Cubs resident man-in-charge and slayer of all curses, Theo Epstein, reminded everyone on Monday of something that may have escaped even this writer, who wrote that the Cubs greatly overpaid for closer Aroldis Chapman. That is, while the Cubs have young, home-grown talent on its roster and a bright future, tomorrow is not guaranteed, so every opportunity to win is precious. So, when the opportunity comes to "go for it", you do just that. And that's exactly what the Cubs did by sending four players to New York for a man who throws a baseball harder than a graduate-level calculus test.
Meanwhile, Cubs fans, kneel at the altar of The Sacred Winning Opportunity, via the Church of Theo Epstein. In fact, at Theo Epstein's introductory press conference in Chicago, he used this theme to set out his vision for leading the Chicago Cubs out of their 103 year drought. "Every opportunity to win is sacred."
Look, I understand this simple, yet effecive motto. In fact, I welcome it. After all, I've been waiting a looong time for the Cubs to win and like all of you, would do almost anythig to help make that happen. Yet here I was, banging away at the keyboard, telling you that the Cubs paid too steep a price for a rental player and that I wouldn't have made the deal. Oh, how silly Theo made me feel.
Of course you go for it. I mean, if not now, then when? That is certainly an applicable question, for the Cubs likely have the best all-around team they have had in my lifetime, so what are they waiting for? Apparently, the only one doing the waiting is me; the Cubs have moved on and made the trade that has everyone talking.
Domestic violence issues aside for a moment—and I don't mean to swat this away like a mosquito on your shoulder—Chapman is the right guy at the right time. He is the perfect definition of a closer. He throws hard—harder that anyone in baseball history—and has a demonstrated record of success that includes lots and lots of saves.
Ever since the Cubs began play in 1876 as the Chicago White Stockings, they have never, ever had a pitcher that threw as hard as Mr. Chapman. I won't even research that statement; I feel comfident in stating that. And Epstein knows that his legacy as the curse-buster will be cemented if he leads the Cubs to the promised land. His place in the Hall of Fame will be forever etched in stone the day the Cubs win the World Series.
And if a lack of Chapman was perceived to be standing in the way of immortality, then Epstein certainly was going to do something about it.
To make the story sound even better, current Cubs closer Hector Rondon claims he has no problem with losing his job, and instead being the 8th inning guy, though he was careful to say that Chapman was ONE OF the best relievers on the team, not THE best. "He's one of the best relievers we have right now. You have a chance to get that guy, better take it."
Now, one thing I'm not sure that I like is Joe Maddon's insistence on Chapman being a 9th inning- only guy. He was asked if they would sometimes have him end the 8th and then pitch the 9th, and he basically nixed that idea. Hey, Chapman has done it before and while this may sound a bit harsh, if we blow out his arm, so be it. There is no committment beyond this season. So you get what you can out of that arm and then move on.
If it were me, I'd leverage Chapman in any way that I please. If it would help the team to sometimes bring him in the 7th to face Joey Votto with the bases loaded and two out, then so be it. If there is a need to get the final out of the 8th inning, you better believe I'm bringing him in and then letting him close out the game.
Other than logistics, however, the guy looks like a perfect fit. He is supposedly a good teammate—that's what the Cubs keep saying—though one needs a portable translator to be able to know what he's saying since he doesn't have the courtesy to speak English.
As for his impact on the regular season, it should be minimal. The Cubs record going into the 9th inning with a lead is so good that Chapman
Meanwhile, as I previously wrote, as much as I detest what he allegedly did to his girlfriend, I am not going to let that affect my enjoyment of the rest of the season and the playoffs. Chapman is one of us now, and once you wear the Cubbie blue everyting magically changes for better.
And my advice to you if you have a weak moment and start to question why we gave up a boatload of talent or get reminded of Chapman's past, just remember Theo's words: "If not now, when?"