NASHVILLE — Dusty Baker addressed Winter Meetings media Tuesday, his renowned (and, usually, beloved) candor on display as he joked and opined about a variety of topics. But when he was asked about Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, who is accused of domestic violence after allegedly choking his girlfriend in October, Baker caused controversy with his defense of his former player and comments on the larger issue.
Baker managed Chapman from the day he came up with the Reds in 2010 until 2013, and when asked about Chapman as a person Tuesday, he gushed.
“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,” Baker said. “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.”
Baker said he didn’t read the reports about Chapman, just heard about the trouble from his son. Based on what little he knew about the situation, he avoided judgment.
“I mean, who’s to say the allegations are true, number one,” Baker said. “And who’s to say what you would have done or what caused the problem.”
Major League Baseball recently implemented a domestic violence policy, and Baker answered unequivocally that he thought that was a good thing. He elaborated.
“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,” Baker said.
“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 mama 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 mama.’ It’s a bad situation. I learned that young, but a lot of people maybe didn’t learn that.”
Still, his thoughts on Chapman caused a stir online.
Dusty Baker just pretty much read the men's rights manfesto in a very brief press conference, it seems.
— Lindsay Gibbs (@linzsports) December 8, 2015
Dusty Baker issues an apology for saying something just this side of "Who knows? Maybe she was asking for it?" in 3…2…
— Matt Lindner (@mattlindner) December 8, 2015
Baker later clarified those thoughts to MLB Network Radio — comments Nationals PR later emailed around to beat reporters — saying, “There’s no way I would ever condone domestic violence. No way … We gotta stop it, big time. I’m hoping that [Chapman] is innocent.”
After the conference, Baker’s comments on the importance of speed in baseball also earned uproar on Twitter and several online outlets.
“You’re always in need of left-handed pitching, left-handed hitting, and in need of speed. I think that’s the number one thing that’s missing, I think, in the game is speed,” Baker said. “You know, with the need for minorities, you can help yourself — you’ve got a better chance of getting some speed with Latin and African Americans. I’m not being racist. That’s just how it is.”
Some more of the aforementioned uproar:
Dusty Baker should probably avoid speaking extemporaneously on sensitive topics.
— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) December 8, 2015
at least this is the end of "actually, dusty baker is good"
— Malcolm Pierce (@RedbirdMenace) December 8, 2015