Bauer outage: suspended two years

Trevor Bauer

Bauer’s two-year suspension won’t ease his victims’ pain or his way back to baseball—and in that order.

In considering Trevor Bauer’s unprecedented two-season suspension Friday for violating MLB’s domestic violence protocols, under which he won’t be paid and the Dodgers will be off the hook for the rest of his salary, I can’t help harking back to something pointed out last August. That’s when Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Dianna Gould-Saltman lifted a temporary restraining order against the pitcher.

During the hearings preceding that lift, the victim in the case testified for twelve hours. Bauer’s legal team may have drawn some inconsistencies from her regarding secondary items, but as Cup of Coffee writer and former NBC Sports analyst Craig Calcaterra wrote then, they never discredited “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. (Emphasis added.)

This past February the 31-year-old righthander found himself off the purely legal hook, after Los Angeles County prosecutors decided not to press criminal charges against him. “Those words don’t say the evidence is false,” I wrote at the time, “as much as they say getting a criminal conviction at trial would be tougher than hitting an outside slider over the center field fence.”

The Dodgers knew Bauer was a mere misogynist when they signed him as a free agent in February 2021. “The Dodgers didn’t know Bauer would be accused of sexual assault,” writes Los Angeles Times columnist Dylan Hernández. “However, they knew he was always in some sort of trouble.

They knew how respected baseball people such as Kevin Towers and Terry Francona wanted nothing to do with him. They knew he sliced open his pitching hand repairing a drone.

They knew he threw a ball over the centerfield wall instead of handing it to the manager when he was taken out of a game. They knew of his online harassment campaign against a female college student . . . The question was never about whether Bauer would get into trouble; the question was about what kind of trouble he would get into.

But almost from the moment Bauer’s suspension was announced, defenders sprang up all around the social media universe to decry justice denied. He was cleared of all wrongdoing by a court of law! Well, not exactly. Wrongdoers aren’t always compelled to answer for their wrongdoing in the courts.

Employees from the most obscure clerk, warehouse worker, or line worker, to the highest-powered executives do get suspended and even fired from their jobs over wrongdoings that won’t get them into legal trouble at all, never mind prison time or fines. They are no less wrongdoings for lacking the weight of the law’s punishments.

Why would baseball suspend Bauer two full seasons if prosecutors decided they couldn’t get a criminal conviction against him? ESPN writers Alden Gonzalez and Jeff Passan asked and answered:

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 joint policy. Neither does a prosecutor passing on pressing charges.

MLB’s imposed discipline is based on its own investigation, separate from the criminal proceedings. The league’s investigation into Bauer’s case lasted 10 months. Details about MLB’s findings have not been released, but the league’s investigators considered more than just the sexual assault allegations of the San Diego woman from last year. They looked into at least one other allegation, from an Ohio woman who sought a temporary restraining order against Bauer in June of 2020, details of which were reported by the Washington Post.

Hours after Bauer’s suspension was announced, the Post published a story about another Ohio woman who accused Bauer of choking her unconscious without consent during sex on multiple occasions over the course of a relationship that dated back to 2013. Bauer strongly denied those allegations, as he did the allegations by the other women. But the two Ohio women told the Post they cooperated with the league’s investigation, and we don’t know if others were involved as well.

What kind of sex you enjoy is irrelevant so long as it’s with a fellow human and under mutual, conscious consent. What you do while your partner is unconscious and thus unable to consent any further is very relevant when you’re being investigated formally after accusations of sexual assault, whether it’s a legal investigation or one by your employer.

There are those among Bauer’s defenders who raise the question as to why it should have been Bauer and not other known domestic violence violators to be hit with a hammer as heavy as the one with which he’s been hit. (Bauer said at once he’d appeal the suspension.) That’s not an unfair question.

Among others, Yankee relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman was suspended thirty games in 2016 for choking his girlfriend and possessing a firearm he fired into a wall. Then-Cubs infielder Addison Russell was suspended forty games in 2018—after the Cubs lost the National League wild card game—for beating his now-former wife. Braves outfielder Marcel Ozuna was suspended twenty games retroactively in November 2021 over what proved to be trying to choke his wife before throwing her against a wall and hitting her with the cast on his broken left hand.

Those were letting such crimes off the hook too easily, even allowing that those players “accepted responsibility” for their acts. But then free agent reliever Sam Dyson was suspended for the entire 2021 season after his former girlfriend accused him of rape, battery, and psychological abuse.

Some of Bauer’s defenders think commissioner Rob Manfred came down heaviest upon Bauer because Bauer’s been an outspoken critic of of Manfred’s administration in the past, before his sexual assault issues came forth. A very few of those defenders even implied Bauer’s entire domestic violence issue might have been ginned up as a way to try shutting him up.

Even Manfred isn’t that foolish. You’d have to have precisely the imaginative mind Manfred lacks to forge that kind of plot just to push a particulaly outspoken critic to one side. Even if you’re a commissioner who can be accused of abuse of power. But there is a way for Manfred to show he doesn’t care what his in-game critics say or think when it comes to certain very grave matters.

Get with the Major League Baseball Players’ Association and adjust the domestic violence protocol to allow for suspending any player found violating baseball’s domestic violence policy for one full season’s worth of games minimum from now on. I phrase it that way because they won’t all come forth before a season begins, as Dyson’s did.

The bad news is that even that won’t ease their victims’ pain. But it would send forth a more powerful affirmation that baseball suffers no domestic violence benignly and that, no, Bauer wasn’t just singled out for particular punishment, for any corresponding reason.

Dyson drydocked for domestic violence

If Sam Dyson was stunned by surrendering Jose Bautista’s postseason-advancing bomb, imagine how stunned his former girlfriend was by his attacks upon her and her pet.

Until today, relief pitcher Sam Dyson was probably known best as the co-catalyst for one of the Show’s most ridiculous brawls, half a year after he surrendered the postseason home run that provoked it. Today he says goodbye to baseball 2021, having been suspended for the season for violating the Show’s domestic violence policy.

When Dyson hit free agency in November 2019, The Athletic revealed a pair of social media posts by his former girlfriend provoked a baseball government investigation. Athletic writers Ken Rosenthal and Katie Strang unearthed that her posts in which she didn’t name the assailant referenced Dyson after all.

At the time, Alexis Blackburn wrote on social media about receiving violent haranguing and objects thrown at herself and her cat. Today, Strang shared a statement from Blackburn to herself on Twitter:

I had the strength and courage to come forward so other women and victims know they aren’t alone, that this isn’t healthy, that you’re worth more than the bruises on your body and the bitch you’re referred to . . . We fought hard and we were validated by one of the largest sports organisations in the world.

The Athletic‘s initial expose included quoting Blackburn writing on the Instagram account she kept on behalf of her cat, Snuckles. “No one deserves to be intimidated, scared, worthless, and hopeless.”

Once upon a time, Dyson himself could actually be thought of as believing likewise.

We take you back to 14 October 2015, when Dyson as a Ranger squared off against Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays in Game Five, bottom of the seventh, in an American League Division Series. With two on and two out, and a 1-1 count, Dyson—himself a one-time Blue Jay—threw a fastball toward the inner half of the plate and up the middle. Uh-oh.

Bautista hit a monstrous three-run homer off the rim of the upper left field deck. Punctuated by a whirlybird of a bat flip as Bautista strode out of the box to run it out. The blast turned a three-all tie into a 6-3 Jays advantage that held up to send them to the American League Championship Series.

The worst thing Dyson did or said then was misintepret Edwin Encarnacion’s gestures calling for fans to quit throwing things around the stadium and engage in a brief argument. The second worst came after the game when he changed into his Fun Police uniform.

“Jose needs to calm that down, just kind of respect the game a little more,” Dyson told reporters afterward. “He’s a huge role model for the younger generation that’s coming up playing this game, and I mean he’s doing stuff that kids do in Wiffle ball games and backyard baseball. It shouldn’t be done.” That’s how many kids playing Wiffle ball who grow up to hit postseason-advancing skyrockets?

Fast forward now to the 2016 regular season series between the two teams.

Dyson faced Bautista in the first game of a May set between the two in Toronto. If he or the Rangers wanted a little revenge for that October blast flip, this was the time to seek it. But Dyson never once made any move against Bautista. Neither did any other Ranger—until the final game of the season between the two teams, in Arlington, 15 May 2016.

Bautista whacked a three-run double off Rangers reliever Tom Wilhelmson in the top of the sixth. The next Jays batter, Encarnacion, got drilled on the first pitch. After the Rays loaded the bases on him in the top of the seventh, Wilhelmson yielded to Matt Bush, who surrendered a sacrifice fly but nothing else to make the game 6-3, Jays.

Then Bautista led off against Bush—freshly returned to baseball after his imprisonment for manslaughter when his motorcycle ran over an elder man who subsequently forgave him for the crime—in the top of the eighth. Exactly why Bush did what he did with the first pitch still escapes, since he wasn’t even part of the Rangers organisation when Bautista hit the postseason-advancing blast.

But Bush drilled Bautista on pitch one. A fly out later, Justin Smoak grounded to third for a double play. Bautista slid hard into second baseman Rougned Odor, straight over the pad, with Odor on the relay throw looking very much like he was more interested in trying to decapitate Bautista than in finishing the double play.

“I could have injured him, but I chose not to,” Bautista said after the game. “I tried to send the message that I didn’t appreciate getting hit.” Especially not seven months after the fact, in the latest innings of the final contest between those two teams for the rest of the year, when any Ranger pitcher had six previous 2016 occasions to send Bautista a message about going interstellar and celebrating the launch so ostentatiously.

“Having failed [decapitation], and apparently ignorant of how in the wrong Bautista wasn’t,” I wrote at the time, and I haven’t changed my mind almost six years later, “Odor watched Bautista spring up preparing to defend himself, knowing Odor looked as though he had further mayhem on his mind. And then it came. First Odor shoved Bautista. Then, when Bautista extended an arm in a very obviously defensive position, Odor swung and landed that right cross.”

Just what did Odor expect to receive at second base after Bautista got drilled by Bush so late, if Bautista was given the chance—a dozen roses with a singing telegram? If your team is cowardly enough to wait until Bautista’s last possible chance to face you all year to send a seven-month-old message, you might want to consider yourself grateful that a hard slide into second base was all you got before you decided to throw a punch or two.

Both benches emptied. The umpires may have figured Bush threw the driller under orders because he wasn’t ejected, though he was fined. Odor and Bautista got ejected posthaste, with Odor getting eight games suspended plus a fine and Bautista getting one game—because the slide was illegal under the Utley Rule but nothing worse. Appropriately.

As I noted further at the time, “Funny how all the so-called ‘old schoolers’ canonizing Odor forgot Bautista answered that unwarranted plunk the old-school way. Throw at Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Willie Mays, Duke Snider, and if they got the chance on a followup grounder they’d have sliced and diced the nearest middle infielder on the play at second.”

The real-life law-enforcement Texas Rangers motto, legendarily, is: “One riot, one Ranger.” The baseball Rangers left themselves after that set with a likewise indelible image: One Ranger, one riot.

All throughout that early-year season series, up to and including the scrum Odor’s idiocy (and that of whomever ordered the hapless Bush to throw the Bautista driller) provoked, Dyson was one Ranger who behaved like a complete professional.

Somewhere along his travels to come, from the Rangers to the Giants, from the Giants to the Twins, before right shoulder capsule surgery looked to bench him for 2020, Dyson in whatever frame of mind he was decided his girlfriend deserved violent bawlings out and target practise a few too many times for her comfort and his professional good. And in that order.

His frame of mind isn’t an excuse. This isn’t a soldier or a Marine in the early grip of post-traumatic stress syndrome, having violent nightmares about the death and destruction he’s lived, trying to injure his wife while dead asleep and unaware of what he’s doing.

It’s entirely possible for couples in any kind of love, to disagree and debate without exchanging thoughts and feelings for loud, lewd insults and self-propelled objects at each other’s heads and bodies.

There are indeed worse things a man can do than surrender a monstrous, ultimately postseason series-winning home run. Dyson went from there and from professionalism in refusing to seek vengeance seven months after the fact to taking whatever out violently on his one-time girlfriend and her pet. For making them victims like that, there’s only one appropriate word.

The word is disgust.

Commissioner Rob Manfred’s statement upon announcing Dyson’s suspension read, “Having reviewed all of the available evidence, I have concluded that Mr. Dyson violated our policy and that discipline is appropriate.”

How about saying, “I’ve seen the evidence. Eff our ‘policy,’ what he did to her’s a crime.  This guy’s lucky that a year off without pay is all I can give him. What’d be appropriate is me throwing things at him to see how he likes it.”