Bauer isn’t quite off the hook at last

Trevor Bauer

He may not face prospects of prison, but Trevor Bauer—shown in the visitors’ dugout at San Francisco’s Oracle Park—isn’t quite off the whole hook yet.

Please note very carefully the language of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office when announcing Trevor Bauer won’t face criminal charges in the sexual assault/domestic violence case that cost him half the 2021 season. “After a thorough review of all the available evidence,” the statement says, “including the civil restraining order proceedings, witness statements and the physical evidence, the People are unable to prove the relevant charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Those words mean Bauer simply won’t face a criminal prosecution, never mind that he doesn’t face the prospect of time behind bars. Those words don’t say the evidence is false as much as they say getting a criminal conviction at trial would be tougher than hitting an outside slider over the center field fence. But Bauer isn’t off the hook entirely, so far as the law and the courts are concerned.

He’s off the criminal hook, but the victim who obtained a temporary restraining order against him last June could still decide to hit back with a civil lawsuit. Such has happened in cases far more grave. Over a quarter century ago, a botched criminal murder trial didn’t prevent the family of one of O.J. Simpson’s victims from suing him and winning.

So far as Major League Baseball is concerned, Bauer could still face serious discipline from commissioner Rob Manfred, who isn’t bound by a lack of criminal charges from exercising baseball’s domestic violence policies and punishments. Neither are the Dodgers.

They may have said formally that they won’t comment publicly until MLB’s investigation is done, but it doesn’t mean they can’t cut ties with him when it’s done. They can terminate Bauer’s deal if he “fail[ed], refuse[d] or neglect[ed] to conform his personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship and good sportsmanship or to keep himself in first-class physical condition or to obey the club’s training rules.”

When Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Dianna Gould-Saltman lifted the original temporary restraining order, last August, you may remember, she ruled that Bauer’s victim was “not ambiguous about wanting rough sex in [their] . . . first encounter and wanting rougher sex in the second encounter.” But the victim was anything except ambiguous when testifying in court that she drew a line, in effect, between agreed-upon rough sex and unwanted assault.

I say again that you wish only that Gould-Saltman explained how the victim was supposed to keep making her boundaries clear, or to stop Bauer from crossing them further, when she was in dreamland after Bauer choked her unconscious with her own hair in the first place.

Bauer’s legal beagles mulcted inconsistencies from her then that spoke, as former NBC Sports analyst Craig Calcaterra wrote for Cup of Coffee at the time, “to secondary and surrounding matters—how she reacted to the assault—and not at all to the assault itself . . . What Bauer’s attorneys did not do at all was discredit the central claim that he assaulted her in horrible ways.”

Maybe that makes it harder for the accuser to recover any money from him in a civil suit. Maybe that makes a prosecutor less likely to bring a criminal claim against Bauer for fear of the case being difficult. But the central truth of this entire affair—the stuff that Major League Baseball will look to regarding Bauer’s behavior, irrespective of whether charges are brought—points pretty clearly to Bauer doing exactly what his accuser said he did. Everything else is secondary.

After 12 hours of testimony, his accuser said, under oath, “I did not consent to bruises all over my body that sent me to the hospital and having that done to me while I was unconscious.” There was zero evidence presented which explained how those bruises appeared in a way that was benign or refuted the idea that the woman was unconscious when Bauer inflicted them. That, in my mind, is all that matters.

While baseball nation grappled with the Bauer ramifications, the Nationals found themselves facing a domestic violence issue when infielder Starlin Castro faced domestic violence charges but wasn’t yet suspended or even placed on “administrative leave.” Nats general manager Mike Rizzo made it as plain as a line single when talking to reporters then: “The process is the process. You asked the question, ‘Do I plan on having Starlin Castro back?’ and I said I do not plan on having him back.”

Rizzo even held a meeting with his players and laid down the law: “it’s unacceptable and it’s zero tolerance here and I don’t care how good of a player you are, it’s zero tolerance and we’re just not going to put up with it.” And they didn’t. The moment Castro was hit with a thirty-day suspension, the Nats said publicly they’d release him the moment his suspension ended. On 3 September they made good on that promise.

Nobody says the Dodgers are thrilled over Bauer’s misbehaviours, but it’s hard to forget team president Stan Kasten telling reporters what he advised manager Dave Roberts after Bauer was put on the first of his renewed administrative leaves last July: “I told him they’re going to talk about Trevor Bauer. Just say, ‘Can we please talk about foreign substances?'” That got nothing but a terrible look for the Dodgers and a public rebuke from Manfred.

The Dodgers haven’t yet said whether domestic violence is zero tolerance, they’re just not going to put up with it, they do not plan on having Bauer back, and as soon as they know whether Bauer will receive a full MLB suspension—whether it’s retroactive to time served on administrative leave or new time to serve—they’ll prepare his release for the moment the suspension officially expires.

Maybe it was easier for the Nats because Castro was almost at the end of a two-year deal when he got drydocked. Bauer is in the middle of a three-year deal, signed when the worst the Dodgers knew of him was that he was a mere misogynist. The Dodgers are on the hook for $32 million in 2022 and 2023 each, unless Bauer opts out at the end of the 2022 season and elects free agency. But Rizzo still looked far more decisive, and sounded far more emphatic, than the Dodgers have done so far.

“[Y]ou’ve heard me say it a million times, that [we prefer] you read about our guys in the Sports section and not the other sections,” Rizzo said amidst the Castro flap. “And this time we failed. I’m responsible for the players that I put on our roster and on the field.” That’s called owning it emphatically, and doing something about it decisively.

Businesses with or without public transmission can and do discipline employees often enough over off-the-job misconduct that won’t necessarily put them behind bars and isn’t half as grotesque, never mind abusive and injurious. There’s no such thing as an absolute, God-given “right” to particular employment in a particular business or profession.

A predilection for consensual rough sex is one thing. Each to his and her own. But punching an unconsious woman in the poontang and bruising her enough to require hospital attention, while she’s in no position to say yes, no, stop, or don’t-even-think-about-it, isn’t just unaligned to being a good citizen or sportsman. It’s unaligned to being human.

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