|Aroldis Chapman shakes hands with catcher Ryan Hanigan after closing out Milwaukee. (Getty Images)|
Aroldis Chapman, that obviously fun-loving, 101 mph-throwing, 93 mph-driving Cincinnati Reds closer, was slapped down by his own team to the point of rendering him mute (at least publicly) for performing a couple celebratory somersaults after whiffing the Brewers' Martin Maldonado to nail down a tough 4-3 victory Tuesday night.
Maybe the Reds had a point to make. But considering the string of public free passes the Reds have handed the convention-flouting Chapman, team higher-ups now come off like kill-joys with missplaced priorities.
Chapman told Reds writers he wasn't "mentally ready" to talk after being talked to by Reds pitching coach Bryan Price and Reds stars Joey Votto and Jay Bruce regarding his impromptu gymnastics exhibition. And manager Dusty Baker said that -- though he didn't see the routine -- it "needs to be addressed."
Chapman's rebuke seemed like nothing more than a stern reaction after what appeared to be harmless and entertaining fun following a rough stretch; he had blown two straight saves. And setting him straight would have been OK had the Reds taken seriously much greater issues in Chapman's half-season packed with odd and sometimes troubling events -- much more troubling than a couple of flips.
It became clear Chapman felt flogged by his own guys afterward, and baseball history will suggest it's fine if Reds management wants to adhere strictly to baseball's old-school etiquette. Or even if it merely fears coming retribution from a frustrated Brewers team applying the same rules -- only in reverse.
But considering the Reds' previously mild reactions to the continuing soap opera surrounding their newsmaking reliever, their rebuke seemed over the top. Perhaps the Reds wanted to make a public statement regarding baseball decorum, especially with another game coming up against the depressed division-rival Brewers. But that doesn't explain the lack of public responses to the previous episodes, all of which Chapman has managed to squeeze into a first half in which he has often been brilliant on the mound (he was near to unhitabble for the first several weeks of thee season).
While celebratory somersaults aren't something old-school people ordinarily rubber stamp, and the Reds probably have concern the Brewers think as old-school as they do and may counter by throwing at one of their stars (yes, Votto or Bruce), the Reds' stern reaction to a fun incident was in sharp contrast to how Chapman's previous, greater indiscretions were handled publicly.
There have been a few incidents. But the most obvious opportunity for the Reds to make a statement came when Chapman was stopped for driving 93 mph on a suspended license at 12:42 a.m. one morning. Putting aside the curiosity of how Champman's license could possibly be suspended after less than two years in the country, this obviously is behavior that needs to be discouraged for a young man with a Mercedes. Remember, no one dies doing somersaults (or even gets hurt doing the rolling-kid somersaults Chapman executed).
Yet, Baker said at the time of the speeding incident, "I don't know what happened. He got a speeding ticket. It can happen to anybody. His people are taking care of it, and we're helping."
If the Reds are going to take care of a tumbling run, they should have taken care of early-morning speeding in a way to show they understand that it isn't right. And if they are going to care so much about his baseball etiquette, they should help the Cuban Missile slow down his whole life.
There's obviously a lot going on that life right now, including an $18 million lawsuit against him by someone who feels ripped off back in Cuba (that whole story isn't known though), and an embarrassing hotel incident that should raise Reds flags even if he hasn't been implicated as wrongdoing.
In this bizarre episode, a woman Chapman identified as a sometime girlfriend, was found in his Pittsburgh team hotel room tied up by cloth napkins and claiming the room was robbed by a man saying he was on the maintenance staff.
The woman ultimately has been charged with making up the robbery story out of whole cloth (sorry for the pun). But at the very least, Chapman needs to worry about with whom he consorts.
The Reds haven't said much about the incidents preceding the somersaults, and perhaps they want to downplay what's become obvious: that their star closer needs to grow up.
But by reacting more strongly to some spontaneous fun than a dangerous driving incident and all the rest, the team is giving him the wrong impression of what's OK and what isn't.