For 35 minutes Monday in the visiting dugout at U.S. Cellular Field, Cubs president Theo Epstein skillfully navigated the ethical minefield that is the Aroldis Chapman trade.
Epstein drove home the Cubs' commitment to character and defended deal for the closer with an alleged domestic violence incident in October by giving manager Joe Maddon a new T-shirt idea.
"If not now, when?" Epstein asked.
He detailed a process that included internal debate and a phone call with Chapman that Epstein and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts required before agreeing to anything. "It was really important to hear his voice," Epstein said. (See photo caption.)
Most importantly, Epstein sought to leave the impression the organization still cares about staying true to its principles. "I don't feel like we compromised integrity in making this move," he said.
That remains fodder for discussion. But this much isn't debatable: Chapman had them at hello — and the Cubs decided to let the promise of the future outweigh any concerns about his past.
Eight times Chapman fired a gun inside the garage of his Miami-area home on Oct. 30 after an argument with his girlfriend. Before he fired, the police report alleges Chapman choked the woman and pushed her against the wall — though no charges were filed because of "conflicting stories and a lack of cooperation from all parties involved."
Whatever happened that night, Chapman's girlfriend felt frightened enough to hide in the bushes until police were dispatched, the report says.
Nobody disputes the way Chapman shortens the game and widens the championship window this year. But the Cubs getting Chapman goes well beyond baseball. It goes to what a baseball team wants to stand for. Now we know.
From purely a baseball perspective, Chapman and his 105 mph fastball give the Cubs one of the game's premier closers. His arrival Tuesday positioned the Cubs as World Series favorites.
But trading for Chapman isn't limited to ending the Cubs' 108-year wait for a World Series title, which diehards cited Monday as a reason to accept a guy who already has been punished. Trading for Chapman underscored the win-at-all-cost mentality of pro sports that now permeates Wrigley Field.
Ricketts always wanted to shed the Cubs' label as lovable losers. Mission accomplished.
I understand why the Cubs would talk themselves into trading for the closer who potentially puts them over the top. I accept that such decisions are made in every sport in a business in which talent trumps character. I don't have to like it. Not with the Cubs making their games easier to win but harder to watch. — Chicago Tribune (TNS)