimize the distractions that an appeal would cause the Yankees, my new teammates and most importantly, my family. I have learned from this matter, and I look forward to being part of the Yankees’ quest for a 28th World Series title. Out of respect for my teammates and my family, I will have no further comment.