Buying low, sinking lower: Justifying the Aroldis Chapman trade

Bradford in. Hope your Christmas was merry, your Jewish Christmas contained many spring rolls roasting on an open fire, and your secular holiday tree was stuffed to the brim with pluralistic presents. Thanks for sticking with us to the end of the year, Morgan and I appreciate you more than Cam Newton loves dabbing. 

Leadoff Hitter: A Longform Slow Take

Aroldis Chapman fires bullets. Most of his bullets—the ones that have made him one of the best closers in baseball—top at 102 miles per hour. However, his last eight bullets were released from a handgun at 1,700 mph, most of them sent into a garage wall in his Miami home. Those shots followed an altercation with his girlfriend, a fight that allegedly climaxed with him choking her against a wall.

Chapman brings his signature velocity and an ongoing domestic violence investigation by MLB to the New York Yankees. He will probably serve a suspension that may reach as high as 60 games—MLB has yet to establish a precedent for disciplining domestic violence. Once he serves his suspension, Chapman, alongside Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, will help his new team build one of the most dominant bullpens of all time. He will get paid a pro-rated portion of his projected 12.9 million salary, plus whatever playoff shares earn should his team pursue a playoff run. Champagne showers cover a multitude of sins.

Aroldis Chapman is a Yankee because the Yankees, like most sports franchises, view athletes chiefly as assets: His former team, the Cincinnati Reds, made a high-performing asset available for far less than similar assets of his caliber. None of the elite young players typically expected in a trade for a four-time All-Star, like Luis Severino, Greg Bird, and Aaron Judge were sacrificed to acquire the reliever. Chapman, the asset, is an incredibly rare, valuable commodity with the added benefit of a minor dip in market price. Problems as severe as his, problems that extend well beyond the game, are not seen as opportunities to make statements about the severity of this behavior. Nor are they seized as a chance to care for the well being of abusers (and their victims) enough to refuse condoning their behavior by signing their paychecks. They’re opportunities for arbitrage: “Sure, there are a few scuffs here and there, and it’s a shame he fired that gun while his girlfriend's four-month-old son was home, but did you see that slider? I think we got a steal.”

Aroldis Chapman isn’t alone in his transgressions, nor are the Yankees, and neither is Major League Baseball. If you’re a regular reader of this publication, you’re likely familiar with Patrick Kane. And Jose Reyes. And Greg Hardy. You might even be familiar with Josh Lueke, the reliever acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays after pleading no contest to rape charges. If you’ve been affected by domestic violence in your personal life, the perpetually weak responses towards violence against women could make you feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. (Did you know that Bill Murray’s previous marriage ended amid domestic abuse accusations? In fairness, he was also quite good in St. Vincent!)

Aroldis Chapman is the prized addition to America’s most celebrated baseball team. His behavior is commoditized more than it was condemned, demonstrated by the brightly colored Vine to celebrate his new opportunity. His employers, when pressed, will likely continue to discuss the reduced “price point” factoring into their decision while  vaguely alluding to the “due diligence” done by their baseball operations department. And when Chapman starts winning ball games, the world will keep spinning for all parties, save for the mother of his child. Per team policy, Chapman will be required to keep a clean shave when he puts on the pinstripes, revealing the traits most important to the Yankee image.

Stick to Sports: In which we stay in our lane. 

Brb, gonna finish the new year like Giannis finished this fast break.

Delay of Game: Making the connections so you don’t have to.

“Denied Sun Bowl game because we have a negro on our team. Is this democracy?” Just last week, Bradford and I begged Santa for more woke student athletes. 60 years ago, a Pennsylvania school forfeited its first and only bowl game after its opponent refused to welcome its black quarterback and its other black players. This behavior wasn’t surprising: only one major bowl game allowed black players. Further, “teams who did have African American players knew to leave them at home as to not offend their southern hosts.” So here’s what happened when this little school said no.

Your move, soccer. Rwanda: home to goats, cows and basketball courts, at least in its Eastern Province, thanks to a nonprofit trying to marry the popular sport with public health. An American nonprofit has built five courts alongside HIV/AIDS testing facilities, libraries, and hospitals. The East Coast-based Shooting Touch organizes “massive tournaments attracting hundreds of players, spectators, government officials and local celebrities while giving lectures on malaria prevention, gender-based violence and basic health tips during half time.” Here’s a fascinating photo essay of this work courtesy of Vice Sports.

Gilbert Arenas did not approve this message. Earlier this year, an anti-domestic violence ad ran during the Super Bowl. On Christmas Day, the NBA sponsored an ad condemning gun violence via testimony from its stars and the family members of victims. “When Steph Curry or Carmelo Anthony are saying, ‘No, there’s nothing masculine about that; the violence has to stop,’ these are the people that young African-American males around the country are identifying with,” sociologist Harry Edwards told The New York Times. “It has more impact than if the president had said it.” So keep saying it.

Wanted: a Muslim Tim Tebow. Or a Muslim Arian Foster. There aren’t many active American Muslim athletes and the few out there can’t speak for a 1.6 billion-strong faith. Muslim sports fans wrestle with the desire for representation without demanding it from its practitioners."I wish more Muslims spoke out on social or political issues,"  Amaar Abdul-Nasir, the founder of the Muslim sports blog, told Yahoo! Sports.  "But I don't feel comfortable saying, 'You should do this.' Because it's a complex religion, I don't expect a lot of athletes to be experts or scholars."

Welp. A new study suggests football game days correlate with a 28 percent increase in reports of rape. But don’t blame America’s true national pastime. “Football itself therefore isn’t the problem,” say researchers, summarized in The New Republic. “But rather the culture of excessive, permissive partying that sometimes accompanies major football programs, and is especially aggravated by surprise victories.”

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See you next year!

Morgan and Bradford.