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With Aroldis Chapman trade, Yankees and Cubs agree business and profit is more important than character

We often rationalize baseball decisions because of baseball. But what about its effect on people?

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MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports


That term’s been tossed around for many decades, often describing a person.

Theo Epstein, President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs, emphasized the character of the Cubs teams he helped build.

From an article in The Athletic:

"It’s a huge factor," Epstein said of character. "You know. everyone’s talented up here and what separates is really the mental makeup on an individual basis. And what sets a lot of championship teams apart is really how connected they feel to one another, which allows them to respond to all the adversity that comes up over the course of the year. We analyze the talent down to a very granular level and that’s what’s most important packing your roster with as much talent as you can, but what’s going to make you win is complementing that with the right team vibe and the right character."

There’s also an entire article in the Daily Herald about creating good chemistry.

... [T]eam president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer value "character" players who add to good chemistry.

Creating good chemistry is, well, good. Having players who have good character to help influence younger players is also good.

Here’s where the trouble with ‘character’ begins.

The Cubs acquired bullpen arm Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees today. Chapman was suspended for 30 games this season stemming from a domestic violence incident in the offseason.

It’s a sentence that seems light when you compare it to suspensions for performance enhancing drugs. It’s a sentence that seems light when you hear that Chapman’s girlfriend said he choked her.

Baseball is a business, yes. The Cubs are in it to win and they want to break the drought.

But then the question of "At what cost?" gets brought up.

When you consider Epstein’s and Hoyer’s comments about character, you question them trading for Chapman.

Domestic violence is more than a character flaw; it’s a very serious issue that many people can’t escape from if they’re living through it. Is it worth it to say "we value character" and then go and trade for someone who appears to not value a loved one enough that he went so far as to allegedly hurt her?

You say you value character, but what does it say about the team and the business side of baseball that you can turn your back on your words and acquire someone who doesn’t seem to fit the mold of a good character.

Baseball is not a judge and jury, no. But they did hand down a suspension because of even allegations, which is a good start.

It’s a tricky subject, because it’s more than PEDs. It’s life and it’s not just baseball. You consider the people involved and it’s not just one baseball player.

Suspending Chapman for more than 30 games might seem right, even if it’s a lighter sentence than one for PEDs. But sending Chapman away for 30 games might mean that he’s back home, maybe with his girlfriend, and does his girlfriend have to go into living in fear because of his abuse?

I don’t know Chapman personally. I don’t know if he’s reformed himself or even thought about what he’s done. I can’t tell you if a 30 game suspension was enough for him or if he deserves longer or shorter or a slap on the wrist.

What I do know, though, is that as a business, teams can get a bargain on "damaged goods." The Rays did it with Josh Lueke, who pleaded no contest for false imprisonment with violence charges and was originally arrested on sexual assault charges, for a time. The Mets have Jose Reyes, who also had a domestic violence incident in the offseason. And now the Yankees are clearly profiting off of domestic violence by buying low on Chapman and selling high to the Cubs.

It’s easy to capitalize on the PR spin of a "mistake." What’s harder is to not capitalize on these "mistakes," because it’s not a mistake. It’s a very serious and very real issue that is more than business that should be handled with care and with respect to victims.

And maybe considering these issues would be a testament to a business’ character.