The Dodgers purge Bauer at last

Trevor Bauer

Bauer’s a former Dodger at last. Would another team chance surviving his baggage and its justifiable blowback?

Almost the full two weeks from his suspension’s lifting were needed for the Dodgers to declare Trevor Bauer persona non grata in their colours. Notwithstanding a wi-fi disruption and power outage in Dodger Stadium causing its further delay Friday, the team announced they designated Bauer for assignment. Even those who believe the Dodgers did the right if delayed thing at last can’t and shouldn’t claim to be happy about this entire business.

There’s nothing happy about what one woman testifying under oath said was his bruising her after she fell unconscious and thus unable to extend any further consent. There’s nothing happy about two other women saying he’d taken rough sex too far and into plain assault upon them, too. There’s nothing happy about Bauer jeopardising if not ending a major league pitching career because his sport determined he violated its domestic violence policy.

In that order.

Arbitrator Martin Scheinman cut Bauer’s original suspension from 324 to 194 games. Even at 194 games, it remains the longest suspension yet under baseball’s seven-year-old-plus policy, and Bauer remains the only player disciplined under the policy to appeal his suspension. Baseball’s government investigated as thoroughly as conceivable before imposing the original suspension.

The Dodgers, we thought, had time enough during the suspension to decide it was time to mop the egg off their faces and let Bauer go whenever the suspension might end. We know by way of USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale that, after Scheinman reduced the suspension late last month, the Dodgers tried to find a trading partner willing to take Bauer off their hands first.

Assuming there is a team immune enough to outrage to take Bauer on willingly, such a team would likely prefer waiting for Bauer to clear waivers (it takes seven more days), then sign him to the major league minimum salary. Leaving the Dodgers still required to pay the rest of Bauer’s salary, minus the fifty games worth Scheinman docked him when lifting the suspension.

The Dodgers won’t “eat” what they still owe him. They swallowed and digested that dinner when they signed Bauer in the first place. (His original contract, like all MLB contracts, was guaranteed unless he exercised either of two opt-outs, chances his suspension denied him.) Paying him seven figures to beat it is child’s play compared to all the other head and heartaches Bauer inflicted.

Well before he was suspended by MLB, the Dodgers resembled due diligence failures for signing him despite a too-well-evidenced image as a misogynistic man no matter how good he was as a pitcher. We hark back to Dodger president of baseball operations Andrew Friendman, speaking after the Dodgers signed Bauer after the pan-damn-ically shortened 2020 season, during the press conference introducing Bauer as a Dodger. “[W]e’re all gonna make mistakes,” he said.

What’s important for me … is how we internalize it, and what our thoughts are about it going forward. From our standpoint, it was important to have that conversation. And we came away from it feeling good about it. Now, obviously, time will tell. But I feel like he is going to be a tremendous add, not just on the field but in the clubhouse, in the community, and that’s obviously why we’re sitting here.

Time, alas, told an awful lot more than Friedman or the team imagined. They chose to believe Bauer learned from prior, mere misbehaviours. He made them resemble fools. Not quite as profoundly as NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson makes the Cleveland Browns look, with 24 sexual misconduct suits against him, twenty of which were settled confidentially. But horrifying enough.

ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez cited one unnamed player agent saying “nobody’s touching” Bauer now but another unnamed player agent saying, discomfitingly, “I think there will be teams that will at least be interested.” Gonzalez also notes an unnamed team executive saying the challenge of taking Bauer on would be “unique.”

As he described, it isn’t just the stain on an organization’s reputation or the backlash from its fans or the general negativity that would surround it — it’s that Bauer hasn’t shown an ounce of contrition throughout this process. In fact, he has taken the opposite approach, fighting every allegation vehemently.

“If you sign someone with that type of baggage,” one agent noted, “you have to walk him through the reclamation tour. And I don’t think he’s coachable for that.”

Bauer himself released a statement after the Dodgers announced his DFA, posted first by the Los Angeles Times‘s Bill Shaikin:

While we were unable to communicate throughout the administrative leave and arbitration process, my representatives spoke to Dodgers leadership immediately following the arbitration decision.

Following two weeks of conversations around my return to the organization, I sat down with Dodgers leadership in Arizona yesterday who told me they wanted me to return and pitch for the team this year.

While I am disappointed by the organization’s decision today, I appreciate the wealth of support I’ve received from the Dodgers clubhouse. I wish the players all the best and look forward to competing elsewhere.

“There is zero chance whatsoever,” Craig Calcaterra of Cup of Coffee tweeted in response, “that anyone with actual decision-making authority with the Dodgers told Trevor Bauer, yesterday, that they wanted him back.” Indeed. “Dodger officials declined to go into details of their conversation,” Nightengale has written since, “but privately revealed that they didn’t hear any remorse, apologies or anything in the slightest from Bauer to change their mind.”

Gonzalez cited another unnamed team executive saying, “Some teams will just take the arm, and they’ll deal with the blowback later.” Too many have done that, in baseball and other sports. They forget playing professional sports is a privilege they can revoke for moral as well as performance cause. They forget athletes’ rights (indeed, responsibilities) to rehabilitate and redeem themselves don’t carry automatic rights to do it under their umbrellas.

They forget what Gonzalez and his ESPN colleague Jeff Passan observed when Bauer was hit with the original 324-game suspension in the first place: “The standards in criminal and civil cases differ from those of a private business. The judge dissolving the temporary restraining order and declining to issue a permanent one does not absolve Bauer of liability within the [domestic violence] policy. Neither does a prosecutor passing on pressing charges.”

They get their tails waxed in the public mind, in the press, and aboard the social media scrawl for forgetting the common good of their games doesn’t end on the scoreboard or at the bank.

Those are the parts the Nationals must have understood, without having to say so, during the 2021 season, when faced with veteran infielder Starlin Castro’s suspension for violating baseball’s domestic abuse policy. They said they’d cut Castro loose when his suspension concluded. They did just that. Castro’s full suspension was fifteen percent of what Bauer ultimately served. The Nats looked as decisive as the Dodgers didn’t look.

What time told Friedman and the Dodgers also, and especially, includes just the first known of Bauer’s victims, testifying during hearings to decide a restraining order against him. And, as Calcaterra observed, reiterating—without one word spoken by Bauer’s legal team trying to refute or discredit it—her number one charge: 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.

That, and the scars upon her psyche, are the parts no formal discipline can undo.