Dusty Baker touched on a number of topics in his wide-ranging press conference this afternoon at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, TN, but nothing (with one exception maybe) got as much traction as the Washington Nationals' manager's comments on Aroldis Chapman, his closer when Baker managed the Cincinnati Reds.
According to a report published last night by Yahoo!Sports.com's Tim Brown and Jeff Passan, Chapman was involved in a domestic dispute a few months back:
"Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman allegedly fired eight gunshots in the garage of his Miami-area home following an October argument with his girlfriend in which she told police he 'choked' her and pushed her against a wall, according to police reports obtained by Yahoo Sports."
Given their shared history, Baker was asked for his thoughts on the report, which he said clearly that he did not read.
Q: Dusty, you had Aroldis Chapman when he broke into the majors. What was that process like? Were you surprised by the report?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't believe reports. Who knows why? I'm not one to judge on how the whole thing happened.
Q: What do you know about the guy?
DUSTY BAKER: Oh, he's a heck of a guy. I mean, a heck of a guy. I'll go on record and say I wouldn't mind having Chapman. No, no, he is a tremendous young man with a great family, mom and dad, and what he went through to get here and what his family had to go through to get here. I was with him through the whole process.
There was a couple times when I had to stop him from quitting or going back to Cuba because he was lonely for his family. So I went through a lot of stuff with Chapman. I got nothing but love for the young man.
Q: Were you surprised by -- I don't know how much you read about the allegations.
DUSTY BAKER: I didn't read it.
Q: Are you surprised that this popped up?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't read most of the stuff you guys write. No, I don't.
Q: I believe you. I didn't know if you heard anything.
DUSTY BAKER: I heard it from my son. I mean, who's to say the allegations are true, number one. And who's to say what you would have done or what caused the problem.
Q: Dusty, do you believe that it's a good thing that baseball now has a domestic policy?
DUSTY BAKER: Yes.
Q: Domestic violence policy?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah. I think it's a great thing. I mean, I got a buddy at home that's being abused by his wife. So I think this policy needs to go further than the player. I think the policy should go to whoever's involved. Sometimes abusers don't always have pants on.
I think we need to get them both in a room and try to come up with something. It's a bad situation. That's the first thing my momma told me when I was a kid. Don't hit a woman, even my sister. Man, I was like you better leave me alone before I tell my momma.
It's a bad situation. I learned that young, but a lot of people maybe didn't learn that.
Baker, in an MLB Network Radio interview after the press conference, clarified his comments, though he said he did not misspeak or slip up in what he'd said:
"I didn't make a slip, during the managerial conference down there. I said some things... well defending Chapman, the Chapman that I know. This guy, I was his first manager. I saw him through his family and coming over [from Cuba] and he was going to quit a couple times, it's tough on these guys that defect. I didn't see what happened, I didn't know what happened, but there's no way that I could imagine this happening, but you don't know what people will do or what they're capable of doing, especially under duress or anger or whatever, and there's no way that I would ever condone domestic violence. No way."
The hosts and Baker noted that it was speculation at this point and he said he didn't know what happened and was just commenting on the speculation he'd heard.
"Exactly, what's speculated, because we don't know," Baker said:
"I didn't even know. I just saw it on ESPN, the subtitles this morning, so how am I going to have an opinion on what a guy did? All I can have an opinion on is the kid that I know and like I said, especially in this modern climate that we live in, you're hearing it more and more and more and there's a great chance that it happened a whole bunch of times but it never was reported, and so we've got to stop it big time and I'm hoping that he's innocent."
The Nationals tweeted out the following as well, clipping the quotes from the MLB Network Radio interview as clarification of his comments: