Aroldis Chapman

Ham Schmitmeyer,

Guest Columnist

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When a friend of mine told me the Reds had signed Aroldis Chapman, my immediate response was, “Okay, who is that?” I don’t really keep up with prospects. I probably shouldn’t admit that on this particular site, and perhaps it will be edited out, but the future talent isn’t what interests me about baseball. I don’t have that kind of attention span. This is why I watch television on hulu.com while I simultaneously view movies on my actual television, and why I play yahoo euchre during my Grad School classes. It’s probably also why my grades could be better, and it’s definitely why after writing for a solid 4 minutes, I’m going to take a break.

Okay, I’m back. When I heard Aroldis was an untested, unpolished flamethrower, with a fastball that reaches well beyond 100mph, I thought it was a joke. When I finally realized that he actually throws that hard, I thought it was a terrific signing by the Reds. With that kind of stuff, if Aroldis had proven to have control of his pitches, there’s no way the Reds could have acquired him. The Yankees or Red Sox would probably have outbid everyone. The Reds, and clubs in a similar financial situation, need to allocate their money to the farm system, to develop cheap talent, and take risks on free agents that the large market clubs aren’t willing to do. After Aroldis’s 6-year, $30.25 million deal expires and he’s reached his potential, then the Yankees will get him. Apparently, the Nationals felt the same way I did, since they finished 2nd in the Aroldis sweepstakes (think about Strasburg, Chapman and Bryce Harper on the same team in 3 years).

After hearing so much about Chapman’s stuff, it was frustrating to wait for him to “find it” in the minors and come up to the bigs. It was worth the wait, however, as Aroldis has been better than advertised. He’s still painfully raw, featuring only two pitches, but his role out of the bullpen has been unparalleled over the final month of the season. I don’t think he’ll be ready to start next season, and I’m okay with that.

Aroldis has been exactly what the Reds have needed late in the season. As Arthur Rhodes deteriorates with plantar fasciitis, Aroldis filled in, before the void even developed. Statistically, the Reds have had around the 12th best bullpen in baseball this year. I don’t care about that number, because Aroldis hasn’t been around all season. In October, there may not be a better bullpen throwing every game than Aroldis Chapman, Nick Masset and, gulp, Francisco Cordero.

I hate to use this cliché, but I’m going to do it. I can’t believe I actually think it’s valid. When Aroldis enters a ballgame from the bullpen, an almost tangible energy is immediately infused to the game. The number 1 reason to watch the Phillies and Reds in the NLDS is for Aroldis Chapman. He’ll change the energy as you watch the game on your couch, and it’s incredible what he’ll do to a game you’re actually attending (I was present at the Reds game when they clinched).

If you’re the type of person that believes a great defensive play to end an inning can spark the offense in the following half inning, Aroldis can do this to the 10th degree. He’ll enter stagnant, regular season games in Cincinnati and a few times, the Reds scored runs in their subsequent at-bat. His energy and talent isn’t just exciting for the fans, his teammates have never seen this either.

Up till now, Aroldis has not gone longer than 4 outs in an MLB game. I hope this role is expanded against the lefty-laden Phillies. I would love to see him go two innings Wednesday and Friday, because he has the stuff to do something legendary. Not to mention, I don’t think it’d be wise to shove Bronson out on the mound for the third time through the lefty-heavy Phils, when the Reds could easily go Aroldis, Aroldis, Masset, Cordero to close out the final four innings.

I’m a fan of baseball and I’m excited Aroldis will be in the national spotlight to try to infuse some excitement back into my favorite sport. Don’t be surprised if you end up watching a Reds game this postseason that you’ll never forget. I can only wish the rest of the Reds afford Aroldis the opportunity to do something incredible.

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