Photos of former Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman.
was one of the keys to getting the Cubs their first World Series championship in 108 years, but they didn’t bother trying to keep him around to go for the repeat.
Newly acquired Wade Davis has done just as good a job so far and isn’t nearly as high-maintenance.
Chapman returned to the Yankees for five years and $86 million, a figure I told Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was "insane" for a pitcher who works only one inning a few times a week.
Cashman countered that the Marlins had bid even higher, which didn’t convince me it wasn’t insane but that the Marlins were even crazier than the Yankees.
Of course Cashman said the object is to win the World Series, and having one of the most dominant closers in the game, if not in history, gives you a decent shot. The Cubs felt likewise when they gave up a great young prospect in shortstop Gleyber Torres to the Yankees basically to rent Chapman for three months.
No matter how much success Torres has in his career, the Cubs have their rings and no regrets.
Chapman will be at Wrigley Field with the Yankees next Friday for the start of a three-game series. The Cubs are expected to present him his championship ring, probably in a pregame ceremony in front of fans, as they did recently with Royals players Jason Hammel, Travis Wood and Jorge Soler.
Chapman wasn’t sure what the plan was when I asked him Thursday at Fenway Park.
"They haven’t told me anything," he said through an interpreter. "I believe it’s next week. If it’s in front of the fans, that’s fine."
Asked if he was looking forward to returning to Chicago, Chapman replied: "I think it’s going to be a really nice experience. To get back there to the stadium, see the fans, my teammates from last year and go back to the place we won it, it’s going to be nice."
Photos from Game 7 of the World Series at Progressive Field in Cleveland on Nov. 2, 2016.
Photos of the rings the Cubs received to commemorate their 2016 World Series championship.
Then he left, saying he was too busy to talk.
"Sorry," he said in English.
Chapman’s reception at Wrigley should be interesting.
When the Cubs acquired him from the Yankees in July, a vocal segment of fans was outraged the team had signed someone Major League Baseball had suspended for an incident in which he allegedly choked his 22-year-old girlfriend and fired eight shots into his garage. Some insisted they no longer could root for the Cubs.
But Chapman’s dominance muted his critics. By the time the World Series rolled around, no one was talking about his off-field issue, but many were oohing and aahing over his 103 mph fastball.
Chapman nearly became the World Series goat when he served up the tying eighth-inning home run to the Indians’ Rajai Davis in Game 7 and was outed for crying afterward. But the Cubs rallied to win in 10 innings, and all was forgiven.
The one who got the most abuse was manager Joe Maddon, who was accused of overusing Chapman in the World Series. Chapman threw 42 pitches in Game 5, 20 in Game 6 and 35 in Game 7. After re-signing with the Yankees, Chapman was asked about how Maddon had employed him and admitted he was tired.
"I think he was wrong in the way he used me," Chapman said. "He abused me a bit on how much he made me pitch, and sometimes he made me pitch when I didn’t need to pitch."
Maddon had to answer questions about Chapman all winter, including from HBO’s "Real Sports." Maddon repeatedly said he told Chapman how he would be used and that the closer was fine with it.
"The point is when you work a game like that, there is not an eighth game, there is only a seventh game," Maddon said at the winter meetings.
But the story refused to go away completely. On Wednesday night, when Chapman entered the game against the Red Sox, the Boston radio announcers brought up Chapman’s heavy workload and also mentioned he had thrown Maddon under the bus afterward.
"I thought that was sort of weak," one announcer said.
Cubs President Theo Epstein thought the Maddon controversy was offseason fodder that would end once the 2017 season began.
"I think it’s starting to fade away now," he said at the end of spring training. "There are times to be process-driven and there are times to be outcome-driven. When you’re talking about winning the World Series, that’s the most appropriate time to be outcome-driven.
"Joe has done something that no one in more than 100 years has done, so he has the ultimate hand."
Cashman said Thursday that anything goes in the World Series and that Maddon was right to use Chapman for multiple innings to get a victory.
"I hope we get that chance," he said.
Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild agreed and noted that they brought Chapman along with extra caution early in the 2016 season.
"Last year with all our relievers, Andrew Miller and a lot with Dellin (Betances) and a lot with Chappie, early in the season you purposely don’t overuse them," Rothschild said, "so if you get late in the season in meaningful games, you have those guys you can go to and you have to push the envelope a little bit.
"When you’re in a World Series, everything is on the table. There’s a reason you play all year to get to that point. When you do, you can throw logic out the window."
The logic of paying $86 million for a reliever is debatable, especially because someone who throws 103 mph might be susceptible to an arm injury.
"There are not too many pitchers who have his type of body," Rothschild said. "With his ability, he’s probably the fastest guy on any team he plays on, so he’s just a different animal. You hope that (size) creates balance and even though he’s throwing as hard, it’s not putting as much stress on (his arm).
"But we’re not going to know that until we get down the road."