Once one of the most disliked players in all of baseball by Pittsburgh Pirates fans, reliever Aroldis Chapman will now look to be a key cog in the team's bullpen
The Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds have a rivalry those goes back decades. Ever since the battles of the Lumber Company and the Big Red Machine in the 1970s, the two franchises have seemingly loathed each other.
In the 2010s, the rivalry once again reached a fever pitch. After all, this was a period in time during which both clubs made multiple postseason berths, were frequently battling each other for positioning in the National League Central and NL Wild Card Races, and, of course, they squared off in the postseason for the 2013 NL Wild Card Game.
One of the players at the center of this rivalry was then Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman. From his antics on the field, highlighted, if that's the word you want to use for it, by intentionally throwing a 100+ MPH fastball at Andrew McCutchen's head in 2012 to being a dominant closer who was frustration to face, Chapman was not liked by Pirate fans.
There were many battles between the Pirates and Reds from the time Chapman became a full-time major leaguer in 2011 through 2015 that he was at the center of. Not all were bad for the Pirates, though. Many fans fondly remember the team's improbable rally against the Reds and Chapman in a 2012 game led by unlikely heroes Michael McKenry and Clint Barmes.
The dislike for Chapman extended past his time with the Reds. During the summer of 2016, he was acquired by the Chicago Cubs, another NL Central rival, for their postseason push. Well, the acquisition of Chapman paid off as he helped pitch the Cubs to their first World Series victory in over 100 years, the first of two World Series rings for Chapman.
It's safe to say that no one reading this ever imagined they would see Chapman in a Pirate uniform. Sure, it will be weird. It may be even more difficult to root for him with his track record of head hunting, not to mention his domestic violence issues that led to a 30-game suspension in 2016.
All of that said, hopefully Chapman can pitch well for the Pirates and pair with David Bednar to lock down a lot of games. If Chapman does that, then the Pirates should have one of the best bullpens in the NL. Hell, even without Chapman this bullpen may have been one of the best in the NL.
Even if this bullpen does not help lead the team to a winning record and contending, with the current state of the starting rotation the bullpen may not be given very many leads to protect, Chapman pitching well would turn him into great trade bait in July. Teams would be willing to pay up for a reliever with Chapman's stuff, pedigree, and experience.
But at the end of the day, Aroldis Chapman is now a Pittsburgh Pirate. That is certainly a sentence I never thought I'd type.