Rowley: Here we are again: The Yankees and Aroldis Chapman

From SABR member Meg Rowley at Baseball Prospectus on February 3, 2017:

I made a mistake: I thought about this from the player’s perspective. I thought about the player. Or perhaps, I thought about it as mostly mattering with respect to individual players, as mostly serving to modify their behavior. On Thursday, Hal Steinbrenner reminded me of my error.

It’s not that I was unaware of the incentives that existed for teams when assessing what to do with players implicated in domestic violence incidents. I did. I fretted over it because, among other things, I want to be able to like baseball. We want to like baseball free of the worry we have when we like football. That feeling of being implicated. We should admit that the desire to like baseball is a not small part of our concern over baseball players engaging in violence toward their intimate partners. We would care about it on its own because we aren’t bad people, but we care a little harder in public because we don’t want to be bad people while liking baseball.

We know that liking bad people gets in the way of liking baseball, or should, and so we dislike those who are bad for their badness but also for the inconvenience their badness poses. Our stakes are inherently lower, and we like to be good. We worry about ourselves—an inherently personal concern—and so it is no surprise that I have thought mostly about players when evaluating domestic violence in baseball. They are clearly delineated and their victims individuals. They have victims. I didn’t worry about teams, but I should have. I should have worried more about the Yankees.

The Yankees had exactly the same incentives as any other team. There was, and is, nothing uniquely awful about them. The moment when they traded with the Reds was a moment that we could pick on, but who knows? Who knows if theirs was the first call answered, or the first prospect package that made sense. Who knows how much Aroldis Chapman’s contract status mattered. Maybe others tried to be icky just like this and failed. We don’t really know.

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Originally published: February 3, 2017. Last Updated: February 3, 2017.