When will it be “practical” to decide about Bauer?

Trevor Bauer

The Dodgers must decide whether to re-admit pitcher Trevor Bauer after what’s still the longest suspension a player’s served for violating baseball’s domestic abuse/sexual assault/child abuse policy.

From the moment Trevor Bauer’s suspension was lifted, I’ve waited for the Dodgers—who said when informed of the lifting that they would comment “as soon as practical”—to decide when it would be practical. Almost twelve days later, I’m still waiting.

At which point, I wonder along with (I’m sure) scores of others, would a team with omelette all over its face over a player signing that turned upside down from the player’s own doings decide it was “practical” to be done with them, and him?

Bauer was suspended, recall, for violating the joint policy on domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse to which baseball’s government and the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed in 2015. That was after Bauer missed 99 games on paid administrative leave in 2021.

The original suspension was 324 games. Bauer appealed, and arbitrator Martin F. Scheinman reduced it to 194. Essentially, Scheinman called it time served. It still remains the longest such suspension served under the policy. Longer than the single full season for which then-Twins relief pitcher Sam Dyson was suspended over domestic violence against his former girlfriend.

The Dodgers were handed fourteen days to decide whether to keep or cut Bauer. Surely Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke wasn’t the only one to say, “It should only take them fourteen seconds.” They had far longer than that to think and plan for the prospect of Bauer’s reinstatement. They may yet use the entire 1,209,600 seconds worth to decide.

That would satisfy the contingency to whom Bauer is actually innocent on no grounds further than that the Los Angeles County District Attorney elected against filing criminal charges against the righthander almost a year ago. That contingency won’t be satisfied fully, alas, until Bauer is suited up in a Dodger uniform again.

But it’s worth a reminder that electing not to file such charges doesn’t mean “not guilty,” it means only that the D.A.’s office believed getting a criminal conviction would be difficult, not that it believed the evidence was false or non-existent. It’s also worth a reminder that the MLB/MLBPA joint policy enables baseball’s commissioner to suspend players believed or found violating the policy regardless of any criminal charges, court trial, or trial conviction.

The commissioner’s office investigated Bauer starting in 2021, after a San Diego woman accused him of taking rough sex far too far into assault during two encounters and obtained a restraining order against Bauer that was lifted in due course. But almost a year ago, two other women told the Washington Post they, too, had been victimised by Bauer while taking rough sex too far into assault; hence, the suspension.

When the first victim’s restraining order was lifted, it followed hearings in which Bauer’s attorneys isolated inconsistencies in her based on secondary items, but—as Cup of Coffee writer Craig Calcaterra observed—the woman’s central claim of terrible assault wasn’t discredted even once.

“[T]he 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,” Calcaterra wrote.

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. (Emphasis added.)

After Scheinman ended the suspension, Calcaterra tweeted, “[W]hen Bauer fanboys try to claim his reinstatement as some sort of victory or vindication, remember: Bauer has been adjudged to be the worst sexual assault offender in Major League Baseball in the era of the Joint Policy. Worse than anyone else.”

Before the Dodgers signed him to a three-year, $102 million contract as a free agent, Bauer was merely problematic and known concurrently as a misogynist. It should have put the Dodgers into more powerful due diligence mode when pondering his signing. Such a failure puts one in mind of Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog’s observation (in You’re Missin’ a Great Game), “Does a [player] with personal problems and holes in his game merit that kind of money? . . . Off the field, will his PR kick you in the ass?”

Bauer’s PR has kicked the Dodgers in the ass, the head, the spine, and the stomach,  several times over. They may have a genuine baseball need to bring him back to their pitching staff, but they have a far more serious human need not to bring him back.

It’s grotesque enough when a ballplayer loses it after a bad game or a bad season and takes it out violently (physical, psychological, both) on his wife or significant other. What should we call it when a player faces domestic violence discipline not because he lost his temper but because he didn’t know or care where the line between consent and abuse is drawn when practising rough sex?

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. 

Bauer’s deal would pay him $32 million for 2023 regardless of whether he suits up to pitch for the Dodgers, minus fifty games’ pay Scheinman docked him when ending the suspension. “By releasing him,” Plaschke wrote, “they will owe him his final year’s salary minus those fifty games, but it will be the best $22.5 million they ever spent.”

It would also begin sending two long overdue messages. One is the message that the common good of the game can’t stop at making money for or in it. The other is the message not sent when players suspended under the domestic abuse/sexual assault/child abuse policy are readmitted to their teams, or signed by new teams, without more than perfunctory, boilerplate apologies:

If you’re a domestic or sexual or child abuser, you’ve lost your place in major league baseball. Such a place is a privilege, not a God-given right. Now, you have every right and every responsibility, especially, to atone for your abuse[s]. You have every right and every responsibility, especially, to rehabilitate yourself as a man, as a human being, and to earn your keep anew. You’ll deserve every credit on earth for doing that if you do. Your chance simply can’t happen in baseball any longer.

As of midnight tonight, the Dodgers will have 259,200 seconds to decide. It adds up to about 1,209,599 seconds more than they should have had to decide.

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