CORAL GABLES, Fla. — New York Yankees principal owner Hal Steinbrenner says he gave careful consideration before approving the trade for embattled closer Aroldis Chapman, and warned the public Wednesday not to pre-judge him before Major League Baseball’s investigation concludes.
“In this country where allegations are brought against a person,’’ Steinbrenner said in his first public comments on Chapman, “that person is completely innocent until proven otherwise. Not the other way around. I think we should keep that in mind right now.’’
Steinbrenner understands the concern and threats of protests against the Yankees for acquiring Chapman, who allegedly choked his girlfriend and fired eight bullets into his garage on Oct. 30 in an argument with his girlfriend and mother of his child.
MLB’s domestic violence policy also stipulates it could discipline Chapman even in the absence of criminal charges.
He said he took it all under consideration before approving the deal with the Cincinnati Reds.
“Look, I put a lot of thought into it,’’ Steinbrenner said of the Dec. 28 trade. “Any trade where I’m giving up four prospects — a couple of which are really decent prospects — I put a lot of thought into it. …
“Obviously, as a player, he’s tremendous. We looked at him in July at the trade deadline. … A lot of thought was put into it. But the benefits for the organization as a player, if you look at the baseball side of it, is tremendous upside, needless to say.”
York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito publicly said she would consider boycotting Yankee games after the deal because of the domestic violence charge.
“It’s very disturbing,” Mark-Viverito said, in an interview with POLITICO New York. “I think it was really wrong of the Yankees to have signed this guy on. We all want the Yankees to do well, but at the expense of what? And I think considering the allegations — and they’re being investigated — that this was the wrong move. …
“We know that the issue of violence against women has been highlighted through the NFL and other incidents but at some point, a position has to be made and I think, in some ways, it’s condoning this kind of violence, to bring him on as part of this team.”
There were no charges brought against Chapman, but Major League Baseball launched an investigation in December that is continuing.
“I understand it is a very sensitive subject, as rightfully so,’’ Steinbrenner said at the quarterly owners’ meetings, “but we just have to wait and see. It’s a touchy subject, but again, a man is innocent proven guilty.’’