Pitcher Aroldis Chapman, Free Under The Law, May Be MLB’s # 1 Target

chapmanAroldis Chapman is by far one of the best closers in Major League Baseball thanks to his high-speed pitches which could reach as fast as 104 MPH.  The Cuban defector has been incredible in the majors. However, this offseason, Chapman was in the legal spotlight and it’s certain that MLB will implement a strict zero tolerance policy in punishing him after he was allegedly the center of a major and dangerous domestic violence situation.

On the brink of being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Yahoo Sports released a report that Aroldis Chapman was allegedly involved in a domestic violence dispute with his girlfriend in his Miami-area home.  The allegation was that after engaging in a fight with his girlfriend, Chapman fired eight gunshots in his garage.  The police arrived, filed a report, but did not arrest Chapman.  Consequently, this headline immediately cancelled the trade that would’ve made Chapman the Dodgers closer. It wasn’t long until a new team swept in and cashed in on Chapman for a relatively cheap price; that team would be the New York Yankees.

In spite of his trade to the Yankees, there was a cloud hanging over his Chapman’s head as to whether he would face any criminal charges for this alleged altercation that involved a gun.  On Thursday, Florida prosecutors confirmed that would not charge Chapman for this altercation. They cited that insufficient evidence and conflicting accounts are the primary reasons why they did not pursue criminal charges against Chapman.  However, this does not mean that Chapman can walk away a free man from this.  Major League Baseball reached an agreement with the MLB Players Association to enact a league-wide domestic violence policy in August 2015.  Under this policy, a player can be punished if they are involved in a domestic violence dispute, irrespective of whether they face criminal charges.  The key in this domestic violence policy is that the baseball commissioner can sanction a player for as little or as many games as he deems necessary; there is no tiered system of punishment like there is for MLB’s drug testing policy.

Chapman’s presence in NY coupled with the domestic violence allegations has not been too pleasant to say the least.  In fact, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito stated that she’ll boycott New York Yankees games because of this acquisition.  Mark-Viverito even remarked that the Yankees should’ve waited for MLB to make a decision on punishing Chapman before making a move. And quite frankly, I agree with her.

So what happens now to Chapman? We have to let the “judicial” system in Major League Baseball run its course.  The league will have to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter. Perhaps Major League Baseball will cooperate with law enforcement on any information that will be relevant in completing the league’s investigation.  What makes this case all the more interesting is that there is no precedent.  There has never been a domestic violence policy laid out in the league’s collective bargaining agreement until this most recent enacted in 2015; furthermore, a standalone policy has never been drafted in the league’s 100+ year history. The Aroldis Chapman case, much like Jose Reyes and Yasiel Puig, are all cases of first impression for Major League Baseball.

Considering the bad press that the National Football League received followed their very poor handling of the Ray Rice scandal and domestic violence in general, MLB will not want to follow in their footsteps.  Surely, they’ll want to punish Chapman fairly based on whatever evidence is available.  However, the league has a duty to enforce a zero tolerance policy against all incidents of domestic violence, regardless of its severity.

Let’s not be naïve and think that Chapman is definitely going to be on the Opening Day roster with the Yankees this season.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Chapman receives his sanction prior to the 2016 season.  I would suspect at least a 20 to 30 game suspension for Chapman but not exceeding 60 games, and it appears that MLB has every right to enforce this suspension against Chapman based on a memorandum which the Broward State Attorney’s Office released.  In the memorandum, there is an undisputed fact that Chapman fired his gun at least 8 times; this will likely be enough enforceable grounds for the league to pursue a serious sanction against Chapman.

Regardless of the number of games he’s suspended, he’ll appeal immediately as he is afforded that right by virtue of being a member of the MLB Players Association.  This is certainly a story we’ll keep our eye on in the coming weeks.

Tony Iliakostas is a sports law contributor for LawNewz.  He is the founder and host of his own sports law video blog called “Law and Batting Order.”  You can follow Law and Batting Order on Facebook and Twitter, and you can follow Tony on Twitter.

[screengrab via Fox]

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