Aroldis Chapman held his first press conference with the Chicago media as a member of the Cubs this afternoon, and immediately overshadowed his debut by being dismissive of a question about the domestic violence allegations that saw the MLB suspend him for 30 days. But five hours after the press conference, it is still unclear it was because of a translation mixup, misremembering, or a genuine lack of contrition.
Two months ago, Chapman insisted that he’d done nothing wrong in an October incident wherein he allegedly choked his girlfriend and fired a gun inside his garage eight times. This afternoon, when asked about the phone call he had with Cubs President Theo Epstein and Chairman Tom Ricketts that convinced the Cubs to trade for him, Chapman said that he was sleepy when the call was made, and couldn’t recall the specifics of what was discussed. Here’s the transcript of Chapman’s translator’s responses, via The Athletic:
Can you please answer what the expectations are of you off the field? The character expectations that the team owner talked about, he specifically asked you on the phone.
“He just got here. That haven’t sit down and talked to him about that at any point. He’s just going to wait for them to sit down and talk to him. But in the meantime, he’s just going to be Aroldis Chapman and do his thing.”
“It’s been a long day, so he’s thinking. … He was sleeping when they got in the meeting with him on the phone, so he’s trying to remember what they talked about.”
The phone conversation yesterday with Mr. Ricketts was obviously important. Theo said time and time again yesterday that they would not have made the deal without talking to you. So I’m wondering if anything they said made any kind of impact on you before you came here. You’ve had some time now to think about it, if you remember anything that they said.
“He doesn’t remember right now, it’s been a long day.”
The phone call in question was a rather important one, as Theo Epstein said it convinced him to go ahead and trade for Chapman. Chapman not remembering the content of that call is concerning, and the Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh laid into Chapman for it.
However, Chapman’s dismissive answer could well have been the product of a misunderstanding between Chapman and his translator, pitching coach Henry Blanco. That’s what the Cubs said, and some Spanish speakers who listened to the interview said Chapman commented about stumbling over his answers because he was tired, which Blanco translated into Chapman saying he was sleeping during the phone call.
Chapman did an interview with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez in Spanish immediately afterwards, in which he addressed the conference call and his earlier misfire. Here’s what he told Gomez:
Where are you today, compared to October, regarding the controversy?
“I’ve grown tremendously from that time. I’m with my girlfriend still, with the family, and I feel that I have absolutely changed as a person. I’m working to be a better person. And now that I remember because they just asked me in the previous press conference what the owners asked me, one of the things they did ask me was about being a better person and being a better neighbor to people. And that’s something that I think that I am now, much more so.”
Chapman told Gomez that he “blanked” when he had to answer the question in front of the amassed media. That could have been a byproduct of the translation troubles, or Cubs PR could have quickly instructed him to give a better answer to Gomez. The whole situation is murky, one of many which occur in baseball because players are often speaking in a second language, or speaking through a non-professional translator. But it’s also worth noting—whether or not he remembered speaking to Epstein—that Chapman expressed little remorse for an incident in which his girlfriend accused him of hitting and choking her, and said that he had no plans to speak out against domestic violence or work with any local programs.