Imagine you grew up in poverty, scraping and scratching in the playground dirt to make something of yourself. Imagine further that you’re a prisoner of the local authorities, encumbered by anger and the callowness of your youth; blessed with unnatural talent, yet unable to get out of your own way. Let your imagination fly and see yourself winning the lottery, everything you ever dreamed of suddenly within the grasp of your hands, yet all of it coming at great personal cost. Add to that the loneliness that is the special province of the outsider, set apart by language, with no one to truly confide in, certainly no one to trust—at least not in that way a young man so far away from home needs.
Now, flip the script and imagine you are the guardian of this young, potentially fragile individual; every decision you make having consequences for not only your young charge, but for yourself and your business, with everyone watching, waiting to pass judgment not only on him, but you as well.
That’s where the Reds are right now with Aroldis Chapman, the magnificently talented, yet wildly complicated and almost unknowable young man. Is it smart to turn this meteor flashing across our red sky into a starting pitcher? Every replacement level GM in the moondeck with a Big Red Smokey in one hand and a BudLight in the other has an opinion about how to go about it OR whether to do it at all. What few seem to be talking about much is the man himself and what it will take off the field to protect and fuel the player on it. The sketchy men in the shadows, the mysterious woman in the hotel room in Pittsburgh, the out-of-nowhere stardom—Chapman’s story unspools like some foreign film version of The Natural. But, don’t be fooled. There’s much more grit here, potentially much more darkness, as Craig Fehrman’s piece over at Cincinnati Magazine so hauntingly tells us:
“Under the Obama administration it has become comparatively easier to send money and care packages to Cuba. For all anybody knows Chapman may be taking great care of his family, but some in Miami find it peculiar that he hasn’t brought them over—especially his girlfriend and the now-3-year-old daughter he still hasn’t met. “That’s when I knew it wasn’t the fairy tale story,” says Joe Kehoskie, a Florida-based sports agent who’s worked with Cuban players for more than a decade. “The two people he cared about the most are still sitting in communist Cuba.”
More important than the decision to go 130, 150 or 160 innings, or how the Reds go about developing his other pitches, may very well be the how the Reds guide and care for Aroldis Chapman outside the lines, away from the game.
But little of this will play out where we can see it. Even the launch codes that will transition the Cuban Missile from stone cold closer to dominant starter are being guarded with only slightly less secrecy than the real ones.
Two obvious questions hang over the discussion: (a) SHOULD they do it; and (b) HOW will it be accomplished? The former is a firestorm of debate around Baseball. The latter? Not nearly as much. Yet.
I’ll go out on a fairly sturdy limb and suggest that most of Redleg Nation is on board with the decision by Jocketty, Price, et al. Yet, there is a vocal minority that thinks this is a terrible idea with repercussions that will reverberate throughout the season. I chalk up much of this angst to a natural human inability to deal with change—a If It’s Not Broke, Don’t Fix It mentality.
The Aroldis Chapman Project
Redleg Nation | Feb 25