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And He Appeared, And His Name Was Aroldis

Don't forget where you were on the last day of August, 2010. Make certain you remember exactly where you were, what you did, the exact temperature outside, and exactly what you had for breakfast. In the words of Smokey from Friday: "Remember it, write it down, take a picture, I don't give a f---!!!!" Do what you need to do, but just make sure you remember August 31st, 2010, because it is the day that is etched in history as the day He changed Cincinnati. On August 31st, 2010, history was made.


That's right, I'm buying into the hype. How can you not??? Yes, he's only pitched two innings in his major league career. Yes, he will eventually be moved to the rotation, a transition that could come with a slew of problems. And yes, there is always the possibility of injury. But I mean…DID YOU SEE HIM PITCH? His fastballs were lighting bolts and his sliders were boomerangs. He hit 98 mph as he was loosening up. And there is no one, NO ONE on the planet that can throw 105. No one, that is, except Aroldis Chapman. I am tempted to just rant and rave at this point about what a coup this guy was for the Reds, and about how I am not at all ashamed to say that a peed myself a little bit every time he unleashed one of those downright filthy-dirty-nasty sliders for strike three. But there are a few more factors in play here that made Chapman's debut absolutely remarkable.


First, maybe my own eyes were playing tricks on me, but I think there is a case to be made here that even the UMPIRES had a hard time seeing his fastball. Without employing the use of Slow-Mo or Fox Trax or any other technology, I am fairly certain that at least two of Chapman's pitches that were called strikes were, in fact, out of the strike zone. That includes his first major league pitch. Again, I could be wrong here, but I thought that ball was a bit outside. Regardless, it was called a strike, and there was a similar pitch in Chapman's second outing that I thought SURE would be called a ball, yet the ump wrung the guy up. In short, I seriously think that Chapman is so good and throws so freakin' hard that even the umps are going to sometimes have to guess. And I'd be surprised if those judgment calls go against a guy with this much hype, this much fanfare, and the overall command he has shown in his first two appearances. No ump wants to be the guy that is squeezin' the phenom.


Secondly, speaking of his command…WOW. Here, we have a guy who reportedly has more talent than most pitchers in the world, but could be undone because he just cannot throws strikes. A guy who has wallowed in second place in the holy-sh!t-this-guy-is-better-than-anyone-else sweepstakes (behind that kid from DC) because of his inability to find the strike zone with a map. Never mind that his fastball moves faster than a hummingbird's wings. Never mind that when he uncorks a slider people AT HOME dive for cover. And never mind that he is so tall, so long, and pitches at such a perfect arm angle that it is almost impossible to pick up the ball until it's either breaking the catcher's hand or smashing your helmet to bits. Doesn't matter, because he can't harness his nastiness, so he'll never get anyone out.


Oops.


In his first outing, Chapman was SPOT. ON. 11 pitches, eight for strikes. And the other three were pretty gosh-darn close. And his second outing? More of the same. Straight up domination. So, to return to my original point, I submit to you that Tuesday was a historic day for Cincinnati, and for Ohio sports fans everywhere. Mark Tuesday in your calendars as the day that Aroldis Chapman, a 22-year old Cuban defector, arrived in Cincinnati as THE most talented Ohio sports figure of your lifetime. Now, some will read that statement and be put off. Some might even stop reading right there and never return to Redsmix. Indeed, it seems, on its face, to be quite a bold claim. After all, Ohio fans have cheered on the likes of Jim Brown, Archie Griffin, Pete Rose, etc. (And, most recently, a dude from Akron who's name is escaping me, probably because for as much of a success he is at his chosen profession, he is just as much (read: much more) of an utter failure at all other aspects of life, especially those that require loyalty, honor, or respect). However, as great as all those guys were in their own right (and they were GREAT), and as fantastic as their careers were, can you honestly say that any started with more TALENT than TCM (The Cuban Missile)??? Aroldis Chapman is (to our knowledge) the only person on EARTH that can throw 105 miles per hour. Can any of our other sports heroes claim to be the ONLY one on the planet to be able to do something? I would submit that they couldn't.


Yes, it is probable that Chapman will not have the career that guys like Brown, Griffin, Rose, and Reds heroes like Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, and even Barry Larkin had. Why? Because Hall of Fame careers just don't come along that often, and there are always factors that stand in the way. However, even as an Ohio sports fan that for over 20 years has marveled at guys like Larkin, Eric Davis, Boomer Esiason, Eddie George, etc., I felt differently Tuesday night as I watched Chapman pitch. Heck, even as recently as two years ago, myself and other Ohio fans had the privilege of watching Beanie Wells absolutely TRAMPLE people every Saturday, if he wasn't running around them or jumping over them. There were times watching Beanie where I couldn't believe my eyes, and all I could do was laugh. But even so, I can honestly say that watching Chapman was different.


I've literally never seen 105 light up on a scoreboard. And, while Chapman didn't quite get there this week (he topped out at 103.9, officially) the mere POSSIBILITY of that happening had me on the edge of my seat, hanging on every single herk and jerk of his windup, waiting to see how foolish he would make the hitter look. There is no doubt in my mind that Chapman will hit 105 this year. None, whatsoever. That's how easy it looks for him when he is gradually hitting 103 by the 7th or 8th pitch. There will come a time this season (and maybe it will be this weekend versus the Cards….a man can dream!) when Chapman will get in some kind of trouble, and he will need to reach back for a little bit extra. And when that scoreboard lights up with 105, or even higher, we will be seeing something that, as Reds fans, we have NEVER seen. I don't know about you, but just like Tuesday, when that day comes it will be something I will never forget.

Reed Domer-Shank 9-3-2010

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