Aroldis ChapmanRemember Aroldis Chapman? He was good.

For a long time, especially on our podcast, I’ve been lamenting the fact that Aroldis was never really given an opportunity to be a starter for the Reds. Yes, I know he started in spring training for three consecutive years, but it’s the biggest “what might have been?” in recent Reds memory.

Honestly, I need to forget about this and move on. It’s probably evidence of some kind of mental disorder that I can’t stop thinking about how valuable Chapman would have been as a starter for our Cincinnati Reds.

Chapman has moved on, and I thought I had put all this behind me. Well, recently I was doing some research on Chapman (for a project that will be announced soon), and something I saw caused me to do a double-take.

It has been my theory for some time that Dusty Baker got into Chapman’s head and convinced him that he needed to be a reliever. Certainly, it was the best thing for Dusty’s job security at the time that Chapman be his closer, or at least it was reasonable for Dusty to think that — even if it wasn’t the best thing for the Reds, long-term.

I’m sure you remember when Chapman declared that he wanted to be a closer. It wasn’t always thus.

Here’s a piece from Sports Illustrated back in 2009, after Chapman defected from Cuba:

Chapman expresses reluctance to move to the bullpen, though he worked as a closer for part of the 2006-07 National Series season. “It went OK, but I like being a starter better,” he says. “The difference in starting the game is that you can impact the game greatly. You can pitch a lot of innings. As a closer, you only get one or two innings. You pitch more frequently, but I don’t have a lot of interest in being a closer.”

Aroldis understood why being a starter was more valuable than closing! What happened?

I almost wish I hadn’t read that quote. Now I’m obsessing over the idea of Chapman as a starter once again.


30 Responses

  1. Chuck Schick

    Lebron James may have been the greatest tight end, outside linebacker or soccer goalie ever.

    Moving Johnny Bench to first base in 1977 may have allowed him to hit like Johnny Bench for a much longer period.

    What if Britain had really, really tried during the Revolutionary War?

    Chapman could’ve been a starter. Perhaps he could’ve been the greatest center fielder ever. He’s a great closer who helped the Reds go the playoffs 3 times. His greatest value as a starter to the Reds would’ve been being worth more in a trade. If we assume the same level of dominance as a starter, he’d be looking at a 30 million per year pay day and he wouldn’t be a Red anyway.

    • Vicferrari

      I think you might not get it, Lebron James was never practicing to be a tight end a few weeks before the season. I do not think he was given a try out for National Soccer Team. I will have to read up on my Revolutionary War because I was unaware that the British never tried.
      What I am sure of is the Reds never tried Chapman in CF and he had minimal impact on 2010 outside of letting the game 2 get out of control essentially losing the series.
      But I do know he was tried out as a starter and most likely would have been if the closer had not went down. We Would at least know, possibly he makes the difference in the 2013 WC game instead of being an average closer who never even got in the game.

    • TR

      I enjoyed the six years of Aroldis Chapman as the Reds star closer. We’ll never really know why he was not used as a starter. What’s done is done, and I look forward to the continued development of Rookie Davis who could turn out to be a reliever or starter. As a history buff I’ve never thought the British did not go all out to defeat the Colonists. Like all wars, the Revolutionary War was brutal, and Lord Cornwallis would have defeated General Washington if the French Fleet had not blocked the British Fleet at the final battle in Yorktown, Va.

      • Vicferrari

        What Cornwallis was a joke and the French Fleet was about as effective as Chapman was in 2010,
        But I figured the British actually tried therefore Lebron is not a world class goalkeeper and Bench still retires in 1983 a shell of his former All-star years

      • gaffer

        The Bench argument is the one I get but it makes a case against Chapman starting. He would not have been a HOF 1st baseman, as his numbers are very borderline, even if you give him a 10 percent bump for less wear and tear. More to the point, look at what the team got, a ridiulously great defensive C and an extra bat in the lineup. If Bench plays 1B, either Perez is traded or benched or at the very least plays a terrible 3B with Rose in LF. That means no Foster! That team is not the same either way.

        If Chapman starts in 2012, Leake is in AAA and the bullpen is far weaker. I personally am unsure Chapman outperforms Leake (most baseball people seeing them in SpringTraining said that at the time). Aroldis could never get past the 5th in AAA. Maybe Chapman improves by 2014 but this team stunk by then.

  2. greenmtred

    Stop obsessing, Chad. That quote came from before he’d pitched in MLB, and neither the Yankees or Cubs are using him differently. Maybe Dusty subverted him, but the thread that makes that benefit Dusty is a tortured thread to follow. It’s just as possible that Chapman realized that the sort of maximum effort required for him to dominate MLB hitters with 1 and a half pitches was unsustainable over 6 or 7 innings. And how could he not like the electric buzz in the air when he came into the game in the ninth and threw triple digits?

    • sixpacktwo

      I think you are on the right track. Chapman did NOT have the pitches to be a starter. Even in spring training he got hit in latter inning starts.

  3. ohiojimw

    We will never know the true story of Chapman’s conversion to preferring closing over starting unless he tells us with candor some day.

    Personally, I’ve always thought it was about short term money versus long haul career total income. Recall that roughly half of his original deal was paid as a signing bonus and that he was to make “only” $2M-3M annually thru 2014 with a player option at $5M for 2015 and then be subject to standard player control contract rules until he reached his 6 years of service time to earn free agency.

    However that original contract had opt out to arbitration clauses after 2013 and 2014 if he were to be eligible for arb under the standard MLB service time standards; and even more significantly was to pay him a $3M deferred bonus if he were arb eligible after the 2013 season.

    So what does that have to do with the starter/ closer debate? In 2012, the spring after his breakthrough to MLB as a reliever, there was talk that if he went back to being a starter, he might have to do a stint in AAA to get fully reacclimated to starting. However his service time situation was such that if he did any additional minor league time, he would not meet the arbitration eligibility criteria following the 2013 season. By staying in the pen he assured he would meet the criteria, earn the $3M bonus and be arb eligible.

    So what has that made him that he wouldn’t or at least might not have made if he weren’t arb eligible after 2013? In 2014 it made him a net of $5M more and probably about as much more additional in 2015 because of being 2nd year arb eligible instead of 1st year arb eligible. How much the $10M or so more he has made by staying in the pen may cost him long term we won’t be able to begin to get a gauge on until he signs his free agent contract in the coming off season.

    Here is the link to Cot’s if anyone wants to go check my deciphering of that very complex first contract which I see as the key to the situation:

  4. Mutaman

    Aren’t there more important things to discuss? Like whether you should ever bunt or something?

    • Steve Mancuso

      Never understood why someone shows up to a site like this that no one makes you read and say “don’t write about that.” How about you just read something else? Keep your comments about the Reds, not what is or isn’t written here.

      • ManuelT

        “Fees” or not, you can’t decide for the rest of us what is and is not “important” (baseball is interesting, not important). Your comment was rude. The guys who run this site do a fantastic job and rightly maintain editorial control. I often disagree with what is written but I am thankful for this site. I have, on occasion, stated a contrary opinion but have done so in a courteous manner.

    • Vicferrari

      All I know is Lord Cornwallis was all about sacrificing his men and look who won the war. Thank goodness he did not use a better strategy or we all might be posting in British.
      So you should only bunt when the pitcher is at bat never in any other situation except when Renda is up. And if Chapman ever got the chance to start I say let him swing away, from what I understand he was an excellent batter but I guess we will never know.

      • Mutaman

        On the other hand, Haig believed in sacrifice ( some say useless sacrifice) and he got a big “W”.

      • Vicferrari

        So is that who you want to manage he Reds after they fire Price?

  5. streamer88

    I’ve posted on here before and this time I’ll leave references. Aroldis has every physical and archetypal gift to be a dominant MLB starting pitcher, but he does not (more importantly did not) have the mental make up, the dedication, stability, focus, etc, etc.

    Maybe 5 years later, he has matured/changed, as we all do as time passes, but below are the links that support my claim. Now I’m not saying that getting 6 speeding tickets in 3 years, including one at 93 MPH with an expired license on a highway (I71) in Columbus literally within hours of a Reds game ending, is a reason NOT to make someone a starting pitcher, but I think it’s all wrapped together.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Aside from the fact that plenty of athletes, especially young ones, get in trouble and still perform on the mound (as Chapman did as closer), why does it require a stronger mental make-up to be starter than a closer? Seems like that’s just a subjective assertion on either side. If Chapman didn’t have stability, focus etc. he wouldn’t have been a dominating closer either. Not buying this.

  6. vegastypo

    I always wondered whether starting pitchers had to work harder between starts to stay in shape, to build up stamina, maybe requiring more running, etc. Not sure he wanted to put in that much effort. … As a closer, he could get to the stadium at the same time every day, have the exact same routine, relax (maybe even sleep) before the game or even in the first few innings, and know that Dusty and Bryan rules precluded him from having to worry about being brought into a game before the 9th inning.

    • ohiojimw

      The talk I’ve heard locally is that Chapman was/ is an absolute physical specimen; and, seemed to enjoy working out to get and stay that way. I’ve heard it said by folks covering team he was likely the best all around athlete on the team and probably second only to Hamilton in foot speed (although as I recall this was before the arrival of Lorenzen who might contend on both counts).

  7. JB WV

    I’ve always thought Chapman’s arm wouldn’t hold up as a starter throwing as hard as he does. Never thought he’d get deep into games with his sometimes shaky control. Sure wouldn’t have thrown over 100 all the time. But who knows. As far as the British are concerned, they came back for more slaughter in 1812. After more decapitations, White House burning, and looting, they finally went home. White male landowners got to vote. Ahhh, history.

    • gaffer

      I love American Rev history and it’s pretty clear they tried to win. The big fact people can’t understand now but was true then is that the Carribean colonies were worth way more than the 13 colonies. In fact, St. Kitts out produced nearly all the colonies combined! There was a real risk that the French and others might take the Carribean if the British fully committed the navy north. The other problem is that they had generals only interested in personal glory and they had no real knowledge of the land like we did. They probably also WAY overestimated how many American Tories would help them. Of course pillaging farms probably didn’t help their cause. Interesting point, the first American to die in the Boston massacre (hence revolution) was black.

      • Reaganspad

        Generals only interested in personal glorying?

        Sounds like Montgomery in WWII

      • gaffer

        It’s a British trait I guess. The best example is JohnnBergoign who lost the war basically by himself by marching from Canada toward NY. He learned that Howe was not going to link up with him but refused to turn back. Of course Howe only stayed in NY because he was too afraid to look stupid if Washington tried to retake NYC while he was away (which was not going to happen anyway).

    • Vicferrari

      Is it just me or is any else mildly entertained that a quote from a Cuban pitcher in 2009 on his personal pitching preferences has somehow turned into a debate on the efforts of military strategies in the 1700’s?

  8. dan

    glad he is gone don’t care that we got anything for him. Anyone that is going to terrorize another human being by shooting a gun off near them as a threat loses my ability to ever cheer for them again as a sports figure. He should have been deported. but there is this thing called money that allows wealthy individuals and celebrities to escape the law.

    • Patrick Jeter

      What he did was a misdemeanor. I looked it up, after incorrectly claiming that it was a felony.

      There isn’t any evidence to suggest he shot the gun off “near” his girlfriend, either.

      It’s fine that you have an opinion, but it shouldn’t be formulated on speculation.

  9. J

    My fantasy is to turn all the good starters into elite closers. Because the 9th inning is the one that really matters.

  10. earmbrister

    The Chapman starter vs reliever topic is easily one of my least favorite subjects.

    I’d like to thank all of the history buffs with their comments that referenced the Revolutionary War. Entertaining.

    Easily the most references to Lord Cornwalis that I’ve seen in some time.

  11. ArtWayne

    The bizarre behavior that night in Fla by Chapman was probably a result of the line drive he suffered. Why hasn’t anyone mentioned this in his defense? Pete Rose said he was the best athlete ever, better than the Babe.