Two relief tales from . . .

Two relief pitchers will miss postseason time thanks to circumstances unrelated to play on the field. One will miss the rest of his team’s postseason, however long it lasts, thanks to a self-inflicted injury. The other will miss his team’s postseason and say goodbye to that team. Neither man’s postseason had to end this way.

Astros reliever Phil Maton broke a bone in his right pinkie after his appearance in the team’s final regular season game. He’d surrendered two hits plus the only two runs the Phillies scored in that finale, and he was unamused, understandably. What wasn’t so understandable was Maton punching his locker in frustration.

Lockers aren’t any more forgiving that outfield walls or pitchers’ mounds when it comes to human flesh and bone piledriving into them. It doesn’t matter whether the flesh and bone combination is 20, 22, or 29 years old, the latter being Maton’s age. Those stiff, hard, stationary structures can do more damage to their attackers than Muhammad Ali did to his when answering a right cross.

Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman had annoyed his team already with an injury from a tattoo he acquired, costing him almost a month’s worth of time over August and September, never mind that prudence and his team overseers probably couldn’t convince him to wait until winter vacation to think about another work of body art.

But Chapman’s decline this season prompted his replacement as the Yankees’ closer and, apparently, didn’t sit well with the howitzer, either. Thus did he fume about his demotion until Friday last, when the Yankees conducted a team workout preparing for the division series with what proved to be the Guardians. (Their first place finish rewarded the Yankees with a wild card series bye under the new, dubious postseason system.)

Chapman had told the team he’d be there. Until he wasn’t. To put things kindly, Yankee general manager Brian Cashman was far less amused than was Maton to have handed the Phillies a pair of hits and runs:

It was surprising at first, a little shocking, but after the shock wore off, when you add everything up, it’s not surprising. There’s some questions about whether he’s been in all-in or not for a little while. He’s maintained verbally that he’s in, but at times, actions don’t match those words.

Maton knew at once he’d been a damn fool. “It was a short-sighted move,” he told the press after that game, “and, ultimately, it was selfish. It’s one of those things that I hope doesn’t affect our team moving forward.”

He may be fortunate that the Astros have someone to step in. The Astros may be more fortunate. Bryan Abreu’s fielding-independent pitching rate for 2022 is 2.12, against Maton’s 4.33 FIP. It won’t parole Maton from the Dumbass Zone just because his absence may actually have done the Astros a small favour.

Cashman merely fined Chapman for his absence. He left the roster decision up to manager Aaron Boone. Boone wasted very little time in removing Chapman, despite the Yankee bullpen overall being in questionable enough shape as it was before it lost stretch-drive comer Scott Effross to forthcoming Tommy John surgery.

“I think he questioned whether or not he was going to be on the roster or not,” the manager told a reporter. “But he needed to be here . . . I think there’s a chance he absolutely could have been [on the roster]. We’re still actually getting ready to start those conversations now. He may have been. It’s a moot point now.”

The Yankees told Chapman—whose once-vaunted fastball still had the speed of light but wasn’t exactly invulnerable any longer, not with his 2022 marks of a 4.46 ERA and a 4.57 FIP—to go home to Florida for the division series.

That’s the official word. Unofficially, the word comes forth that, in effect, they’ve told him they’re not terribly inclined to think about bringing him back after he hits free agency this winter. Not with Clay Holmes having emerged as an All-Star reliever and the Yankees’ number one closing option.

It may be lucky for Maton that the Astros may not be injured (oops) by his absence as their postseason gets underway. (The AL West ogres, too, earned a round-one bye under the new system and will tangle with the pleasantly surprising Mariners in their division series.) They can absorb his D.Z. moment and hope he’s learned or re-learned something about self-control.

It’s anything but lucky for Chapman that the Yankees would have needed him to stay all in and step up as big as he could with most of the Yankee pen now in shambles. Holmes (shoulder strain) and Wandy Peralta (a back issues) are back for the division series, but Zack Britton (arm fatigue), Chad Green (Tommy John surgery), Michael King (elbow fracture), and Ron Marinaccio (shin injury) aren’t.

Chapman isn’t any D.Z. non-entity, of course. Not with his domestic violence history that caused enough people to question why the Yankees traded for him (from the Reds), traded him away (to the Cubs, for key contributor Gleyber Torres), then re-signed him in the first place, all within the same year.

When a howitzer that can fire 100+ mph shells gets a pass from domestic violence but finally runs around over an injury from an elective act and, then, shenks a team workout atop a questionable attitude as they prepare for a postseason, something seems badly imbalanced there. It might begin with a 34-year-old who still displays often enough the mind of a four-year-old.

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