As I said earlier this week, the more time passes without Commissioner Rob Manfred announcing what punishments (if any) he's going to dole out to Jose Reyes and Aroldis Chapman, the more convinced I become that Manfred simply isn't going to act with anything close to the seriousness that domestic violence merits. So when The Record's Bob Klapisch wrote earlier today that Chapman might get off scot free for getting physical with his girlfriend and then recklessly firing a gun in his garage as a way of blowing off steam, I thought he might have some insight or inside information.
I was wrong.
Klapisch speculates that Joe Girardi's announcement that Chapman will serve as the Yankee closer means that the club suspects Chapman will get off. But Klapisch is equally clear that he has no idea, pointing out that "Members of the organization insist they have no idea how the commissioner will rule." Klapisch is simply grasping at straws.
"Ok, Mike," you say, "why are you writing this article if Klapisch's article is just guesswork and tea-leaf-reading?"
"Because, imaginary reader I just made up right now in my brain," I reply, "of what Klapisch does with the middle part of his article. To whit:"
The fact that Florida police have chosen not to press charges against Chapman gives Manfred far less leverage. It's true, the commissioner doesn't require an arrest to punish a player for an off-the-field incident. But the case against Chapman is weaker now than it was a month ago. He broke no laws, not even in firing his handgun eight times in his garage.
If anything, Chapman could use professional help to manage his anger. Reaching for a pistol to blow off steam, especially after reportedly arguing with a girlfriend and with a child inside the house, is a guarantee of future disaster.
But that's not to say Chapman is a criminal. According to the cops, he's not. Manfred wants to steer baseball away from football's thug culture - he's already mulling action against Jose Reyes and Yasiel Puig. But the commissioner may have to settle for ordering Chapman into counseling.
There is so much to unpack here. First, and most important, the fact that police in Florida decided not to press charges doesn't mean that Chapman didn't break the law, or that he didn't do something wrong. Using just Chapman's own statement to officers, he could have been charged with the reckless discharge of a firearm at the very least. Moreover, Klapisch uses the decision not to charge Chapman to dismiss concerns because he isn't "a criminal." While that may or may not be true, it says nothing about whether a person has been or will be a danger to himself and others.
Second, by Klapisch's own admission, Manfred doesn't need a strong case to levy a punishment here. He barely needs a "case" at all. He has Chapman's statement of what happened that night, and the only leverage he needs to make a decision he already has in the form of broad sweeping powers granted by the agreement between the league and the players' union. If Manfred feels a strong punishment is mandated by Chapman's actions, there's nothing to stop him from handing it down.
Finally, there's the racist dog whistle that is "football's thug culture," and connecting that to the allegations against Jose Reyes and Yasiel Puig this offseason. When Klapisch says "thug culture," he means a black and Hispanic culture as he imagines it, which is troubling enough. Now, to be clear, some of the people Klapisch is imagining do exist, and do exist within the NFL. But that culture is not inherently connected to violence against women. I don't know if football has a "thug problem," but I know that it has a domestic violence problem and a gun problem. And domestic violence and guns aren't limited to the "thugs" in Klapisch's imagination. Those cross ethnic and cultural divides.
While we're concerned about Reyes and Chapman right now (Puig has largely been exonerated), it's important to remember that former Major Leaguer and domestic violence arrestee Russell Branyan was detained and charged again this offseason for breaking into his ex-wife's house, stealing items, and turning down the thermostat. Brian Giles, Brett Myers, Chuck Knoblauch, Dante Bichette, Bobby Cox, Lenny Dykstra. "Thug culture" has never been a prerequisite for domestic violence (and, indeed, none of us can say whether Reyes or Chapman actually fit within that imagined culture), and addressing that will do little to solve the larger problem of MLBers who abuse women.
I will say that I agree with Klapisch in one regard. Aroldis Chapman really does need some kind of counseling to help him find ways to channel his anger that don't put people around him at risk. If he doesn't get it, I worry that he's a danger to himself and others. Hopefully, as part of Manfred's decision, he will mandate that Chapman get help, and that he'll provide the lefty with plenty of time off to get it.