Rob Manfred Takes Stand on Domestic Violence with 30-Game Aroldis Chapman Ban

Jacob ShaferFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2016

New York Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman throws a ball during a spring training baseball workout Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman has been suspended 30 games by Major League Baseball for his alleged involvement in a widely publicized domestic violence incident, as first reported by Billy Witz of the New York Times.

The bigger news, though, is that MLB and Commissioner Rob Manfred have taken a strong and unambiguous stand against domestic violence. And if their policy isn't zero-tolerance, it's close to it.

In a statement, per Maury Brown of Forbes, Manfred said his staff conducted a "comprehensive investigation" into the incident, which occurred Oct. 30 at Chapman's home near Miami.

"After reviewing the staff report, I found Mr. Chapman's acknowledged conduct on that day to be inappropriate...particularly his use of a firearm and the impact of that behavior on his partner," the statement continued.

That "use of a firearm" bit refers to Chapman firing eight shots from a gun into the wall of his garage. Chapman's girlfriend also said the pitcher choked and shoved her, though she later recanted and no charges were filed, per Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media.

Commissioner Rob Manfred called Chapman's conduct "inappropriate" in a statement announcing the 30-game suspension.
Commissioner Rob Manfred called Chapman's conduct "inappropriate" in a statement announcing the 30-game suspension.Morry Gash/Associated Press

"I never hurt anybody," Chapman said Feb. 23, per Kuty. "Never in my life."

The flame-throwing closer didn't budge from that claim Tuesday, but he sounded a more contrite note after the suspension was announced.

"Today, I accepted a 30-game suspension from Major League Baseball resulting from my actions on October 30, 2015," he said in a statement, via Witz. "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."

Chapman said his decision not to appeal was made "in an effort to minimize the distractions" to the Yankees and his family.

The Yankees will be impacted regardless, though they have Andrew Miller waiting to resume ninth-inning duties. But that's analysis for another day. For now, back to the message Manfred sent.

A 30-game suspension is far more than a token punishment. Chapman is entering a contract year. Now, he'll have just four-fifths of a season to set up his next payday.

Remember, this isn't the only domestic violence case MLB is mulling. Colorado Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was recently placed on paid leave pending an investigation into an alleged incident of abuse against his wife that took place Oct. 31 at a luxury hotel in Hawaii.

MLB placed the Rockies' Jose Reyes on paid leave pending an investigation into an alleged domestic violence incident.
MLB placed the Rockies' Jose Reyes on paid leave pending an investigation into an alleged domestic violence incident.Matt York/Associated Press

And Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig could face sanction after a reported altercation at a Miami bar in November.

Now that the Chapman shoe has dropped, it would seem to increase the likelihood of suspensions or some form of discipline for Reyes and Puig.

All of this, it must be said, is taking place against the backdrop of increased scrutiny of domestic violence committed by athletes, particularly those in the National Football League. In November, Ken Belson of the New York Times branded it the NFL's "recurring quandary."

"Public-relations nightmare" might be more accurate.

Of course, domestic violence touches on far bigger issues than the PR status of a professional sports league. This is grave stuff with far-reaching social and legal ramifications.

But let's face it: Pro sports is a business, and bad publicity hurts the bottom line. No doubt Manfred and Co. watched the NFL fumble the issue and declared, "We can do better."

Whether they have—or will—is open to debate. Some might view the Chapman suspension as too light, even given the lack of legal charges. If a positive performance-enhancing drug test can trigger an 80-game suspension, for example, shouldn't troubling incidents like these be given equal or greater weight?

The takeaway, however, is that MLB is serious. The new domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy the league and players' union agreed to in August has teeth.

After dragging his feet and drawing out the Chapman decision, Manfred drew a line: Domestic violence won't be tolerated or swept under the rug. Whatever your take on this particular case, that's unequivocally good news.