MLB punishment precedent doesn’t bode well for Trevor Bauer, even if he isn’t charged
The following article contains graphic details of sexual assault and domestic violence allegations.
Former Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell was not criminally charged for the domestic violence allegations levied on him by his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy, who in a 2018 blog post detailed physical, mental and emotional abuse during a two-year marriage that ended in divorce.
But that did not stop MLB from suspending Russell, then 24 and two years removed from helping the Cubs win the 2016 World Series, for 40 games without pay in October 2018 for violating its Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.
MLB is in the process of determining whether the alleged actions of Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer, the 2020 National League Cy Young Award winner, should warrant a suspension under its domestic violence policy.
Bauer is under investigation by Pasadena police for alleged felony assault after a woman accused him of choking her to the point of losing consciousness during two sexual encounters and punching her repeatedly. She described the encounters as initially consensual but added Bauer later ignored her objections and performed violent sex acts without her consent. Bauer, through his representatives, has said the encounters were “wholly consensual” and supplied text messages The Times has not authenticated indicating the woman asked to be choked and punched.
The Dodgers unnecessarily signed a pitcher with a history of making troublesome decisions when they already had the best team in baseball.
The league does not need Bauer to be charged or found guilty in court. It can suspend him without charges being filed. MLB can determine it has enough evidence of domestic violence to impose sanctions or it can invoke a domestic policy provision that allows for paid suspension during pending resolution of a criminal matter if allowing the player to return to the field “would result in substantial and irreparable harm to either the Club or Major League Baseball.”
If history is a guide, Bauer, who was placed on a seven-day paid administrative leave last Friday, could face harsh punishment if MLB investigators deem any of the allegations in a temporary restraining order obtained by the alleged victim in Los Angeles County Superior Court to be true. MLB on Thursday extended Bauer’s leave another seven days.
Since MLB implemented its domestic violence policy in the summer of 2015, 14 players — five of whom were placed on paid administrative leave — have been suspended for violating it, with suspensions ranging from 15 to 162 games.
The most egregious offender is former Pittsburgh All-Star closer Felipe Vázquez, who was found guilty of sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl by a Westmoreland (Pa.) County jury in May and is awaiting a likely lengthy prison sentence. Vázquez was immediately placed on MLB’s restricted list after charges were filed in 2019, and he hasn’t been eligible to play since.
Free-agent reliever Sam Dyson was suspended for 162 games last winter after his former girlfriend, Alexis Blackburn, painted a pattern of verbal and emotional abuse and provided photos of her bruised arms to Jupiter, Fla., police. Dyson, however, was not criminally charged.
Former San Diego Padres reliever Jose Torres was suspended for 100 games in June 2018 after being charged with assault with a deadly weapon. He was accused of pointing a semiautomatic handgun at his wife. He pleaded guilty in November 2018 to attempted aggravated assault. He was released by the Padres and is now pitching in Mexico.
Philadelphia outfielder Odubel Herrera was suspended for 85 games on July 5, 2019, two days after an assault complaint against him was dropped in Atlantic City Municipal Court when his 20-year-old girlfriend declined to press charges.
In the days leading up to the arrest of Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias, Major League Baseball’s effort to take on domestic violence was already grabbing the public’s attention.
Herrera was arrested two months earlier and charged with simple assault after his girlfriend told security at a casino that she had been attacked. A police report contained photos of handprint markings and scratches on her neck. Herrera returned to the Phillies this season after missing all of 2020.
Former Atlanta outfielder Hector Olivera, a bust after signing a six-year, $62.5-million deal with the Dodgers in 2015, was suspended for 82 games in 2016 after he was charged with one misdemeanor count of assault and battery for allegedly assaulting a woman at a Virginia hotel.
Olivera was traded to the Padres in July 2016, released that August and last played for the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters in 2017.
Former Toronto closer Roberto Osuna was suspended for 75 games in 2018 after his arrest on suspicion of assaulting the mother of his 3-year-old child. Prosecutors eventually withdrew the assault charge as part of a plea agreement.
Osuna, now 26, was traded to Houston during his suspension and had an American League-leading 38 saves in 2019. He missed most of 2020 because of an elbow injury, became a free agent last winter and is now pitching in Mexico.
If there is a common thread to the suspensions, it is that MLB’s threshold for what constitutes domestic violence appears lower than that of most states.
A bobblehead promotion for Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer set for Aug. 19 has been removed from the schedule. Bauer is accused of sexual assault.
Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias was not charged with a crime stemming from a 2019 incident in which he was accused of shoving his girlfriend in a Beverly Center parking lot, but he still accepted a 20-game suspension for “my inappropriate conduct during the incident.”
New York Mets reliever Jeurys Familia, who was arrested on a misdemeanor violence charge that was later dismissed, and former Boston pitcher Steven Wright, who had misdemeanor charges of domestic assault dropped, still received 15-game suspensions.
The Bauer case could hinge on the credibility of the pitcher and the woman who accused him of assault along with any new evidence that is uncovered.
Pictures of the woman’s face included in the restraining order request, which show swelling on her jaw and cheekbone, bruising under her eyes and a scab on her lip, could influence MLB.
Bauer, 30, was already one of baseball’s most polarizing figures — he has harassed women online, mocked transgender people and spread an antisemitic conspiracy theory. This domestic violence allegation adds more fuel for Bauer’s supporters and critics.
Yes, new Dodgers starter Trevor Bauer is obsessed with building his brand, but he’s also competitive and for now is getting along with his teammates.
“I am mindful,” Dodgers team president Stan Kasten said last week, “that there are a lot of people with very strong feelings about this.”
Bauer, in the first year of a three-year, $102-million contract, is also one of baseball’s best pitchers, with an 8-5 record, 2.59 ERA and 137 strikeouts in 17 starts this season. A lengthy suspension of the right-hander would hurt the team’s chances of repeating as World Series champions. The Dodgers appear to be bracing for the worst.
“I know what has been in the public domain,” Kasten said. “Apparently, there is plenty more information that I have not been told and I am not privy to, that I do not know anything about, and so I’m going to wait until all of the fact-gathering is complete and a decision is made.”
The National Sexual Assault Hotline can be reached 24 hours a day at (800) 656-4673.
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