. . and the questions go beyond his stuff. Melissa Segura of Sports Illustrated wrote a terrific piece recently delving deeply into his background. She does a terrific job of recounting his life story and analyzing how he might translate in MLB competition. She starts at his first botched attempt to leave Cuba, and then the events leading up to his successful defection. There’s a lot to be concerned about for prospective bidders, which confirms what I saw from his outings facing international competition. I’m no scout, but he appeared to me to be a major project who would be years away from MLB competition, if ever. She writes:
This time he knew better than to breathe a word of his plan to anyone, including his pregnant girlfriend, who rested beside him for what could be the last time in a long time.
“What would you do,” he asked her, “if I didn’t come back?”
Raidelmis Mendosa Santiestelas‘ hands circled the baby in her belly.
“Stop talking nonsense,” she said.
Days later, Ashanti Brianna Chapman was born, but Aroldis was already gone from Holguín. For good.
I’ll leave it up to the reader to pass their own judgments on someone who’s days away from becoming a father for the first time who has defection on his mind. Defecting from a Communist country like Cuba is something you may not get many chances to do, and pitchers can get hurt and lose their value. Cuban Baseball has been notorious for burning out guys with golden arms at young ages. But as you’ll see from accounts by many of those who’ve worked with him, his maturity level is seriously in question.
Next up were the events leading up to him being left off the Bejing Olympic team in 2008. Chapman recounted how he was summoned to meet with Raul Chavez after his his first botched attempt to defect, and says the Cuban President suspended him from the team. But others close to the situation have a different account:
Chapman says authorities removed him from the Olympic team in reprisal. “They didn’t take me [to Beijing] because they said they weren’t certain that I would return,” Chapman says.
Others are not so sure that is the real reason. Dr. Peter Bjarkman, a foremost Cuban baseball scholar and chronicler, suggests that Chapman has reframed his Olympic exclusion as a punishment, rather than a performance-based roster cut. Bjarkman writes that the June 2008 Jose Huelga Tournament in Havana is when Chapman “pitched himself off” the Olympic team as he “displayed little control and less confidence, being knocked out early in his final appearance versus tame Puerto Rico by his own extreme wildness.”
On to his stuff-
In his four years in the National Series, he had a 24-21 record with a 3.72 ERA. Almost as notable as his 379 strikeouts in 341 2/3 innings are his 210 walks. His career bases on balls per nine innings is 5.37, a stat that would rank him last — below Arizona’s Daniel Cabrera (5.24) and Milwaukee’s Seth McClung (5.31) — among the 245 major league pitchers who have thrown at least 341 career innings. And that’s calculated without adjusting for a softer strike zone and freer swingers in the Cuban league. “In Cuba you knew you could throw a bad pitch and a batter would swing at it,” Chapman admits. “In the big leagues, that doesn’t happen very often.”