Monday, March 20, 2017

Opt-in for a Championship Run!…

Bob Klapisch of The Bergen Record wrote a column this weekend that if Masahiro Tanaka opts out of his deal at the end of the year, the Yankees should let him go.   It’s hard to hear those words considering Tanaka has been the Yankees best pitcher but I get the logic.  Klapisch believes that the risk of rupturing the slight tear in the UCL increases every year, obviously worsening with age.  It makes more sense to let Tanaka walk than to add years and dollars to his contract, with reinvestment of the monies saved into the very dynamic free agent market after the 2018 season.  By then, the Yankees should start to see the fruits of their work and patience with young arms like James Kaprielian, Justus Sheffield, Jordan Montgomery and Chance Adams.  

I hope that Tanaka decides against the opt-out.  He is very honorable and I think that he places much greater value in commitment than most players.  I am hopeful that he places high value in being part of baseball’s most storied franchise, and recognizes he is still going to make an incredible sum of money from 2018 to 2020 if he stays (total of $67 million).  So, I hope he doesn’t opt out after the season, putting the Yankees in a very difficult spot with a hard decision to make.  Back when Alex Rodriguez opted out of his original deal, the Yankees would have been so much better off had they let A-Rod walk.  They would be wise to remember the past.  Tanaka will be 31 at the end of his current deal if he doesn’t opt out.  So, any contract renegotiation will be adding years 32 and beyond for a pitcher who will one day need Tommy John surgery.  Whatever happens is going to be difficult for the organization and for us as fans.  

For now, let’s just enjoy what looks to be a potentially stellar year for the ace right-hander. 

I thought it was funny with Saturday’s Team USA-Team Dominican Republic game that Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s primary takeaway from watching his star outfielder Adam Jones (Team USA) rob his star third baseman Manny Machado (Team Dominican Republic) of a potential home run was that Jones snagged the ball away from a Yankees fan.  I am sure that if the ball had gone out, Showalter would have taken delight that it happened against a Yankee (Tyler Clippard was on the mound for Team USA).  

It was a very nice touch by Machado to tip his cap to Jones while running out the play.  

Showalter never misses an opportunity to tweak the Yankees.  I can still remember watching him play for the Nashville Sounds back in the early 80’s (then the AA team for the Yankees).  I liked Buck as Yankees manager, but I can’t say that I am disappointed with the sequence of events that led to his departure from the Yankees and subsequent replacement by Joe Torre.  I think that one played out well for Yankees fans.

You know things are going right for the Yankees when they are down to their last strike, trailing in the 9th inning by one run, and still manage to get the victory through a wild pitch and a couple of throwing errors by the catcher.  That’s exactly what happened when the Yankees defeated the Houston Astros, 6-4, on Sunday.  With Jandel Gustave on the mound for the Astros, nursing a 4-3 lead, he had two strikes on Donovan Solano with two outs.  A wild pitch and a throwing error later, the Yankees had captured the lead for good.  Another throwing error contributed an insurance run.  When things are going right, they really go your way.  

Adam Warren had a solid starting pitching performance, but I still feel that he is better suited for the bullpen.  Luis Severino, meanwhile, did not look so great, giving up 6 hits and 3 runs in 3 1/3 innings.  He was lucky he wasn’t tagged for more runs with several great plays by Aaron Hicks in center.  Severino should still have a grasp on the #4 spot in the rotation but it would be nice if he could contribute a strong performance between now and the start of the regular season.  I have seen a few sports columnists already questioning whether he even belongs in the major leagues.  It was just one game.  The body of his work this spring has been good and he deserves another chance.  It's always interesting when young NFL quarterbacks talk about the maturity process that allows the game to slow down for them.  The same needs to happen for Severino.  

With the latest win, the Yankees moved their record to 17-6.  The Yankees stayed in West Palm Beach, FL, site of the game against the Astros, for a game this afternoon against the Washington Nationals.  The Nationals and Astros share The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.  The Yankees might want to stick around after their game to watch the St Cardinals play the Astros later in the day.  Right-hander Joe Musgrove, the recent focus of Yankees scouts, will be on the mound for the Astros.  

Have a very happy first day of Spring!  Opening Day will soon be here.

Rooting For Aroldis Chapman

It should go without saying that domestic violence is a serious matter. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, which equates to more than 10 million women and men during one year.

On a typical day there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. And among so many other disturbing stats is this one... the precense of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.

That brings us to the incident involving Aroldis Chapman in October of 2015. If you'd like to read the police report yourself, here are pictures of it...

I know that pictures on the internet can sometimes be hard to read, especially when a computer novice such as myself is the one posting them, so I'll give you a breakdown of the report...

At about 10:00pm, the night of October 31st, 2015, police were called to the home of Aroldis Chapman. When they arrived Cristina Barnea met them in the driveway, and informed them that her and her boyfriend (Chapman) got into an argument. During the argument Chapman had allegedly pushed her before the argument was broken up by family members. At which point Barnea ran outside, heard "shotgun" blasts, hid in the bushes outside the home, and called the police. It was also advised that her infant child was still inside the residence with Chapman.

After checking guests as they left the house and finding nothing on them, police established a perimeter around the home until Chapman finally exited the house without incident.

It was established at the time that the argument between Barnea and Chapman started because Barnea found something in Chapman's phone that she did not like. Ms. Barnea then went into the bathroom with the phone, while Chapman followed her in there and took the phone back. Barnea then wanted to speak with Chapman in the home's movie theater, which is where she claimed to have been pushed by Chapman. That is when Barnea's brother broke things up, leading to her running outside and hiding.

Barnea's brother also spoke with an officer, saying he did attempt to stop the argument between his sister and Chapman. He did note that while there was arguing happening, he saw no physical violence occur.

Chapman's employed driver also gave a statement, most of which included the same facts listed above. One big difference is that Barnea apparently charged at and tackled Chapman in the theater (which Barnea says did not happen). However, the driver refused to provide a sworn tape recorded statement.

In the report Chapman corroborated the events of that evening, however he had simply used his index and middle finger to push Ms. Barnea on the left shoulder to move her away from him while saying she should not talk to him that way. At that point Barnea fell to the ground and started yelling, prompting her brother to run in, push Chapman to the ground, and along with friends and relatives break up the altercation.

Chapman left the house at that time, and wanted to drive away, but friends did not let him do that. Instead he and a friend sat in Chapman's Land Rover, where he punched the window and lacerated his hand before exiting with a pistol he got out of the glove compartment, and went into the garage. While in the garage he fired the gun "several" times before throwing the gun away. At that point friends took him into his room and locked themselves in.

It should be noted that Chapman, like his driver, refused to give a sworn recorded statement or sign an affidavit of complaint. He did, however, sign a consent to search around the exterior of his garage.

Barnea was spoken to again by officers about the incident, where inconsistencies started popping up. One of them being that Ms. Barnea could not say how she had fallen to the ground, and that Chapman had instead pushed her against the bathroom wall before she had fallen. She then said Chapman had "choked" her by placing his hands around her neck, but that it did not prevent her from breathing. The officers noted that there were no signs of choking on Ms. Barnea

Barnea then said she did not want any further involvement with the incident, and just wanted to collect her belongings and leave. At that point she was allowed to do so, and was advised to call the Davie Police to stand by while she later collecting any other belongings from the home. Barnea then left without further incident.

Finally, officers could not find the gun outside the garage, and were advised that this was because Chapman had actually retrieved the weapon and put it in his Escalade so that nobody else could find it and hurt themselves. Chapman was told doing so hindered the investigation, however it was found that that wasn't his intention and no charges were filed.

In the end it was noted that due to several inconsistencies in Barnea's statement, as well as the statements of others changing several times during the investigation, the case would be forwarded to the State Attorney's Office for review.

While the police report pointed out inconsistencies, I wanted to talk about some of them myself.

The first of those has to do with the number of people that apparently saw the incident. Cristina Barnea, herself, noted that the incident happened in front of "everyone". The police report also noted that there were around 20 guests at the party. However, not one of them corroborated the story that Ms. Barnea gave, nor have they come forward afterward to say Mr. Chapman did anything such as choking her or endangering her or anybody else.

Now, I understand that some people may not wish to testify against a celebrity such as Chapman. Doing so can create all sorts of problems for a person, among those things are unwanted attention from the media, negative comments and attention on social media, and possible unwanted legal battles from said celebrity. However, especially at a time where so many things can be said anonymously while speaking to a journalist "off the record", or on any number of message boards and such on the internet, you would think something incriminating would have been said about Aroldis Chapman. Yet there's been nothing.

Then you have what may be one of the most disturbing things to be noted during the police investigation that night... allegations of choking.

Honestly, that part seems to be total crap.

For starters, Barnea noted in the police report that even though Chapman was "choking" her, she was never unable to breathe. Look, the very definition of choking is to prevent airflow into the lungs. Ms. Barnea clearly used the word "choke" in order to make things sound much worse than they actually were. If anything, Chapman at one point may have touched her throat, but no actual choking actually occurred.

Later on, in a sworn waiver of prosecution to the State Attorney's Office, Ms. Barnea changed her story saying Chapman only "used his fingers to move her away from him, and out of his personal space. She lost her balance and fell to the ground."

Need I say more about this part of the incident?

No? Okay, then I'll just re-post this picture of Cristina Bernea taken shortly after the choking allegation...

Another reason a lot of people are upset about what allegedly happened between Barnea and Chapman is that it happened in front of their infant child. I want to note that this is absolutely not true. The fact is the child was being cared for by Barnea's mother, out of view of the party and the incident. Nothing of the sort was mentioned in the police report, neither. This is just another attempt at people trying to build up the story into more than it actually is.

I also want to say that there is zero evidence that Aroldis fired his gun outside of his home, nor in the direction of anybody. The first part is very important as firing a weapon outside of private property is against Florida law. Furthermore, Aroldis agreed to a search of the exterior of the garage, which tells me he was not trying to hide anything he had done. While he was told he was wrong in removing the gun from the garage, as doing so interfered with a police investigation, Chapman never attempted to hide the fact surrounding his use of the gun from anybody. If any sort of wrong-doing happened during the incident, such as him threatening Barnea or anybody else with the weapon, don't you think that would have been mentioned in the police report? Or don't you think that such a thing would have been brought up during the investigation by the State Attorney? Or like I mentioned earlier, don't you think somebody that was at the party would have said something about gun violence?

I want to point out that Ms. Barnea is not so innocent, either. Look at the following report of her breaking into Chapman's home while he was getting ready to return to Florida after the Reds' season had ended the day before in Pittsburgh.

As I did with the other police report, let me break it down. Ms. Barnea had returned to the house after their relationship ended (which included Barnea voluntarily leaving the house, and using a key she had taken without Chapman's knowledge) and entered the home. And although that is not a completely legal or even morally correct thing to do, Chapman still agreed to allow Barnea to collect her's and their child's things from his house.

The final nail in the coffin of Aroldis Chapman being guilty is this.... they are still together nearly a year and a half later. We're not talking about the guy having a one-night stand with somebody, and that somebody is keeping their mouth shut about a celebrity they slept with. This is clearly a committed relationship. Cristina Barnea was even Chapman's special guest at the World Series this past season.

All of the following information tells me that Chapman and Barnea simply got into an argument the night of the party, and it's highly likely that alcohol helped to escalate a simple argument into an "incident". Things were said and accusations of cheating were made. In response Aroldis got mad, went to his car to talk it out with a friend, wrongly (note the bold font and italics) decided to take his gun from the glove compartment and into his garage, and vented by firing that gun eight times into the wall (accidentally firing one through the window and into an open field). This is not a case of a horrible man doing horrible things.

In fact, I believe that if there was no gun involved, there's a good chance this whole thing would have faded away in a heartbeat. But due to the issues of domestic and gun violence being as big as they are (and for good reason, mind you), along with it involving a high profile celebrity/athlete, the story was jumped on by all sorts of people (media and others) and blown up into something much bigger than it was.

Look at it this way... Aroldis was not arrested and charged with abuse against his wife that needed medical attention, yet Jose Reyes... who is guilty of those things... received a hero's welcome at Citi Field when he returned following his suspension.

Aroldis Chapman was not videotaped punching his wife in a casino elevator, but there are people... even women... who supported Ray Rice after he did just that.

Chapman was not accused of trying to kill his own mother, but Dez Bryant's mother forgave and supported him for doing that.

Chapman was never sentenced to spend any time in jail after being convicted of domestic abuse, however Chad Johnson had the support of at least one of his former Dolphins teammates one that happened to him
To wrap this whole thing up I would like to say the following...

If you think I'm not going to root for Aroldis Chapman when he steps on the mound for the Yankees then you're out of your mind. Domestic violence, whether it's a simple misunderstanding or an incredibly violent act caught on camera, is not acceptable. But to treat Chapman like he's some type of monster that doesn't deserve a chance to redeem himself is downright wrong. I will accept your right to act as you wish towards the man, but don't think for one second that I'm going to agree with it. Actually, if anything, I'll cheer louder to drown out your booing.

This Day in New York Yankees History 3/20: Keep Out the New York Mets

On this day in 1961 the New York Yankees announced the team will oppose any plans that would enable the new National League expansion team from New York, later to be called the New York Mets, from using Yankee Stadium. The decision leaves the Polo Grounds as the only viable option for the new team until Shea Stadium was built.

Also on this day in 1958 the Phillies purchased Joe Collins from the New York Yankees after Collins had spent his entire ten season career in pinstripes. Collins, rather than report to the Phillies, decided to retire and finish his career with seven World Series appearances and a .256 lifetime batting average. Good for him, Yankee or bust.