Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Chapman and the new domestic violence policy

Last summer the players union and the commissioners office agreed on a domestic violence policy that gives the commissioner a great deal of latitude in suspending a player (and sets up an appeals process with an independent arbitrator.) Three cases have emerged this offseason at initial tests of the new policy, involving Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers, Jose Reyes of the Rockies and Aroldis Chapman, now of the Yankees.

The Chapman case may present the biggest challenge to the new system because it

  • is, along with Reyes and Puig, going to set a precedent; 
  • includes a significant escalating factor (eight shots fired in an unoccupied garage) and 
  • comes at a crucial point in Chapman's service time. 

As detailed here by Sports Illustrated's Jay Jaffe, a suspension of more than 40 games will push back Chapman's eligibility for free agency a year, giving the Yankees control of his contract in 2017; a suspension of less than 50 games will effectively deem Chapman's misadventure less serious than steroid use.

That it's the Yankees with Chapman now and not the Cincinnati Reds further heightens the scrutiny on Rob Manfred. Just as there were suspicions that the Alex Rodriguez suspension was handled in a manner calculated to please the Yankee ownership, which wanted out from A-Rod's contract, there are suspicions that Chapman's case will be handled in the Yankees favor.

And what would that be? A suspension between 40 and 50 games -- long enough to bind baseball's hardest throwing (and perhaps most effective) relief pitcher to the Yankees for one more season, short enough to have him available for more than two-thirds of the season.

The slight return the Reds got in the Chapman trade suggests that most teams decided they didn't want the star's behavioral baggage. I also suspect most teams don't want to see the Yankees effectively rewarded for embracing him.

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