Bauer wins . . . nothing much, really

Trevor Bauer

Bauer in the shadows. He isn’t even close to being off the hook yet. Nor should he be.

Read very carefully. Under MLB’s formal domestic violence policy, commissioner Rob Manfred can still discipline Dodger pitcher Trevor Bauer. Even if a woman accusing him of taking consensual rough sex into non-consensual territory was denied a permanent restraining order Thursday. Even if no criminal charges end up being filed.

Bauer’s been on paid administrative leave since 2 July. The leave was extended yet again, with full agreement between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association, this time through 27 August. With Pasadena police still investigating—criminal charges remain a distinct possibility—and Manfred’s office doing likewise, it’s fair to assume Bauer won’t pitch again this season.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dianna Gould-Saltman agreed that “injuries as shown in the photographs” the woman’s legal team provided of her aftermath from Bauer encounters “are terrible.” The judge went on: “If she set limits and he exceeded them, this case would’ve been clear. But she set limits without considering all the consequences, and respondent did not exceed limits that the petitioner set.”

I seem to remember the victim saying it was one thing to have a mutually brutal round of rough sex with Bauer but it was something else again for him to keep it up when she was out cold. Unless I’m very wrong, when you’re out cold or sound asleep you can’t exactly say “yes” to something, anything, competently or with knowledge. You don’t need to be a legal beagle to know that.

At the moment,” tweeted Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, “MLB and police investigations continue, with focus not on whether Bauer should be restrained from contacting accuser going forward, but on whether previous conduct alleged by accuser merits criminal charges and/or MLB suspension.”

Sheryl Ring, an attorney who devotes a considerable amount of her time to watching and analysing baseball, writes that—pace his social media sycophancy crowing that he beat the rap and should be back on the mound post haste—the only thing Bauer really won Thursday was the right not to be blocked from contacting the lady in question in the future.

He’s not even close to being off the hook for what he did to her in the past. Yet.

Ring agrees the lady and her legal team tripped over themselves a few times during the hearings, particularly over the consent issue. “You can lose a case on an inaccurate statement in a sworn pleading, even on a collateral issue, and that clearly weighed heavily on the judge here,” she writes. “Finally, they elected not to have their expert witness testify on the issue of consent even after briefing the issue and winning that briefing, which I think was also a mistake.”

But Gould-Saltman also made a crucial mistake in her ruling, Ring continues:

Right after saying at the beginning of her ruling that future harm was not necessary to the issuance of a restraining order, she talked about how there was no need for a restraining order because there was no risk of future harm. She also, in my opinion, incorrectly applied the law of consent when it came to this line:

If she set limits and he exceeded them, this case would’ve been clear. But she set limits without considering all the consequences, and respondent did not exceed limits that the petitioner set.

Given a phone call was played in which Bauer admitted to punching the petitioner whilst she was unconscious, what the court stated is an incorrect statement of the law. You cannot give consent to anything when unconscious. In my opinion, that’s reversible error and grounds for a potentially meritorious appeal.

If Gould-Saltman could rule the lady didn’t make her boundaries “clear,” perhaps the judge would like to explain how she was supposed to keep making them clear, or to stop Bauer from crossing the line further when she was in dreamland—when she was in dreamland in fact after Bauer choked her unconscious with her own hair—while he crossed that line.

One of the worst-kept secrets throughout this entire disgrace is that there may be no one in a Dodger uniform who wants Bauer back with the team no matter how well he pitched before 2 July. The Dodgers themselves have legal recourse to rid themselves of him.

The standard, uniform player’s contract includes 7(b)1: they can terminate Bauer’s deal if he “fail[s], refuse[s] or neglect[s] 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.”

Paragraph 7(b)1 isn’t exactly an obscure or a previously-unapplied contract clause. When pitcher Denny Neagle got caught soliciting a woman for oral sex in 2004, the Rockies invoked the clause to terminate his five-year, $51 million deal. (Neagle missed pitching in 2004 due to ligament and elbow injuries.)

The players association filed a grievance in that case and it was settled in due course with the Rockies paying about 7/8ths of Neagle’s 2004 salary. Neagle’s marriage ended over the incident; he signed a deal with Tampa Bay for 2005 but didn’t pitch because of elbow issues and subsequently retired.

The Dodgers stand on far more solid ground if they elect to terminate Bauer’s deal with them. If they want to invoke 7(b)1 and cite MLB’s domestic violence policy, all they have to do, as Ring points out, is ask MLB’s permission—and if it’s permission denied, the Dodgers can do it anyway.

A man who likes his sex on the rough side and a lady who wants it likewise from and with him are merely kinky, in politest possible terms. A man who’d choke her out cold, then take her from the rear and punch her between the legs, is beyond mere depravity.

“This is, by far, the most serious case yet for MLB of an alleged violator, and it’s not close,” Ring writes.

No other person was accused of multiple violations against multiple victims. No other case . . . had this much court evidence. No other alleged violator so dramatically attacked their accusers in the press, either. The longest suspensions ever meted out for violations of the domestic violence policy were to Sam Dyson (a full season) and Jose Torres (100 games); as horrifying as the allegations were in those cases, this is somehow worse than both of those cases, and it’s not close. Notably, in none of the other domestic violence cases were multiple orders of protection sought by multiple people against the same player.

The last alludes to the revelation from the Washington Post, last week, that an Ohio woman also sought a restraining order against Bauer in 2020. She, too, accused Bauer of punching and choking her without consent during sex. Some winner.

Bauer prevailed regarding the restraining order in California, Ring writes, “by arguing that he is so dangerous that a woman who agrees to have sex with him assumes the risk of being harmed when doing so. And he made a great spectacle of dragging through the mud the woman he admits to having punched whilst she was unconscious.” Some model citizen.

Ring may not be the only legal-minded, legal-oriented baseball analyst to think it’s not out of the question that Manfred might consider suspending Bauer for two years. Effectively, that would wipe him out as a Dodger, since his current deal has two more seasons to go.

Practically, it might end Bauer’s life as a major league pitcher, period. But that would assume no other team would even think about plighting its troth to a man for whom women are little more than playthings with targets on their lady parts. We’ve known only too well what happens when you [ass][u][me].

“The inconsistencies Bauer’s attorneys elicited from the accuser spoke to secondary and surrounding matters — how she reacted to the assault — and not at all to the assault itself,” writes Craig Calcaterra, formerly an NBC Sports baseball analyst now writing the newsletter Cup of Coffee.

The text messages show a person who is at turns confused, angry, sad, depressed, or desiring vengeance, but those are all understandable feelings for a person in her situation to have. What Bauer’s attorneys did not do at all was discredit the central claim that he assaulted her in horrible ways.

. . . [T]he central truth of this entire affair — the stuff that Major League Baseball will look to regarding Bauer’s behavior, irrespective of whether [criminal] 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.

Small wonder Brewers pitcher Brett Anderson could and did tweet, “Crazy to think that I could never get anyone out ever again and still feel better about my career than Trevor Bauer’s.” Indeed it is better to surrender six runs in three and a third innings than to be known for abusing women, violently or otherwise.

What took so long?

Trevor Bauer

Trevor Bauer waited as long to go on administrative leave for abuse as  Hector Santiago waited to get grounded ten days for actual/alleged naughty sauce. What’s wrong with that picture? Plenty.

Get caught with legal rosin mixing with your own natural sweat? You baaaaaad boy! No going out to play for you for ten days, Hector Santiago.

Take rough sex too far and leave a woman bruised, undergoing CT scans, and finally filing a restraining order against you this week, under penalty of perjury? You’re still starting in regular rotation, Trevor Bauer . . . on the Fourth of July. In Washington, yet.

At least, you were, until MLB did Friday what it should have done on Wednesday, when the details came forth, and put you on seven days’ administrative leave.

Until then, it looked as though Santiago took heavier immediate consequences for actual or alleged naughty sauce than Bauer did leaving a woman with head and facial trauma, a partial basilar skull fracture, and blood around where she accuses him of trying a back door slider while she was out cold and in no position to allow it.

You can run the entire history of professional baseball and find players disciplined quickly and heavily for behaviour a lot less grave that what Bauer’s accused of having done to the lady. But then you can also still find too many people learning about Babe Ruth’s penchant for partying with gangsters and hookers and thinking it’s still just part of the big lout’s appeal.

Maybe the Dodgers couldn’t discipline Bauer unilaterally at once, as Sports Illustrated‘s Stephanie Apstein noted Thursday afternoon. But there was no law saying manager Dave Roberts couldn’t decide to hand the ball to another pitcher to start in Bauer’s place, especially on the anniversary of a declaration saying we’re entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The pursuit of happiness isn’t supposed to leave a woman’s head resembling a boxing gym’s speed bag. Not even if she was looking for just a little rough and wild sex.

Unless I’ve been led down one or another primrose path, even a little rough and wild sex isn’t supposed to end in head and face trauma, a partial basilar skull fracture, and blood on the seat God provided the human anatomy. Compared to that, The Thrilla in Manila (Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, the brutal Act III) was a dance contest.

Baseball’s domestic violence policy, Apstein reminded us, includes that baseball’s government can put an accused player on paid administrative leave up to seven days while investigating the accusations. MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association can extend that period by mutual agreement, she observes.

“Perhaps MLB is waiting until Sunday so as not to start the clock,” she continued. “If they wait, that would keep him out of action until after the All-Star Break. That may make sense legally. It is indefensible morally.”

These people are so consumed with technicalities that they can’t be bothered to do the right thing. “We are not going to start Trevor Bauer on Sunday.” Not “We are going to take away Trevor Bauer’s money.” Not “We are going to suspend him.” Not “We are going to release him.” Not “We are going to throw him in prison.” Just “We are not going to offer this man the privilege of striding out to a mound in front of tens of thousands of people who paid for a nice afternoon.”

Let’s remember the word “privilege.” That’s what playing professional, major league baseball is. It’s not a basic human right. You won’t find any clause in the Supreme Law of the Land declaring you have the absolute right to any particular line of work.

The document over whose anniversary baseball and the nation is about to make a red, white, and blue racket—the like of which probably hasn’t been seen in long enough, after last year’s pan-damn-ic rudely interrupted such things—doesn’t say, “We hold this truth further, that you have the right to your particular chosen job, period, no matter what criminal behaviour you might commit while thus employed.”

Apstein said commissioner Rob Manfred—a man who normally points the way to wisdom by standing athwart it—should have put Bauer on administrative leave immediately. She also said the Dodgers’ administration should have ordered Roberts to hand the Fourth of July ball to anyone but Bauer, instead of Roberts telling reporters he’s still giving Bauer the ball.

While she was at it, she zapped that brass for leaving Roberts out to answer press questions by himself.

“Instead,” Apstein continued, “fans of the Dodgers and of the sport and of civil society have to wait days to learn whether a man accused of breaking a woman’s skull will get to pitch on the Fourth of July in the nation’s capital.”

The Athletic‘s Dodgers reporter Fabian Ardaya tweeted Thursday afternoon that Roberts also said the team’s “direction” was to do nothing “until they get guidance from MLB.” Since when does a team need guidance from baseball’s government to just take the ball from one pitcher and hand it to another?

The Dodgers have their guidance now. It took only two days from The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli’s and Katie Strang’s running down the literally gory details in the restraining order filing to get it. It shouldn’t have taken that long.

MLB was still a little too slow on the proverbial uptake. So were the Dodgers. They should have gotten ahead of it and changed Fourth of July pitchers at minimum to open. This is a look about which “ugly” would be an understatement for the team half a game out of first in the National League West.

Why did Manfred and his office wait so long to put Bauer on administrative leave? When former Cubs shortstop Addison Russell was first accused of abuse against his then-wife in 2018, MLB put him on administrative leave at once. When Yankee pitcher Domingo German was accused likewise in 2019, MLB put him on administrative leave likewise.

Both were suspended in due course, but the players’ union approved extensions of the administrative leaves first. What on earth was the hesitation now?

The presumption of innocence? Legally, that’s in a court of law. Morally, you don’t surrender it when you remove a pitcher from duty whose mind is occupied by matters more grave than trying to sneak fastballs or breaking balls past Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner, and Juan Soto on the Fourth of July.

“Would the union fight a similar extension with Bauer?” another Athletic writer, Ken Rosenthal, asked. Then, he answers at once: “Perhaps, if it believed the league was acting unfairly. The union, after all, exists to defend and assert the rights of the players. But based on the details in the domestic violence restraining order against Bauer, the union also might view a prolonged investigation into his conduct as warranted.”

Somehow, it’s still impossible to believe that a pitcher caught with his sweat mixing to legal rosin and ending up in his glove—which, by the way, MLB turned out not to have inspected—almost faced heavier immediate consequences than a player under legal restraining order over leaving a woman injured, feeling abused, and more than a little afraid.

“[H]ow ridiculous would it look for MLB to dock Santiago and not even buy time with Bauer, whose alleged offense is far more serious?” Rosenthal asked. “What exactly would Manfred’s trepidation be here?”

I’m still a little too trepiditious to ask. A baseball commissioner who’s already threatening to set records for terrible looks took two days to do what he had to do this time. “Terrible” isn’t the word for that look.

Beyond mere misogyny

Trevor Bauer

Somehow it was easier on the insides when Trevor Bauer was a mere misogynist.

Before Trevor Bauer signed with the Dodgers in February, there were signs enough that the Mets might bring him aboard. And alarms enough that Bauer’s penchant for social media misogyny might require extraordinary pre-emptive strikes to contain potential fallout.

That was a month after the Mets fired general manager Jared Porter over sexual texts and images he sent a female reporter while working for the Cubs in 2016. And, around the time former Mets manager Mickey Callaway got suspended—and, eventually, fired as the Angels pitching coach—over several years’ unwanted pursuit of women around baseball.

A New York Post baseball writer, Joel Sherman, thought the last thing the Mets should consider under those circumstances was signing a pitcher to whom mere misogyny seemed second nature to anything longer than a single-year deal:

Bauer’s behavior does not rise near the malfeasance that Porter copped to and is alleged against Callaway. But Sandy Alderson hired both Porter and Callaway. He said in the aftermath of both disturbing revelations that had he known prior, he would not have hired Porter or Callaway. He knows what he knows about Bauer. Now. Today.

The Mets lost out to the Dodgers in the Bauer hunt. In letting Bauer become the Dodgers’ signing splash and migraine, the Mets may not have dodged just a bullet but a nuclear warhead.

On Monday, a 27-year-old woman filed a domestic violence restraining order against the 30-year-old righthander with pitching smarts to burn and a paleozoic personality to match. The Athletic‘s Brittany Ghiroli and Katie Strang got a look at the details inside the 67-page filing.

They almost make the sadomasochistic1963 novel whose title later became the name of a legendary rock band, The Velvet Underground, resemble The Enchanted Cottage. I can only imagine the sickenings to their stomachs Ghiroli and Strang felt.

“The alleged assaults described by the woman, which are extremely graphic in nature, happened during what she said began as consensual sexual encounters between the two,” Ghiroli and Strang wrote Wednesday.

According to the woman’s declaration attached to the request and obtained by The Athletic, she suffered injuries as a result of the second encounter, including two black eyes, a bloodied swollen lip, significant bruising and scratching to one side of her face. In the woman’s declaration, signed under penalty of perjury of California state laws, she said that her medical notes state that she had “significant head and facial trauma” and that there were signs of basilar skull fracture.

She also said that, in one of those incidents, while unconscious, Bauer penetrated her anally, which she did not consent to in advance.

“I agreed to have consensual sex; however, I did not agree or consent to what he did next,” she says. “I did not agree to be sexually assaulted.”

The two Athletic reporters reached out to Bauer’s side and got no comment beyond a statement from Bauer’s agent, Jon Fetterolf. The statement says, essentially, that Bauer and the woman began “a brief and wholly consensual sexual relationship” which she began, meeting twice, with Bauer leaving quietly but the two continuing to message in “friendly and flirtatious banter.”

But Fetterolf also acknowledged she sent Bauer photographs accompanied by a note that she sought medical treatment for a concussion, to which Bauer responded “with concern and confusion” while the woman was “neither angry nor accusatory.”

Mr. Bauer and [the woman] have not corresponded in over a month and have not seen each other in over six weeks. Her basis for filing a protection order is nonexistent, fraudulent, and deliberately omits key facts, information, and her own relevant communications. Any allegations that the pair’s encounters were not 100% consensual are baseless, defamatory, and will be refuted to the fullest extent of the law.

One of the lady’s own attorneys, Bryan Freedman, had a statement of his own to share with Ghiroli and Strang:

Without going into detail for the benefit of both my client and Mr. Bauer, the pictures evidencing the unconsented abuse do not lie. Any suggestion that she was not the victim of assault is not only false and defamatory but, in fact, perpetuates the abuse. Our client truly wants Mr. Bauer to engage in a medically appropriate therapeutic process where he can receive the treatment he needs to never act this way again.

“If he is willing to meaningfully participate in a process directed by appropriate professionals,” Freedman continued, “it will go a long way toward allowing her to feel safe and resolving this matter. But, regardless, she cannot allow this to happen unknowingly to anyone else.”

The woman accuses Bauer of choking her just enough into unconsciousness. She said in the filing that she awoke disoriented but also to him trying to have rough anal sex with her, “which I had never communicated that I wanted, nor did I consent,” and that the morning after he made a little light of the entire thing before he left an hour later.

The pair continued messaging each other, though. They met again in mid-May. That time, the woman’s filing says, instead of trying a little rough sex after choking her unconscious Bauer basically beat her head in for her—and, after she was fully conscious, told her she was safe and he “would never do those things to you if it wasn’t sexually.”

“As part of the request to the court,” Ghiroli and Strang wrote, “the woman also provided text messages and screenshots of voicemails she said Bauer sent to her inquiring about her well being and checking in with her to see what he could do; in one message, Bauer offers to deliver groceries to her.” What a guy.

The filing also mentions the woman went for two medical exams off that second “encounter,” including “rapid CT scans” for face, neck, and brain. She also met San Diego police detectives, downplayed the whole thing as just “rough sex,” and didn’t drop Bauer’s name then for fear of public repercussion.

“I was afraid what Trevor would do if he found out,” Ghiroli and Strang quote her filing. “I remain afraid that Trevor will find me and hurt me for going to the hospital.” They also quote from a conversation between herself and Bauer under the Pasadena Police Department’s direction: “I said, ‘Thank you for acknowledging what you did to me.’ Trevor acknowledged it and asked how we could move forward and asked if he could still reach out.”

The Pasadena PD is still investigating. Another attorney for the lady, Marc Garelick, said in a statement he and his client both expect criminal action against Bauer. MLB is also investigating and may sanction Bauer under the sport’s domestic violence policy.

“Let the balance between Bauer’s talent and his headaches be on the Dodgers’ heads,” I wrote when Bauer signed that three-year, $102 million deal with them. “The Dodgers may be deep enough that Bauer’s headaches wouldn’t make a huge impact, but they could leave the Dodgers with as many migraines off the field as their presence on it will leave for the rest the National League West, at minimum.”

If all Bauer gives the Dodgers now is a mere migraine, it would be a substantial improvement.

Wild rough sex is one thing. Forgive me if I have an impossible time believing that battering a woman like her head is a boxing gym speed bag, or giving her a back-door slider while she’s out cold, is any kind of erotic for either partner.

“One of the last text messages I sent him,” the lady’s filing said, “was, ‘I appreciate all of your offers to help, but the best way you can help me is to never do that to anyone else ever again.’ To this, Trevor responded, ‘I would never do anything to hurt anyone. That includes you’.”

What a guy.

Tatis and Bauer continue defunding the Fun Police

Fernando Tatis, Jr.; Trevor Bauer

Trevor Bauer (27) wasn’t thrilled about surrendering bombs to Fernando Tatis, Jr.—but Bauer didn’t mind Tatis trolling him over them, either.

If the Dodgers and the Padres are really brewing baseball’s best rivalry since the Dodgers and the Giants, or the Yankees and the Red Sox, you can count on one less Fun Police officer overloading the Tabasco sauce. Turns out that the sense of humour of Trevor Bauer, Dodger pitcher, includes taking his lumps in the troll department.

Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis, Jr. accounted for the only two runs Bauer allowed Friday night with a pair of delicious looking home runs. He hit the first in the top of the first, sending a slightly hanging cutter clean over the left center field fence on the second pitch of the game.

After rounding first, Tatis put his right hand over his eye as he turned around toward the mound, then turned to continue running it out. When he hit the second bomb in the top of the sixth, following a six-pitch, full count wrestling match, Tatis crossed the plate with a move made familiar to UFC fans by Conor McGregor. It just so happens to be the move Bauer himself busts after he has a particularly controlling inning’s work.

By his own admission Bauer missed the hand-over-eye move, which referenced Bauer’s own one-eyed pitching against the Padres during a spring training contest, but he couldn’t help noticing the Padres dugout covering single eyes after Tatis’s second homer landed about three or four rows up the left center field bleachers.

Bauer didn’t mind any of the moves at all. In fact, talking to reporters after the game, which the Dodgers yanked out to win 5-4 despite Tatis’s mayhem, the righthander whose own trolling stones make him as controversial as he is colourful sent a message to every other pitcher on the third stone from the sun who thinks letting the kids play is tantamount to heresy.

“I like it. I think that pitchers who have that done to them and react by throwing at people, or getting upset and hitting people or whatever — I think it’s pretty soft,” Bauer told reporters after the game. “If you give up a homer, the guy should celebrate it. It’s hard to hit in the big leagues. So, I’m all for it. And I think it’s important that the game moves in that direction, and we stop throwing at people because they celebrated having some success on the field.”

Where was Bauer when the Cardinals got soft on Nick Castellanos a couple of days after Castellanos smashed a home run off Jack Flaherty? When Jack Woodford drilled him with a pitch, then bumped him as he crossed the plate beneath a sliding tag attempt, before Castellanos sprung up from his slide, barked a bit at Woodford, then started walking away from the plate area when Yadier Molina returned to the plate area and gave Castellanos a shove by his neck—when Castellanos wasn’t even looking behind him?

Rest assured, Bauer would have had a lecture to deliver Madison Bumgarner two years ago, after Max Muncy launched one of his first-inning services into McCovey Cove. “Don’t watch the ball—run!” Bumgarner barked. Rounding first and heading to second as he ran it out, Muncy by his own admission hollered back, precisely, “If you don’t want me to watch the ball, go get it out of the ocean.”

Perhaps if Bauer was a Dodger then, he’d have been the first to buy the blue T-shirt that hit the ground flying after that, with “Go Get It Out of the Ocean” emblazoned in white, over an upside-down reproduction of the flying baseball that’s part of the Dodgers’ official team logo.

Bauer knows Tatis has reasons enough to celebrate his handiwork lately. Friday night’s flogs came one night after the kid who’s must-see television did what no major leaguer had done before—hit a pair of bombs on the 22nd anniversary date of his father hitting a pair of salamis in the same inning against the same opponent.

Friday night also made Tatis the first player to hit a pair of bombs on back-to-back nights against Cy Young Award-winning pitchers, says the Elias Sports Bureau. On the anniversary of Pop’s pops, Tatis wreaked his two-bomb havoc on Clayton Kershaw’s dollar.

Tatis returned Bauer’s compliment, whether or not he’d actually heard Bauer say it immediately. “Payback time,” the lad told reporters, referencing Bauer’s one-eyed-jack pitching in that spring game.

It’s just fun. When you know you’re facing a guy like that — he’s doing his stuff, he’s having fun on the mound, and when you get him you get him, and you celebrate, too. He’s a hard guy to deal with.

Bauer didn’t even mind when Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer got even in the sixth for what Bauer did in the fourth. Hosmer struck out awkwardly in the fourth and Bauer delivered his pulling-the-sword-out bit, “sword” considered contemporary baseball lingo for the broken swing a hitter often delivers when he’s been fooled like a rookie on a pitch. In the sixth, though, Hosmer nearly drilled a hole in Bauer with a hard liner up the pipe, then pulled a sword of his own out after reaching first.

Once again, Bauer had no intention of ducking into a nearby phone booth and changing from your everyday not-so-mild-mannered pitcher into the Fun Cop ready to clunk all miscreants with his nightstick and drag them off to the hoosegow.

“That’s what it is to be a competitor,” the righthander said. “I’m gonna go at you. I’m gonna get you sometimes, and you’re gonna get me sometimes. We can have fun, we can celebrate it while we’re still competing at the highest level. I just thought that was important to note tonight.”

I’ve been saying for how long that pitchers need to start thinking, “Hey, you got me good this time. Have your fun. I’ll get you out the next time, and I’ll have my fun?” I’m not even close to the only one. There was Sean Doolittle two years ago, when he was still a hard-toiling and popular National. “If a guy hits a home run off me, drops to his knees, pretends the bat is a bazooka, and shoots it out at the sky, I don’t give a shit,” he said emphatically in an interview I cited at the time.

When you’re in the backyard as a kid playing and falling in love with the game and you crush the ball? You do a celebration. You stand and watch it like Ken Griffey, Jr. You don’t hit the ball and put your head down and run as fast as you can. That’s not fun. It’s okay to embrace that part of a game.

To which I wrote, myself, “I hope a lot of hitters drop to one knee and point their bats to the sky like bazookas when they hit one out. I hope a lot of pitchers start channeling their inner Dennis Eckersley and start fanning pistols after they strike someone out. I’d kill to see a hitter moonwalk around the bases after hitting one out. Let’s see more keystone combinations chest bump or make like jugglers after they turn a particularly slick and tough double play.”

The new Murphy’s Law ought to be, “Celebrate!” Said Dale Murphy himself, in one of his first essays as a contributor to The Athletic. It must have sent the Fun Police to the whiskey bottles when Murphy called out Bumgarner over that Muncy waterball:

Admiring a home run is OK. Bat-flipping is OK. Emotion is OK. None of that is a sign of poor sportsmanship or disrespect for an opponent. It’s a celebration of achievement — and doing so should not only be allowed, but encouraged. Pitchers can shout excitedly after an important out. They can pump their fist after a clutch strikeout. Players, fans—and basically any rational-thinking human—will understand that no harm is intended by these spontaneous expressions of joy.

Wouldn’t you love to know what Bauer thought, when the Rangers decided it was right and proper to wait, until near the end of the final game of their final season series against the Blue Jays in May 2016, to repay Jose Bautista for an epic bat flip the previous October?

Bautista hit a monstrous three-run homer in the seventh to give the Jays a 6-3 lead that held up to send them to the previous American League Championship Series. He flipped his bat whirlybird style as he left the plate to run it out. Rogers Centre went nuclear. The Rangers pitcher who surrendered that bomb, Sam Dyson, spoke as a Fun Policeman after the game.

“Jose needs to calm that down, just kind of respect the game a little more,” Dyson said after the game. “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.” (I couldn’t resist rejoining, “That’s how many kids playing Wiffle ball who grow up to hit postseason-advancing skyrockets?”)

Bautista was hit by a pitch late in that mid-May 2016 game. Then, he delivered a hard slide at second to let the Rangers know he didn’t appreciate the too-long-delayed “message.” Then he had to bear the brunt of the followup brickbats when Rougned Odor swung on him. Pretty soft? The Rangers were squishy cowards in tough guy clothing behind Mommy’s dress when Matt Bush—a relief pitcher who wasn’t even a Ranger in October 2015—delivered that seven-months delayed drill.

Bauer has his faults. Misogynistic harassment of women online is known to be one of them. But he’s never been accused of being physically abusive with any woman he’s dated or associated with. The Dyson who demanded Bautista “just kind of respect the game a little more” is the one who got suspended for this season for abusing his former girlfriend.

You can hear the Old Fart Contingent [OFC] who didn’t or don’t play the game fuming about Respect For The Game, too. Most of the same OFC want to see players treat baseball like Serious Business on the field or at the plate or around the bases—but they  become the first to scream, “It’s a [fornicating] game!” when it’s free agency contract time.

Bauer and Tatis have just fired off significant shots in what should be a continuing, baseball-wide campaign to defund the Fun Police. The defunding shouldn’t be limited to players alone.

That new old fashioned medicated goo

Trevor Bauer

Trevor Bauer doesn’t like being singled out for medicating his pitches.

Good golly Polly shame on you
Cause Molly made a stew that’ll make a new girl out of you
So follow me, it’s good for you
That good ole fashion medicated goo
Steve Winwood, Jimmy Miller (for Traffic)

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, this is more like it, you can hear more than a few people thinking. Just like the Good Old Days. The Good Old Days in question here being the days when more than a few pitchers were suspected of putting more on their pitches than just their fingers.

The kind of potential cheating scandal that inspires wink-winks, nudge-nudges, not pontificating protest and near-universal outrage. The kind involving whether one of baseball’s more (shall we say) outspoken pitchers is giving the (shall we say) treatment to his pitches, thus to the batters, and maybe to the game itself.

Trevor Bauer has a few reputations, from misogynistic all the way back to the nutty professor. Now the Show’s government would love to know whether Bauer also deserves a reputation as a genuine throwback—to the lives and times when pitchers looked for every last edge they could get including but not limited to whatever they could think of to put on the ball, blissfully uncaring about breaking the law.

From publicly pondering since 2018 how often (not whether) pitchers are mixing up some new old fashioned medicated goo to get (hee hee) better grips on the balls, Bauer himself is now suspect. When he started for the Dodgers against the Athletics this week, umpires collected a fair number of balls he’d thrown that were claimed to be sticky and scuffy. How many depends upon whom you read on the subject.

Last month MLB sent its teams a pair of memos saying, essentially, “We’ve got our eyes on your balls.” None of that sneaky stuff. Keep the strange brews to yourselves. The season’s barely past a week old, and Bauer has already provided a crash course in pitch paranoia.

Not to mention a few arched brows, not because of whether Bauer has joined the society of spitballers but because of whether he’s been singled out particularly—and thus a victim of a little leaking subterfuge himself.

That one pitcher is drawing scrutiny over the foreign substance rules — in this case, Trevor Bauer — seemingly through leaks and innuendo is kind of gross,” tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. “MLB should either step up and grab the steering wheel and publicly insist that umpires enforce the rule, or stand down.”

If Thomas Boswell was right to say in the late 1970s that cheating was baseball’s oldest profession, it’s also right to say that different cheats provoke different responses.

Find a team altering off-field cameras illegally and tying them to clubhouse monitors for sign stealing? It’s Astrogate. Find a team turning the MLB-provided video room into an illegal helpmate for old-fashioned sign-stealing gamesmanship (sending pilfered intelligence to baserunners to transmit to batters)? It’s Soxgate.

Find a pitcher putting a little goop, gunk, or glop on what he throws? Even the morally outraged can’t resist a little snicker. A little snicker, a lot of mad fun trying to catch him in the act and write standup comedy routines about it, and maybe a couple of gags—such as the time longtime manager Gene Mauch suggested Gaylord Perry’s Hall of Fame plaque should have a tube of K-Y jelly (Perry’s reputed substance of preference) attached. (Was it fellow Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson who once sent Perry a gallon of lard as a birthday present?)

The MLB memos told teams the Show’s government would review Statcast data on pitch spin rates closely enough to determine whether abrupt changes in pitcher’s career spin norms might suggest foreign aid. Which reminds me of George Frazier, the last man charged with three losses in a single World Series: “I don’t use foreign substances. Everything I use is made in the U.S. of A.”

The suspicion toward Bauer, who’s been outspoken about pondering himself whether some pitchers are mixing up the medicine to hike their pitches’ spin rates, didn’t come from a Statcast analysis but from suspicious umpires.

“Pitchers use tacky substances to improve their grip on the ball and increase movement on their pitches,” writes The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal. “In November, The Athletic’s Eno Sarris quoted a coach with experience in several major-league organizations as saying, ‘Almost everyone is using something.’ A player-development executive told Sarris the benefits are ‘better than steroids’.”

Yet in the same article Rosenthal said that whatever is or isn’t found on Bauer’s balls (don’t even think about going there!), “it remains to be seen whether the league can prove he was responsible for their application, or whether any punishment imposed by commissioner Rob Manfred would stand.”

Ever since the spitter was outlawed formally after the 1920 season, there’ve been pitchers caught or at least formally suspected who thought of protesting, “It wasn’t me!” It wasn’t as out of bounds as you might think.

For decades it’s been known that Hall of Famer Whitey Ford—in his final years, anyway—benefited from his catcher Elston Howard scraping balls against his shin guard buckles before returning them to Ford. (“The buckle ball,” Jim Bouton wrote in Ball Four, “sang two arias from Aida.”) Howard was also crafty at scraping a ball on particularly wet dirt around the plate before sending it back.

Tommy John could claim plausibly that he didn’t actually put something on the ball or give it a scrape or a smudge. His particular specialty was finding scuffs on balls that were just in play and not yet removed from the game and then, as Boswell once noted, “turn[ing] the tiniest scratch into a double play grounder.”

Nobody ever quite knew what Hall of Famer Don Sutton was applying, but when he started a game against John late in both men’s careers, a scout in the press box cracked, “Tommy John and Don Sutton. If anyone can find one smooth ball from that game, he ought to send it to Cooperstown.”

If there was one pitcher who could claim even more plausibly not to use foreign substances, it was probably Phil (The Vulture) Regan, the mid-to-late 1960s relief star. Regan’s trick of the trade was his own propensity to sweat somewhat heavily; he’d let it run down his arm into his hand and go to work. At least, he did until a combination of an ump or two catching on plus Leo Durocher burning him out from overuse as a Cub ruined his late-career effectiveness.

A little over a year ago, the Angels’ longtime visitors clubhouse attendant Brian Harkins was fired after the Show’s government showed the Angels Harkins was mixing up a little froth for the opposing pitchers, a blend of pine tar, rosin, and maybe a couple of other things. Harkins sued the Angels and the Show for defamation; the suit was thrown out of court in January.

It was too simple to have a sad laugh over the Harkins case. Why on earth would he have been compelled to give opposing pitchers the breaks considering that the Angels haven’t exactly been known as a pitching powerhouse the last few seasons? Harkins himself claimed he did it for safety reasons, since mixtures such as his were longtime helpmates for rubbing up fresh, smooth, hard-to-handle balls before games.

That’s what then-Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers said, too, when he was caught on camera with a particularly vivid brownish smudge on his pitching hand in the first inning in Game Two of the 2006 World Series. (He pitched eight shutout innings in the game, running his shutout inning streak that postseason to 23.) When he went back out for the second inning, the smudge was history.

“It was a big clump of dirt. I didn’t know it was there,” Rogers told reporters after the game. “They told me about, but it was no big deal. It was dirt and rosin put together. That’s what happens when you rub [the ball] up.  I just went and wiped if off. I didn’t think it was an issue. After the first inning, it was fine. I felt I was pretty comfortable after that.”

Not everybody bought it, of course. Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci pronounced himself “deeply disappointed” that the only thing happening to Rogers that night was being told to go back and wash his hands before he continued eating the Cardinals for supper:

The entire world saw Rogers using what appeared to be a foreign substance on his pitching hand and he incurred no penalty, not even an inspection by the umpires of the offending hand we saw on TV. It was worse for the sport than if Rogers, like Jay Howell in the 1988 NLCS, was examined, ejected and suspended. [Too much pine tar on Howell’s hat had the Mets suspicious of the Dodger reliever—JK.] At least in that case there was enforcement of the rule book. This was just another example of the perverse culture in the game, this twisted code of “honor” among the scoundrels and cheats in baseball in which the act of calling somebody out for cheating is deemed worse than the cheating itself.

Seven years later, Verducci was a little more kind to then-Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester during the 2013 World Series: “This time of year, especially when it’s colder and the balls are slicker, pitchers need something on their fingers to throw the baseball without putting hitters at risk.”

But nobody thought Lester’s pitches were dancing, double-axeling, or singing “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” either. (Not for public consumption, anyway, so far as I remember.) “Somebody said they thought they saw pine tar on [Rogers],” Cardinals second baseman Aaron Miles told ESPN after that Game Two. “That’s about it. Whether he got rid of it, or he never had it in the first place, we don’t know. His stuff was good all game.”

Sutton was so proud of his defiance that he once said he “ought to get a Black & Decker commercial out of it.” He did, in due course. He also threatened to sue umpire Doug Harvey and the National League after being cuffed and stuffed on one occasion. Nobody thought to offer Joe Niekro a Maybelline commercial, after the knuckleballer was caught infamously (and hilariously) trying to confiscate an emery board when caught by umpires, but Niekro never contemplated taking it to court, either.

Niekro’s infamous capture came on a day he was struggling on the mound. Bauer’s outing against the A’s Wednesday wasn’t exactly something you’d call lights out—nothing like the near no-hitter he pitched in his first Dodger start—though it wasn’t a terrible outing, either.

He threw 110 pitches and only 61 percent were strikes. Of those strikes, 24 were called, thirteen were swinging strikes, and 67 were either fouls or balls put into play. He struck out six, walked four, and surrendered five hits plus two earned runs. He left with a 3-2 lead, two outs, and one on in the seventh after surrendering Matt Chapman’s leadoff home run, leaving Kenley Jansen to surrender the tying run in the ninth and Jimmy Nelson to surrender the winning run in the tenth.

If Bauer’s using any particular blend for a little extra oomph in his repertoire, he may not be as fearworthy as he and others think he looks. He might also have learned the hard way what happens when a suspect pitch is “hit on the dry side,” as the old-timers said about how to hit the spitter.

Remember: In baseball, talent won’t get you as far as skill, and for all its formal illegality and semi-formal outrage (and snickering) throwing a spitter isn’t the easiest skill, either. “For every career it salvages, there is probably another that it helps to ruin,” Boswell once wrote. “For every hanging curve that finds a bleacher grave, there is a spitter with too much spin that floats like a batting practise fastball into the batter’s power zone and disappears.”

If Bauer did try throwing Chapman (ahem) a creamy spitter, Chapman caught the dry side and creamed it over the left center field fence.

So how does Bauer feel about falling under particular scrutiny for sneaky services? He’s a little furious about being leaked when he may not be even close to the only pitcher in the game rubbing up with extra elixir for reasons above and beyond merely getting better grips on the ball. And he’s not necessarily wrong.

When he asks “[W]here are the articles about balls from every other pitcher being taken out of play in literally every other game this season?” he’s not wrong. Being un-shy about speaking out has its downside on the backside of its upside. Rightly, wrongly, the unapologetic controversialist paints his own back with a target.

He wouldn’t be Trevor Bauer if he dummied up, of course. But it’s awful tempting to ponder whether he, too, would think about throwing a ball to the plate with bolts attached to it. Actually—never mind. Bauer already has enough people thinking he needs to return to the lab every other day to have his bolts tightened.