Yankees closer first to be disciplined for domestic violence; will pitch in Spring Training
By Paul Hagen and Bryan Hoch
Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman became the first player to be penalized under Major League Baseball's new Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy with Tuesday's announcement that he has been suspended for 30 regular-season games.
Chapman, who said last month that he would appeal any suspension, has agreed to the punishment. He will be allowed to continue working out with the team in Spring Training and will be eligible to play in Grapefruit League games. Barring postponements, Chapman will be eligible to play in the regular season May 9 at Yankee Stadium against the Royals.
Chapman will lose approximately $1.7 million in salary, but he will accrue enough Major League service time to become a free agent at season's end. Had the suspension been for 46 or more games, it would have delayed his free agency by denying him the necessary service time.
"I asked my staff to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the incident involving Aroldis Chapman," Commissioner Rob Manfred said in issuing the decision. "Much of the information regarding the incident has been made public through documents released by law enforcement.
"Mr. Chapman submitted to an in-person interview with counsel present. After reviewing the staff report, I found Mr. Chapman's acknowledged conduct [on Oct. 30, 2015] to be inappropriate under the negotiated policy, particularly his use of a firearm and the impact of that behavior on his partner.
"I am gratified that Mr. Chapman has taken responsibility for his conduct, that he has agreed not to appeal the 30-game suspension and that he has agreed to comply with the confidential directives of the Joint Policy Board established under the parties' policy to ensure that a similar incident does not occur in the future."
Chapman allegedly choked his 22-year-old girlfriend, Cristina Barnea, and fired eight shots in the garage of his Davie, Fla., home. On Jan. 21, prosecutors announced that they had decided not to prosecute the hard-throwing left-hander, citing conflicting accounts and insufficient evidence that would have made a conviction unlikely.
However, under the policy MLB negotiated with the Major League Baseball Players Association, the Commissioner is empowered to impose discipline as he sees fit regardless of whether or not a case goes to trial.
According to the original police report, Barnea told police Chapman had pushed her, put his hands around her neck and choked her during an argument. The pitcher acknowledged having a fight, but he said he was pushed down by Barnea's brother. Chapman admitted that he got a handgun and fired eight shots into a wall and window while locked in his garage.
"Today, I accepted a 30-game suspension from Major League Baseball resulting from my actions on Oct. 30, 2015," Chapman said in a prepared statement. "I want to be clear, I did not in any way harm my girlfriend that evening. However, I should have exercised better judgment with respect to my actions, and for that I am sorry. The decision to accept a suspension, as opposed to appealing one, was made after careful consideration. I made this decision in an effort to minimize the distractions that an appeal would cause the Yankees, my new teammates and most importantly, my family. I have learned from this matter, and I look forward to being part of the Yankees' quest for a 28th World Series title. Out of respect for my teammates and my family, I will have no further comment."
The MLBPA also issued a statement. It read: "The Major League Baseball Players Association and its members do not condone the mistreatment of others by playing or non-playing personnel. At the same time, the MLBPA remains committed to protecting and ensuring the rights granted to Players under the applicable provisions of the sport's new Joint Policy on Domestic Violence. As such, the MLBPA supports Mr. Chapman's decision to forgo his right to an appeal."
Chapman, 28, was acquired from the Reds in a trade in December. Possessing the hardest fastball in the game, he has saved 145 games over the past four seasons and held opponents to 169 hits while striking out 546 batters in his 319 big league innings. Chapman was to begin the season as part of a potent late-inning bullpen trio with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.
General manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi are expected to address Chapman's suspension on Wednesday. The Yankees released a brief statement, reading, "The New York Yankees support the decision made by The Commissioner today. We are pleased that Aroldis has accepted this discipline."
Earlier on Tuesday, Girardi said that he was looking forward to seeing how Chapman's situation would be resolved.
"I think if anything's going to happen, it's beneficial if it happens before the season starts so you can somewhat prepare for it," Girardi said. "The longer that you have, you can prepare for it."
Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez said that Chapman will have the support of his teammates.
"This is a big year for him, for many reasons," Rodriguez said. "He's going through some serious issues, but that presents an opportunity to make strides forward in your life way beyond baseball. But we need him. He's a big part of our team. And I think the key in New York is you have to focus on the game, focus on your teammates and I think he has a lot of support in that clubhouse."
With Chapman unavailable for the Yankees' first 30 games, Andrew Miller will step back into the closer's role. Miller converted 36 of 38 save opportunities last season, taking home the Mariano Rivera Award as the American League's top closer.
Domestic violence cases against Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes are pending. Manfred has consistently said he would like to have each situation resolved by Opening Day, but that his priority is to make fully informed decisions.
Reyes has been placed on paid leave until the completion of criminal proceedings. His trial in Hawaii isn't scheduled to begin until after the regular season begins.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.