Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman was suspended last Thursday for the first two games of the 2021 season for an incident that occured on September 1st against the Tampa Bay Rays. The incident involved Chapman intentionally throwing near the head of Tampa Bay second baseman Mike Brosseau, which prompted both benches to clear.
Harsh words were exchanged between Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash and several Yankees players, and in the midst of the heated atmosphere and verbal sparring, Cash was ejected from the game as well.
Thursday’s suspension is not the only time that Chapman — nicknamed “The Cuban Missile” — has experienced a brush with MLB discipline. The hard-throwing left-hander, who routinely throws fastballs in excess of 100 MPH, was suspended for 30 games in 2016 for a domestic violence incident. While he was not officially charged, the allegations alluded to Chapman using a firearm in an argument with his girlfriend, and the Commissioner’s Office concluded that that particular piece of information was enough to hand down a lengthy suspension.
Despite his rocky personal life, Chapman remains one of the top closers in all of baseball. He is a record breaker, both in terms of pitch velocity and salary. He was also a bargaining chip in what is considered one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history. Near the end of the 2016 season, when it became clear that the Yankees would not make the playoffs, the front office effectively sold off the team’s best assets — including Chapman — for top prospects. One of these prospects, the Chicago Cubs’ Gleyber Torres, developed into a two-time All-Star and a fan favorite. Chapman, meanwhile, left the Cubs after a World Series victory and declared for free agency, at which point the Yankees signed him to a five-year deal. In the end, the Yankees essentially acquired Gleyber Torres for practically nothing.
The Yankees will begin the 2021 season without their top closer, and the other flamethrowers in the Yankees’ pen will have to assume the duties of securing leads late in games. The brief period that Chapman is suspended will likely be negligible in terms of the team’s overall success.