32° Good Evening
32° Good Evening
SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

For Aroldis Chapman, meltdowns now the norm

Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees reacts after surrendering

Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees reacts after surrendering a ninth-inning, two-run home run to Amed Rosario of the Mets at Yankee Stadium on  Aug. 15, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac


Four more years.

That’s what’s left on Aroldis Chapman’s contract with the Yankees, who will owe him $65 million over that period.

Seems like a long time, right? But look at it this way.

That gives the Yankees until 2021 to straighten him out. And they’re going to need every minute of those years, because the Yankees’ closer, in almost every aspect, is a lost cause.

We’re just wondering how much more of a mental throttling his oversized ego can take after the Red Sox worked him over again Friday night in the Yankees’ 9-6 loss at Fenway Park. Not only did Joe Girardi summon Chapman for the eighth inning, already down 7-6, but the crowd relentlessly taunted him – “CHAAAPman, CHAAAPman” — as runners ran behind him with impunity.

Rookie Rafael Devers, who stung him with a tying homer in the ninth inning last Sunday, led off by smacking a 99-mph fastball into rightfield, with a casual ease as if he were playing Wiffle Ball in the backyard. Then came a walk to Christian Vazquez, and with Chapman completely ignoring the runners, they executed a double steal.

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s two-run single whipped Fenway into a frenzy again, and when Chapman failed to back up the plate on the play, Girardi made a statement before uttering a word when he visited the mound himself. That was done to get the pitcher’s attention, because nothing else seemed to work.

“That frustrates . . . ,” Girardi said before stopping. “You got to be there.”

Girardi was annoyed that Chapman was oblivious to everything else around him, which is inexcusable. Pitchers get hit, even a guy that throws 100 mph. But with Chapman seemingly checking out mentally, that doesn’t fly, and nothing seems able to snap him out of this funk.

In the past week, Chapman has allowed home runs to a pair of rookies who never faced him before — Devers and the Mets’ Amed Rosario. After Rosario’s blast Tuesday night, Chapman crouched behind the mound, his back to the plate, stuck in that position for a while.

We thought that was rock bottom. But things got worse Friday night, even after Girardi chose to use him for the eighth inning and save David Robertson for the closer’s role. That backfired badly. In a spot designed to help fix Chapman, it further broke him, and this one left a mark.

That’s now three straight outings in which Chapman has allowed two earned runs — the first time that has happened in his career. Against the Red Sox this season, he has a 9.95 ERA and 2.68 WHIP. He’s practically giving away the AL East singlehandedly.

“In my career, I’ve been through difficult situations,” Chapman said through his translator. “This definitely is the hardest one. But I’m pretty sure I will bounce back.”

Pretty sure? The Yankees thought they were buying a guarantee for $86 million, and Chapman, right now, is the furthest thing from that. Girardi had us believing that maybe Chapman could solve his problems while saving games, but this weekend at Fenway evidently is too big a stage for that, with too much at stake. With Dellin Betances unavailable, Girardi kept Robertson in his pocket and crossed his fingers on Chapman.

When Girardi was asked if he could go even lower leverage to correct Chapman, so as to ease the mental burden, he scoffed at the notion. “Bring him in the fourth, the fifth?” Girardi said. “I brought him in the eighth and we were losing. He’s a guy that needs to pitch in the back end and get it right.”

After Tuesday’s meltdown, Chapman was at his locker immediately, still wearing his pinstriped uniform as he spoke to the media minutes after the final out. But not Friday night. Chapman didn’t face reporters until more than an hour after the loss. The frustration is obvious, and understandable.

“It’s hard to pinpoint and say one thing,” he said, “because physically I feel really, really good.”

That’s something. But not anywhere near enough.

New York Sports