The first big blockbuster trade of the season just happened and naturally it involved the Cuban Missile, Aroldis Chapman. It was a trade that most Yankee fans didn’t want to see because of the electricity and the excitement that comes along with his 105 mph fastball.
The recipient of the very gifted pitcher is the Chicago Cubs, who for over 100 years have been looking to win another World Series. They see Chapman as an answer to their prayers. For their sake – and the fact that they gave the Yankees four very talented players – let’s hope so.
I had called Chapman twice on Monday afternoon after hearing that he had been traded to the Cubs, but he didn’t answer his phone. I really wanted to talk to him because we had spent a lot of time together since he has been with the Yankees. George Steinbrenner had always told me to try not to get too close to the players because you always try to find the good in them and sometimes they have a way of breaking your heart when they leave.
I also remember him saying, “Ray, a lot of times I’m guilty of that too so don’t feel so badly.” So, that night I sat with my father, who has been at Franklin General Hospital for a couple of weeks with a heart ailment. We watched the Yankees play the Houston Astros and I then heard the broadcasters Michael Kay and Ken Singleton say that Chapman had been waiting in the clubhouse before the game to say goodbye to his teammates. I thought that was a very classy thing for him to do and I knew that he would eventually reach out to me also.
At about 11:45 PM that night, my phone rang and it was Chapman calling. “I thought you forgot about me,” I said and then he said, “No I just wanted to call you when I got to Chicago because I knew this would be a long conversation.” I asked him how he was feeling and he told me that he had been upset but was getting used to the idea of being in Chicago. I then asked him if he had any regrets and he told me that he would have liked to have negotiated a deal to stay in New York with the Yankees but his agents never talk to him about that possibility.
He said, “The last thing that I wanted was to leave the Yankees. It was fun and it was a family.” He has come to understand the business of baseball and holds no grudges. “How can I be upset with people that have treated me as good as the Yankees have?” he said. “The Yankees gave me a second chance when some teams wouldn’t. Please tell them thank you and maybe our paths will cross again.”
It’s funny that in the world of Steinbrenner’s Yankees, they always seem to be giving someone a second chance.