How is Aroldis Chapman allowed to keep doing this?
Outside of a blessed chunk of the 2016 season where the Yankees had flipped Chapman to the Chicago Cubs, the erratic left-hander served as either the Bombers' closer or a "trusted" late-inning option for the better part of seven seasons. For every minute of those seven seasons, Chapman would either be one of two things: utterly dominant or utterly discombobulated.
You knew which version of Chapman you were getting from the very first pitch he threw -- and, fittingly, the Disaster Edition seemed to show up whenever there was a playoff game or Fenway Park showdown on the line. There's a reason Chapman ended two playoff series single-handedly, and there's a reason Yankee fans were thrilled to see him depart after the 2022 season despite a 2.94 ERA in pinstripes. The lows were just that soul-suckingly low (and his off-the-field behavior likely disqualified him from the spotlight entirely, late-inning meltdowns aside).
Which brings us to 2023, when the Texas Rangers opted into inheriting the curse of Chapman when they traded left-hander Cole Ragans to Kansas City for his services midsummer. The Rangers jumped the line to get Chapman, signing off on the trade in June to make sure the closer didn't make it to the deadline. The Rangers envisioned sharks swirling, ready to compete for the 103 MPH-throwing lefty. In reality, the sharks have now turned on them.
Chapman entered a crucial game on Thursday night with a 2-1 lead in Seattle. A win would push the Rangers closer to clinching the AL West after they'd nearly collapsed a few weeks ago. A loss would let the Mariners right back into the Wild Card race instead of extinguishing them.
You're all Yankee fans. Season hanging in the balance. Road game. Little chill in the air. How do you think Chapman did?
Yankees fans laughed like crazy as Aroldis Chapman blew a crucial AL West game for the Rangers
Cue Chapman leaving the team to get another infected tattoo in three, two...
Three batters. Eight pitches. Three strikes. For whatever reason (we know the reason!), Chapman's first two fastballs to Cal Raleigh only reached 97.6 MPH and 97.9 MPH. What happened to that legendary, differentiating velocity? It didn't disappear under duress again, did it? ... Did it?!
Raleigh singled. Dylan Moore singled. A patented Chapman Wild Pitch sent them both into scoring postion. Ty France walked. And, thanks to the three-batter minimum, that was the exact moment Bruce Bochy had seen enough. Yankee fans had collectively seen enough five or six years prior.
Truly, it's remarkable how often he does this, and it's generous and, frankly, educational that the rest of baseball gets to learn how common this phenomenon is.
It wasn't just Yankee fans complaining unnecessarily about the occasional blown save from an all-world closer. By the time he got to New York, he really did have a special propensity for losing his grip, losing velocity, and losing the game as soon as the spotlight got too bright.
Oh, right, and the Rangers traded a real asset to get him on board.
The Royals played this perfectly, signing Chapman this offseason, allowing him to "rediscover" his mojo in meaningless spring games in KC (2.45 ERA, 53 Ks in 29 innings) before heading to Texas down the stretch to blow all the big ones. He has walked 35 men in 58.1 innings this year.
Ragans, on the other hand? He's a lefty starter who can dot 97 on the edges of the zone. He is under team control through 2028. He's 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA/2.48 FIP in 11 starts with the Royals. He's only walked 23 in 65.1 innings -- you know, like a normal man.
Best of luck to the Texas Rangers, who do appear to be headed for October, and will be turning the keys over to a 35-year-old Chapman in whatever the most important game of their season turns out to be.
Best-case scenario for everyone? The Mariners get to him another time or two this series, allowing Chapman to eliminate the Astros for once in his life.