Column: The Dodgers never should have signed Trevor Bauer
With Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, Mookie Betts and others standing behind him, President Biden offered the widely held opinion of how the Dodgers are more than a baseball team.
“They’re a pillar of American culture and American progress, and that’s for real,” Biden said. “The team that brought us the voice of Vin Scully and the [arms] of Sandy Koufax and Fernando Valenzuela.
For the record:
6:19 p.m. July 4, 2021An earlier version of this column incorrectly summarized Trevor Bauer’s agent’s statement in response to a sexual assault allegation. Bauer’s agent said his client’s sexual encounters with the woman were “wholly consensual.”
“Above all else, the heart of Jackie Robinson.”
And now, the president kindly neglected to mention, the destructive ego of Trevor Bauer.
As a player who wasn’t on the team that won the World Series last year, Bauer wasn’t part of the Dodgers traveling party that visited the White House on Friday. His presence nonetheless hovered over the proceedings.
About an hour after the ceremony, Bauer was placed on paid administrative leave by Major League Baseball, which is investigating accusations of sexual assault that were levied against him by a woman in a temporary restraining order request filed earlier in the week. Representatives for Bauer maintain the sexual encounters were consensual.
MLB puts Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer on paid administrative leave after a woman accused him of assault and obtained a temporary restraining order.
The Dodgers waited 32 years to be invited back to the president’s residence and workplace, only for the celebration to be completely overshadowed by one of the darkest episodes in franchise history.
As it deserved to be.
The damage was entirely self-inflicted, the crisis the making of three men who noticeably went out of their ways to politely laugh at Biden’s attempts at humor: Dodgers owner Mark Walter, president Stan Kasten and baseball chief Andrew Friedman.
These were the people who unnecessarily signed a pitcher with a history of making troublesome decisions when they already had the best team in baseball.
Speaking to reporters in the afternoon at Nationals Park, Kasten was asked if he was disappointed by what had transpired.
“We don’t know what happened,” Kasten said.
Which doesn’t make the Dodgers’ decision to sign Bauer any less irresponsible.
In the petition for the temporary restraining order, Bauer’s accuser said she was choked and lost consciousness during two separate sexual encounters in April and May, with Bauer sodomizing her while she was unconscious the first time and punching her in the face when she woke up the second.
“I agreed to have consensual sex, however, I did not agree or consent to what he did next,” the woman wrote in the court declaration.
Bauer’s agent said his client’s sexual encounters with the woman were “wholly consensual.”
In 2015, MLB began cracking down on assault. Of the 16 players previous to Trevor Bauer who were investigated for assault, 14 served suspensions.
The question isn’t whether Bauer’s judgment was poor, but how poor. At the very least, he engaged in violent sex acts with a woman he met recently on social media. Making bad choices isn’t a crime, but the franchise that drapes itself in the imagery of Jackie Robinson shouldn’t be in business with a player who regularly makes such bad choices.
A rudimentary Google search should have shown the Dodgers what they were in for, that Bauer had a track record of embarrassing himself and his employers.
Like when he harassed women online.
Or mocked transgender people.
Or spread antisemitic conspiracy theories.
None of this means Bauer’s guilty of the allegations made by his accuser. Although he remains under investigation by Pasadena police for felony assault, he hasn’t been arrested or charged with a crime. At the same time, there’s a reason he’s a constant source of headaches and controversy.
He’s 30 and already on his fourth team. The Cleveland Indians traded him to the Cincinnati Reds after he fired a ball over the center-field wall when manager Terry Francona approached the mound to remove him from a game.
He spoke out against the use of foreign substances by other pitchers, explained by how much he could increase the spin rates of his pitches if he used sticky materials, increased his spin rate by that amount, then wondered how he became the poster child for the controversy.
Considering how intelligent he sounds when he talks about baseball, he makes a shocking number of head-scratching moves.
Everyone knew this, which was why there were widespread concerns when the Dodgers signed him, including here.
“More than wins and losses are at stake,” I wrote after Bauer’s introductory news conference in February. “This is about what the franchise stands for, the values it represents.”
Trevor Bauer has allegedly harassed women and mocked transgendered people online. Are the Dodgers risking their values and by signing the star pitcher?
The Dodgers had previously kept their distance from players who could invite trouble. They traded Yasiel Puig. They didn’t pursue players such as Aroldis Chapman and Roberto Osuna, who were suspended under baseball’s domestic violence policy.
Under Walter’s ownership group and Kasten’s front office, the Dodgers have prided themselves on their brains. They weren’t content with simply outspending their opponents; they had to construct their rosters in ways that reminded others of how smart they were.
Ultimately, the chance to sign Bauer to an unconventional contract outweighed concerns about his citizenship. Friedman defended the deal at the time by citing how he and Kasten spoke to the Cy Young Award winner about his past behavior.
“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.”
The words sounded empty then and sound even emptier now. Bauer’s deal marked a shift in culture, the three-year, $102-million contract making a statement that winning was the lone concern, that citizenship wasn’t valued anymore.
Although Kasten offered lip service about being “mindful” and “sensitive” to the opinions others had on Bauer’s situation, he sounded as if he failed to grasp the seriousness of the problem.
Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer has been accused of assault by a woman who filed a restraining order that includes graphic details and photos.
He greeted reporters on Friday by joking about the advice he offered manager Dave Roberts the previous day before his daily pregame videoconference.
“I told him, ‘They’re going to talk about Trevor Bauer,’” Kasten said. “Just say, ‘Can we please talk about foreign substances?’”
Earlier in the day, Biden said he suspected the Dodgers could visit the White House again relatively soon. He could be right.
However, if they do, and if he speaks again about the organization’s contributions to society, he should consider using the past tense. They were a pillar of American culture and American progress. Today, they are a symbol of misplaced priorities.
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