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.

New bill to build Athletics stadium on Las Vegas Strip caps Nevada’s cost at $380 million

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
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CARSON CITY, Nev. — A bill introduced in the Nevada Legislature would give the Oakland Athletics up to $380 million for a potential 30,000 seat, $1.5 billion retractable roof stadium on the Las Vegas Strip.

The bulk of the public funding would come from $180 million in transferable tax credits from the state and $120 million in county bonds, which can vary based on interest rate returns. Clark County also would contribute $25 million in credit toward infrastructure costs.

The A’s have been looking for a home to replace Oakland Coliseum, where the team has played since arriving from Kansas City for the 1968 season. The team had sought to build a stadium in Fremont, San Jose and finally the Oakland waterfront, all ideas that never materialized.

The plan in the Nevada Legislature won’t directly raise taxes. It can move forward with a simply majority vote in the Senate and Assembly. Lawmakers have a little more than a week to consider the proposal before they adjourn June 5, though it could be voted on if a special session is called.

The Athletics have agreed to use land on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, where the Tropicana Las Vegas casino resort sits. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao has said he is disappointed the team didn’t negotiate with Oakland as a “true partner.”

Las Vegas would be the fourth home for a franchise that started as the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901-54. It would become the smallest TV market in Major League Baseball and the smallest market to be home to three major professional sports franchises.

The team and Las Vegas are hoping to draw from the nearly 40 million tourists who visit the city annually to help fill the stadium. The 30,000-seat capacity would make it the smallest MLB stadium.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said a vote on the Oakland Athletics’ prospective move to Las Vegas could take place when owners meet June 13-15 in New York.

The plan faces an uncertain path in the Nevada Legislature. Democratic leaders said financing bills, including for the A’s, may not go through if Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoes the five budget bills, which he has threatened to do as many of his priorities have stalled or faded in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Under the bill, the Clark County Board of Commissioners would create a homelessness prevention and assistance fund along the stadium’s area in coordination with MLB and the Nevada Resort Association. There, they would manage funds for services, including emergency rental and utility assistance, job training, rehabilitation and counseling services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

The lease agreement with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority would be up for renewal after 30 years.

Nevada’s legislative leadership is reviewing the proposal, Democratic state Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager said in a statement.

“No commitment will be made until we have both evaluated the official proposal and received input from interested parties, including impacted community members,” Yeager said.