What the Hal were you thinking?

Fifteen years ago, then-Boston Red Sox President Larry Lucchino famously dubbed the New York Yankees the “Evil Empire.” They had just outbid his Sox for Cuban reliever Jose Contreras, again flexing their muscles as the economic powerhouse of Major League Baseball. The rivalry was alive and well.

Sadly, with the likes of Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez all retired, the rivalry has all but fizzled out. In truth, there is little present reason for Boston fans to hate the hated Yankees. Alas, leave it to a Steinbrenner to change that.

In an interview with USA Today, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner (son of George) spoke about star closer Aroldis Chapman, whom the Yankees signed to a record 5-year, $86 million contract this offseason. Chapman’s talent and cannon of an arm are indisputable. His character? A bit more iffy.

On October 30th, 2015, Chapman fired multiple gunshots in his garage during a heated argument with his girlfriend, choking and pushing her. At the beginning of the 2016 season, Chapman become the first MLB player punished under the league’s new Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy. He sat out the first 30 games of the season with the Yankees. Then, of course, he went on to win the World Series with Chicago and receive the largest contract ever for a relief pitcher, returning to New York. Go figure.

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Aroldis Chapman pitching for the Yankees in 2016.

“Quite frankly it was manageable the minute he got here last year,’’ Hal Steinbrenner said last week. “He was great. Look, he admitted he messed up. He paid the penalty. Sooner or later, we forget, right? That’s the way we’re supposed to be in life. He did everything right, and said everything right, when he was with us.’’

Excuse me. “Sooner or later, we forget”? Did I read that correctly?

Look, I am all for repentance. Everyone makes mistakes, and we all deserve second chances in life. Chapman accepted his suspension, said all the right things, and has been well-behaved since the incident. But that does not mean we forget what happened.

After receiving much-deserved flack for his comments, Steinbrenner insisted that he was misquoted. “I thought I said ‘forgive,’” he clarified. “We forgive. That’s what we do– forgive.”

Too little, too late, Hal.

It is no secret that domestic violence is a serious issue in professional sports. The MLB has handled its cases much better than the National Football League. But regardless of the circumstances, the sport, or the punishment, a crime is a crime.

As Steinbrenner said, Chapman has rebounded. He’s been a better role model of late. He apologized, accepted his punishment, and moved on. As a franchise, the Yankees have the right to honor Chapman’s behavioral transformation and reward his on-field dominance. Money talks. But to claim that the passing of time is sufficient means for forgiveness is a separate animal. If time is all it takes to move past indefensible acts of violence, then Steinbrenner should give Aaron Hernandez and OJ Simpson a call and see if they want to suit up for his Yankees.

It has been a long time since the Yankees have given rival fans reason to hate them. The main figures of the Evil Empire have been replaced, and the competitive energy between the Red Sox and Yankees seems to have faded. But thanks to Hal Steinbrenner and his insensitive comments, this Red Sox fan has a whole new reason to look down upon the Yanks. And the season has not even started…

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