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.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.