Column: Do allegations of harassment, bullying make Trevor Bauer a risk for Dodgers?
Can’t be too surprised.
Half of the city couldn’t watch the Dodgers on television for six years because of these people.
Of course they would sign Trevor Bauer.
The team’s owners believed this was good business, acquiring the top free-agent pitcher on the market on an unusually short deal.
Segments of their fan base are uncomfortable they signed an internet bully with a history of allegations that he harassed women, mocked transgender people and spread conspiracy theories, but the Dodgers didn’t view any of that as a reason to pass on an opportunity to show the world how smart they are.
Asked during Bauer’s introductory videoconference Thursday about the message this sent to fans who feel alienated by the team, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said unconvincingly, “We very much value them.”
A long-term contract wasn’t a priority for Trevor Bauer, and the Dodgers are confident bringing the pitcher onboard won’t spoil their future plans.
Friedman said he and team president Stan Kasten spoke to Bauer about “some stuff that is more public,” presumably his activity on social media.
“In our conversations, he’s alluded to past mistakes he’s made, and you know what?” Friedman said. “We’re all going to make mistakes, and what’s important for me is how we internalize it, what our thoughts are going forward. It was important to have that conversation, and we came away from it feeling good about it.”
What was “most important” in Friedman’s view was the feedback the Dodgers received from Bauer’s former teammates, which led them to believe he will be an asset to the organization’s culture.
None of which addressed how LGBTQ fans might feel about their favorite team employing a player who posted on his Twitter account multiple times, “I identify as a 12 year old.”
Bauer, who will inherit the No. 27 jersey previously worn by legendary jerk Kevin Brown, won’t be the first unlikable player to represent the Dodgers, and he won’t be the last.
However, because of his tendency to defiantly flaunt his less-endearing features, Bauer will conflict fans in ways few Dodgers have in recent years.
Under Friedman, the Dodgers have generally kept their distance from outwardly disagreeable personalities. They traded the polarizing Yasiel Puig. When Mookie Betts was acquired around this time last year, Friedman spoke as much about his character as he did his ability.
Trevor Bauer’s social media behavior has come under renewed scrutiny for incidents where he was accused of harassing women and spreading conspiracy theories.
Now, in Bauer, the Dodgers have a player who posted on his Twitter that former President Obama was “supposedly” born outside of the United States. Bauer also responded to a fake quote about wanting to take down the country that was attributed to George Soros by writing, “can’t spread truth like that because then you’re a ‘racist’ or ‘conspiracy theorist.’”
Many fans won’t mind, but some will. Bauer almost certainly didn’t win over many of his detractors Thursday.
“Everyone makes mistakes in the past,” Bauer said. “I try to learn from them as quickly as I possibly can. I try to understand other peoples’ viewpoint on things and be better in the future.
“I grew up here, spent 20 years here before I signed professionally, my parents are still here. I still consider myself a member of the community and look forward to having a positive impact on the community.”
That was a start.
But questioned about his two most high-profile incidents on social media — both involved women who said he harassed them — Bauer declined to specify what he learned or the behaviors he now recognizes were inappropriate.
“I’m not going to go into specifics on everything, on all the conversations I’ve had with people across all walks of life over the past couple of years and all the things I’ve learned,” he said. “I can say I have learned from those, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people to try to understand other peoples’ perspectives, and I’m doing my best to be better in all walks of life. I am committed to being better on social media, on being better on the field, in the clubhouse, in life in general.”
So, he’s sorry, but not sorry.
The most charitable interpretation of Bauer’s refusal to apologize could be linked to his childhood in Valencia. By all accounts, he didn’t have many friends. He was bullied. It’s not hard to imagine he developed an abrasive personality as a defense.
Pitcher Trevor Bauer says he chose to sign with the Dodgers because he feels the team has the talent and structure needed to win the World Series again.
Except he’s now at the top of a highly competitive profession. He’s famous and admired. He’s wealthy.
Shouldn’t Bauer be above striking back when feeling attacked, as was the case with the aforementioned women?
Earlier this week, Bauer came across as defensive when responding to fans who questioned subjects as trivial as the addition of his name in Japanese to his Twitter profile and the sincerity of his apology to fans of the New York Mets, with whom he almost signed.
From this vantage point, at least, Bauer didn’t do anything wrong. At the same time, why is he compelled to respond to such nonsense?
Maybe he controls this impulse. Maybe he doesn’t.
Friedman acknowledged there are no guarantees.
“Time will tell,” he said.
More than wins and losses are at stake. This is about what the franchise stands for, the values it represents.
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