When Aroldis Chapman took the mound in game 7 of the World Series, we all knew that this was going to be a make-or-break situation for him. He had to know that too. After his heroics in Game 5 and Game 6, the pressure was on to seal the deal in Game 7 and bring the World Series back to Chicago. Sure, he pitched a lot in the days prior. But this was the World Series, and he had all winter to rest up.With four outs to go and a three-run lead, Chapman was set for his coronation. What happened next shocked everyone. Before he could record an inning-ending out, the lead was gone. To make things worse, it was a dramatic two-run home run by Rajai Davis that wiped out the Cubs lead. I didn't see it, but the story was that he was in tears in the dugout during the rain delay.
We all know what happened in extra innings in Cleveland, but I was paying close attention to Chapman. There are plenty of stories out there about how the Yankees are going to make a run at re-signing Chapman for 2017 and beyond. But some are wondering aloud if he has the ability to handle the pressure. Others, like the announcers of the game, accused Cubs manager Joe Maddon of over-managing. They sympathized with Chapman and his burden of having to pitch in three consecutive games. Personally, I don't buy that argument. Yes, he had a grueling workload. But again, this is the World Series. He threw 42 pitches in Game 5, had a day off, threw 20 pitches in Game 6, and gave up the game-tying home run on his 14th pitch of Game 7, a 98 mph fastball. It was a lot, but not unreasonable. He didn't miss his spot - he put the ball right where the catcher set his glove (see the picture below). It was poor pitch selection and perhaps over thinking, but those are the by-products of stress and pressure, not fatigue. Not surprisingly, he would finish out the inning and then the next one, finishing the night with 35 pitches, the last one a 99 mph fastball.
If the Yankees decide to pursue him, they have to understand that this is not the same pitcher who they traded at the deadline. He has seen battle, and he survived a brush with disaster. How he responds psychologically will determine his future success. Like it or not, without the benefit of any games for him to pitch before contract offers, it's a gamble. I am optimistic on a number of points, though. First, after the home run, he got out there and pitched well. He recognized that the game was not over, he still had work to do, and he got it done. That impressed me. Second, his disappointment and the emotion he expressed said something about him. He cares. He cares about the game and about his team. He wasn't perfect, but he stayed in the trenches and fought until he was done.
Who knows if the Yankees will be able to bring him, assuming that they'll even try. I don't know if his blown save brings down how much money he can bring in for his next contract. The Yankees will likely not get into a major bidding war this off season if they want to manage their luxury tax issues. I don't even think Chapman will want to leave the Cubs, to be honest. When he faced the ultimate nightmare for any baseball player, his team came around him and stood by supporting him. That has to make an impression. With his track record, he gets to write his own script for the next few seasons. But if he does decide to come back to the Yankees, we will be getting one of the best.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
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