Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker clarified some controversial comments he made at the Winter Meetings today regarding Aroldis Chapman and domestic violence.
Dusty Baker’s first few weeks as manager of the Washington Nationals haven’t gone as smoothly as he and the team would’ve liked.
First, there was the embarrassing fiasco that led to his hiring — when the Nationals reportedly chose Bud Black as their manager before contract negotiations with Black collapsed, leading the team to hire Baker. Today, Baker created a stir with some controversial comments he made defending Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, who is facing allegations of domestic abuse after an October incident in which he reportedly fired a gun several times and assaulted his girlfriend.
Chapman — one of the most sought after relievers in the trade market this offseason — will reportedly face an MLB investigation for the incident.
When asked for his thoughts on Chapman as a person, Baker said the following, according to the Washington Post:
"“Oh, he’s a heck of a guy. I mean, a heck of a guy. I’ll go on record and say I wouldn’t mind having Chapman,” Baker said. “No, no, he is a tremendous young man with a great family, mom and dad, and what he went through to get here and what his family had to go through to get here. I was with him through the whole process. There was a couple times when I had to stop him from quitting or going back to Cuba because he was lonely for his family. So I went through a lot of stuff with Chapman. I got nothing but love for the young man.”"
Baker then discussed the allegations against Chapman, refusing to pass judgment until it is determined if the allegations are true:
"“I mean, who’s to say the allegations are true, number one,” Baker said. “And who’s to say what you would have done or what caused the problem.”"
While Baker praised Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy and did not comment on the allegations on Chapman other than to question if they were true, Baker’s defense of Chapman stirred plenty of controversy on social media.
Baker and the Nationals, not surprisingly, were quick to roll back the veteran manager’s comments later in the day. In an appearance on MLB Network Radio, Baker said he “would never condone domestic violence.” The Nationals posted the clarification on Twitter, first by retweeting MLB Network Radio and then in a statement of their own, quoting Baker’s interview:
There was wide speculation that the Nationals, who are in desperate need of bullpen help, had been pursuing Chapman prior to the domestic violence allegations. The Reds had reportedly reached a deal to send the flame-throwing closer to the Dodgers, but that trade is now on hold as MLB investigates the reports against Chapman.
While it now seems highly unlikely that the Nationals — or any team, perhaps — will acquire Chapman this offseason, Baker’s comments brought unwanted attention to a team that has plenty of work to do at the Winter Meetings and should not be dealing with self-inflicted PR controversies.
Hopefully for Baker and the Nationals, his clarification will quell some of the public backlash he faced for his original comments. Distractions on and off the field hurt the Nationals in 2015 — they don’t need any more going into 2016.