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Column: Signing Trevor Bauer is the most embarrassing move the Dodgers have ever made

Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer during a game against the San Francisco Giants in May.
Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer during a game against the San Francisco Giants in May. The right-hander made just 17 starts this season.
(D. Ross Cameron / Associated Press)

He won’t pitch again this season, but the shame he showered upon his franchise will endure forever.

He once took the mound with limitless promise yet now will walk off in legendary disgrace.

Trevor Bauer is officially the biggest embarrassment in Los Angeles Dodgers history.

This was certified Friday when Major League Baseball and the players’ union agreed to extend Bauer’s two-month paid leave through the end of the season amid sexual assault allegations.

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The league is continuing its investigation, and Bauer’s legal status is unresolved, so it was smartly determined that Bauer should remain sidelined at least until 2022.

Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer’s leave is extended through the end of the season as D.A.'s office considers possible sexual assault charges.

He will surely never pitch for the Dodgers again. He may never pitch for anybody again. But the damage his brief presence wrought upon an organization built on strong community and smart baseball has been indelible.

The Dodgers have suffered humiliations before, but never one as deeply felt as this.

In signing the troubled Bauer to a three-year, $102-million contract in February, the Dodgers seemingly overlooked his long history of harassing women online and apparently failed to uncover a previous sexual assault allegation discovered by the Washington Post and denied by Bauer’s attorneys.

After making just 17 starts this season, Bauer was accused of sexual assault by a San Diego woman who alleged that he punched her, choked her unconscious and sodomized her without her consent. His agents say all the encounters were consensual.

Last month, the accuser’s request for a permanent restraining order was denied by a judge who ruled Bauer posed no current threat and the woman’s injuries were incurred within her own sexual boundaries. But Bauer remains on administrative leave while the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office decides whether to pursue criminal charges and MLB continues its investigation.

He has not pitched for them since June 28. They essentially spent $38 million this season on a guy who gave them eight wins. They could still be on the hook for the remaining $64 million with zero return. All of this comes at a cost that is far greater than just financial.

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The Dodgers have blown it before, but this mistake was epic.

Upon signing Trevor Bauer, the Dodgers cited a thorough vetting process; now Bauer’s career as a Dodger is in limbo. How a $102-million risk went wrong.

On the field, the Bauer signing was not as misguided as the trades of Mike Piazza and Pedro Martinez, but his name will go down in free-agent infamy alongside Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones.

In the front office, the Bauer allegations were a reprehensible rival to Al Campanis’ appearance on “Nightline,” and his acquisition was a poor decision along the lines of the Fox Entertainment Group’s sale of the team to Frank McCourt.

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In the community, he’s a sore spot rivaled only by the television deal that kept the Dodgers games out of most Los Angeles households for six seasons.

Each of those past events was awful, but none of them have been as purely embarrassing and potentially costly to the entire organizational foundation as the Bauer affair.

First, obviously, there’s the money. The Dodgers have never wasted so much money. They could be throwing away $102 million, and if you think that doesn’t matter, check out how they handle next winter’s potential free agents such as Max Scherzer, Corey Seager, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Taylor and Kenley Jansen. Then there’s Trea Turner, who has one more year left on his contract and could also be affected.

The Dodgers’ rally in the ninth inning came up short in the 5-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, however, Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin are set to return.

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Bottom line, even the richest organization in baseball can’t burn $102 million without consequences, and those could be felt long after Bauer has disappeared.

Another big blow was felt on the roster. Because of Bauer, the Dodgers no longer have two of their top prospects in Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray because Andrew Friedman had to trade them for Scherzer and Turner.

Yes, Scherzer has been a brilliant Band-Aid for Bauer, but he has come at great cost, and he’s only a rental, and he wouldn’t have been necessary if Bauer was still in uniform.

Finally, Bauer’s presence frayed a bond with the community, causing a disconnect that can be heard in increased boos and social media criticism. Since Bauer left this potentially all-time great team short-handed, fans aren’t as patient with the front office, they’re not as tolerant of the players and they’re absolutely heaping their ire on manager Dave Roberts.

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Despite winning a World Series, three pennants and five division championships in his five years here, Roberts is particularly ripped for juggling a bullpen that was initially tested by Bauer’s absence. That bullpen has become one of the league’s best, yet Roberts still hears about it nightly as fans seemingly are giving less benefit of the doubt to an organization whose biggest offseason signing has brought them only shame.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts against the Giants during a game in San Francisco on Sept. 5, 2021.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has faced criticism from fans for juggling a bullpen that was initially tested by Trevor Bauer’s absence.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

At the time of Bauer’s acquisition, many prescient journalists wrote that the Dodgers should have passed because of his social media history. I was not one of them. I wrote that the strong veteran clubhouse would keep him under control.

“He has little tolerance for baseball’s button-down culture and his highly visible social media presence has at times curdled into bullying,” I wrote of Bauer. “But there’s no argument that he can pitch. And the Dodgers now have enough strong leaders in the room that combative personalities aren’t allowed to become distractions.”

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The Dodgers obviously agreed, and that was obviously the wrong move, but if you’re going to blame someone, don’t blame Roberts and don’t even blame Friedman.

A move this expensive on a team that already had such a giant payroll could only come from the very top, from chairman Mark Walter, who jumped at a chance for the rich to get richer, and whose organization seemingly rushed the deal to completion without the appropriate vetting.

Now Bauer is officially gone for the season, and embarrassment is forever.

“Honestly ... I don’t think it’s changed anything from how we’ve gone about it,” Roberts said when asked Friday about potential Bauer closure. “That’s more on the legal side. For us, just focusing on the baseball side, it hasn’t really affected the guys in the clubhouse.”

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Oh, but in different ways, it has. And for many months, it will.


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