So today I was checking out some articles on the web and came across a whole bunch of possible moves the Yankees could and should make during the off-season.
I saw the laundry list of players the Yanks should acquire: John Lackey, Roy Halladay, Matt Holliday, etc. But one name I saw struck my attention. I remember seeing this kid on an ESPN piece not long ago and his story really captivated me.
I am of course speaking about Aroldis Chapman.
This 21 year-old left-hander and native of Cuba has been called one of the “best pitchers in the world right now who is not in the major leagues.”
That’s a pretty bold statement if you ask me.
Chapman has been through a lot in his young life. In the spring of 2008, he attempted to defect from Cuba to the United States, but was caught before he could flee. Chapman was then sent to Havana to meet with President Raul Castro, who suspended him from the National Series season and told him he could not play on the Cuban Olympic baseball team in Beijing.
He was however allowed to participate in the World Baseball Classic this past March, pitching for the Cuban team in the international tournament. He was not all that impressive however, going 0-1 with a bloated 5.68 ERA in two appearances.
Chapman walked four batters over the 6 2/3 innings he pitched, but also struck out eight.
This past summer, Chapman finally broke free from the Cuban chains and defected. While the Cuban National team was playing in the World Port Tournament in the Netherlands on July 1, Chapman walked out the front door of the hotel and like a man who had just committed a crime he got into a getaway car driven by an accomplice.
That has “mafia movie” written all over it.
Chapman escaped and now lives somewhere in Andorra, a small country located in southwestern Europe. Although he hasn’t made it to the United States yet, he has contacted Major League Baseball and petitioned for free agency.
And now everybody wants him.
If the Yankees were to sign him, he would not be the first Cuban-defected pitcher to don the pinstripes. “El Duque,” also known as Orlando Hernandez, defected from Cuba in 1998 and joined up with the Yanks in mid-season.
Hernandez certainly helped the pitching staff in ’98, tossing some huge games for the Yankees down the stretch and in the postseason. His teammates sometimes got agitated with him because he went through violent mood swings, but I guess they looked past it since he pitched well.
Chapman is not a big kid–he’s only 6’4, 180 pounds. He is a fast kid–he supposedly throws 102 miles per hour. He looks like he has the potential and makeup of a future ace. But looks can be deceiving; he hasn’t really been tested yet, so I can’t say if I want him or I don’t want him on the Yankees.
I mean, Kei Igawa pitched well in another country, how did that work out?
But I think Chapman is a lot different than Igawa; if the scouts are calling him “one of the best pitchers in the world not currently in the majors,” then there must be something special about him.
I also think he is brave. The kid can probably never go back to his home country. If he goes back to Cuba, there’s a good chance he will be killed by his government; they get angry at these pitchers who defect, being that baseball is huge there. And everyone he loves is there–his mom, his dad, his two sisters, his girlfriend, and oh, yeah, his child.
Chapman, the 21 year-old baby, has a baby of his own.
I don’t think I could ever make that sacrifice. Well first of all, it makes me sad that he is a year younger than me and already has a child. I can’t even get a date at this point, let alone have a baby (but that’s another story for another day!)
But having to leave behind everything that you love for the sake of baseball–that is dedication and pure love of the game. I love baseball, but I’m not sure I would love it enough to leave everyone I know and love behind.
In any event, Chapman will be pursued by many teams this off-season. So far from what I have read today, the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox are interested in him. Which team he chooses obviously remains to be seen, as this winter is very young.
Good luck with your decision, Aroldis. Choose wisely. But just remember what team will be defending champions in 2010…