Must-click link: Aroldis Chapman and the men he sent to prison

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A fascinating story at the Chicago Tribune today about Aroldis Chapman. It covers the 15 month period in between Chapman’s initial attempt to defect from Cuba in 2008 and his ultimately successful effort the following year. It also covers, in depth, the consequences suffered by those who allegedly tried to help Chapman in 2008.

After the 2008 attempt — which never even made it out to the water — Chapman was banned from the Cuban national team and was barred from playing in the 2008 Olympics. During this time he had a conversation with a couple of men who, according to Chapman, offered to help him defect. They claim they did not discuss such things. Either way, the men were arrested and Chapman and his father swore out the complaints. Chapman eventually testified against the men and they were sentenced to prison in deplorable conditions which included torture, maggot-infested food and various other means of mistreatment at the hands of the Castro regime.

The men were eventually released and, eventually, sued Chapman for falsely testifying against them. The U.S. judge found in a preliminary ruling that Chapman misled the Cuban court by claiming he had no intention of defecting again when, in fact, he did and said so subsequently. Chapman and the men he sent to prison settled the case and their lives, however derailed they had been, went on.

One of the people who ended up in prison because of Chapman’s testimony will not talk about it at all due to the settlement and because of how dark a period in his life his time in prison in Cuba was. Another understands that Chapman had little choice but to cooperate with Cuban officials. That he was a scared, desperate and manipulated young man.

There is certainly truth to that. The moral and ethical calculus we all bring to bear on such a situation may lead us to feel like Chapman sold these men out and that it was wrong, without reservation. Given the presence of an authoritarian state, however, that calculus is thrown out of whack. It’s still likely that Chapman did these men wrong in some respects, but even this well-reported story is undoubtedly missing some key details and none of us can say what we’d do if we were in Chapman’s shoes.

All we can say is that, today, those men are going on with their lives in the United States, trying to make the best of it after losing several years in hell. And Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, goes on with his, as the star closer for the Chicago Cubs.

Astros star Altuve has surgery on broken thumb, a WBC injury

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Houston Astros star Jose Altuve had surgery Wednesday on his broken right thumb, an injury that occurred in the World Baseball Classic and will significantly delay the second baseman’s 2023 debut.

The Astros announced that the 32-year-old Altuve had the procedure done in Houston and will stay there to begin his rehabilitation, with only one week left in spring training. The Astros will fly there on Sunday following their final Grapefruit League game in Florida, before playing a pair of exhibitions against their Triple-A team, the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, in Texas.

Altuve was hit by a pitch on Saturday while playing for Venezuela in the WBC. He might not be ready to return to the lineup until at least late May. The eight-time All-Star and 2017 American League MVP batted .300 with 103 runs, 28 homers and 18 steals for the World Series champion Astros last season. Mauricio Dubón and David Hensley are the leading candidates to fill in for Altuve at second base.

Altuve isn’t the only Major League Baseball star who was hurt in WBC play, of course. Mets closer Edwin Díaz will miss the 2023 season because of a torn patellar tendon in his right knee as the freak result of an on-field celebration following a WBC win by the Puerto Rico national team.


The Astros also scratched right-hander Hunter Brown from his scheduled start Wednesday against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Manager Dusty Baker told reporters that Brown, who is ranked by MLB as the organization’s top prospect and competing for the last spot in the rotation, has discomfort in his lower back.


The New York Mets sent catcher Francisco Álvarez to Triple-A Syracuse, quashing for now the possibility of putting the prized 21-year-old on the opening day roster.

Álvarez, who made his major league debut with the Mets near the end of last season, had just three hits in 28 at-bats in Grapefruit League exhibition games. Ranked by MLB as the third-best prospect in baseball, Álvarez batted .260 with 27 homers and 78 RBIs in a combined 112 minor league games in 2022 at Double-A and Triple-A.

The Mets have newcomer Omar Narváez, a 2021 All-Star with the Milwaukee Brewers, as their primary catcher with Tomás Nido likely to play mostly against left-handed pitchers.

Speaking of the Mets, Díaz turned 29 on Wednesday – a rather subdued milestone for the right-hander considering his situation. Diaz nonetheless posted in Spanish an upbeat message on his Twitter account, thanking God for another year of life and describing his health as good and his outlook as positive in this initial stage of the roughly eight-month rehabilitation process.