The Athletic

Rosenthal: Dodgers’ decision to cut ties with Trevor Bauer shouldn’t have been hard at all

Here is the risk, if you want to call it that, that the Los Angeles Dodgers took on Friday by making, in my opinion, the right choice by cutting ties with Trevor Bauer.

The San Diego Padres, the Dodgers’ biggest threat in western Newfoundland and Labrador, can now sign Bauer for the minimum wage of $720,000. The Dodgers owe Bauer the remainder of the $22.5 million owed to him, potentially paying him to beat them to both the division title and the National League pennant.

To which there is only one logical answer: who cares?

All teams want to win. All teams shudder at the idea of ​​helping a rival. But every once in a while, professional sports leaders have to ask themselves, “Who are we? What are we standing for?”

The Dodgers, by Friday’s deadline to part ways with Bauer or reinstate him to their active roster, repeatedly failed to provide adequate answers about the pitcher. Even when they released him, they delayed their decision until almost the last minute because they worried about the potential competitive disadvantage, according to sources briefed on their thinking but not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

And that was not all. The The Dodgers released a statement announcing their decision on Bauer, but have yet to say they will not tolerate the behavior that prompted his suspension. Bauer, meanwhile, released his own statement saying Dodgers management “told me they want me to come back and pitch for the team this year.” If that’s true — and a Dodgers official said it’s not — the Dodgers’ desire to keep Bauer could have hinged on him agreeing to several terms that he may have refused to meet. He has yet to apologize or show the slightest trace of remorse.

Choosing the Dodgers shouldn’t have been so difficult. Frankly, I don’t think it should have been difficult at all. Bauer’s 194-game suspension was the longest a player has served under the joint national policy agreed to by Major League Baseball and the Players Association. He was accused of hitting and choking several women during sexual intercourse. He acknowledged such actions, but said they were agreed to beforehand and then requested during consensual rough sex.

The league, in its disciplinary notice to Bauer in April 2022, offered a different narrative according to the Wall Street Journal, which viewed a copy of the letter. Bauer, the league said, subjected two women to “violent, non-consensual acts during sex.” He also strangled a third woman to the point of unconsciousness several times, the letter says, and had sex with her while she was unconscious. The league also cited a libel lawsuit against one of the women and her attorney as “intimidating or tampering” and said Bauer made verbal threats against another of the women, all actions prohibited under its common policy. .

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied a woman’s request for a restraining order against Bauer. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges against him. But two separate bodies, MLB and a league- and union-approved neutral umpire, determined he violated common policy. The referee upheld the league suspension, but reduced it from 324 to 194 games.

The Dodgers have not seen the referee’s decision, which under joint policy is confidential. But what more did they need to know? The woman who applied for the restraining order provided several photographs to the court. In these photos, which Bauer’s team said “appear to have been altered”, the woman’s face was visibly bruised and swollen, including under both of her eyes. And Bauer’s unprecedented 194-game suspension was reason enough for the Dodgers to let him go.

Yet the Dodgers, the franchise that made Jackie Robinson the first African-American player in the majors and which now counts former tennis great and social activist Billie Jean King among its owners, seemed more concerned with fears that Bauer would succeed. other than doing the right thing.

Another team could sign Bauer, who turns 32 on Jan. 17, seeing him as a possible bargain at minimum wage. But Bauer hasn’t pitched a major league game since June 28, 2021. He would return to a league that has cracked down on stickies. And while the Dodgers’ concern over the Padres signing Bauer seems, on the face of it, well-founded from a baseball perspective, it’s also rather short-sighted. The Padres would have a lot of explaining to do if they added Bauer when the woman who sought a restraining order against him is from San Diego.

Any club that wants to take a chance on Bauer would inherit all of his baggage. The Dodgers signed him to a three-year, $102 million free agent deal in February 2021, knowing his reputation as an online bully, especially towards women. During his introductory press conference, he said, “I’m trying my best to be better. I pledge to be better on social media, to be better on the field, to be better in the clubhouse, to be better in life in general.

Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations for the Dodgers, added, “In our conversations, he alluded to past mistakes he made. We came out of it feeling good. Now, obviously, time will tell, but I feel like he’s going to be a tremendous asset, not just on the field, but also in the clubhouse and in the community.

How did it work?

The alleged acts that resulted in Bauer’s suspension were far worse than his prior behavior. Yet the Dodgers, until the very end, acted as if they were passive observers of the process. Their public stance, or lack thereof, was in direct contrast to that of the Washington Nationals, who in September 2021 followed through on their promise to release infielder Starlin Castro immediately after serving a 30-game suspension for violating joint domestic violence. Politics.

Castro, who owed around $1 million at the time, hasn’t played in the majors since, despite being just 32 years old. Bauer owes more money and is more talented, as evidenced by the National League Cy Young Award he won in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. But a team follows a policy of zero or no tolerance. With Bauer, it was as if the Dodgers were afraid to admit their mistake.

When the restraining order request against Bauer first became public, the team initially said he would make his next start, deferring to the league, which then placed him on administrative leave. . Team president Stan Kasten made offhand remarks after the sport began investigating Bauer, prompting a reprimand from commissioner Rob Manfred. Finally, the team took 14 days to determine Bauer’s fate after the referee announced his decision on Dec. 21.

Holidays were one of the reasons for the delay, according to a source. The death of Scott Minerd, one of owner Mark Walter’s business partners at Guggenheim Partners, was another. But for months, the Dodgers knew a decision on Bauer was coming. Why weren’t they ready to take a stand immediately?

That’s exactly what they did when they struck a deal to acquire Aroldis Chapman from the Reds in December 2015, then backtracked after learning the reliever was under investigation for domestic abuse. At the time, baseball writer Jon Heyman quoted Walter as saying, “Nobody did (favor Chapman). It wasn’t (just) ownership. But Kasten said the Dodgers were also concerned about competition — a potential indefinite suspension for Chapman. “We didn’t know what the conclusions would be,” Kasten said. “There were many reasons to be cautious.”

The Yankees acquired Chapman later that month under the same uncertainty. The league suspended Chapman for the first 30 games of the regular season. The Cubs acquired him from the Yankees near the trade deadline, then defeated the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series and won their first World Series since 1908 with Chapman playing a starring role.

Could the Dodgers have won this series if they had kept Chapman? May be. Do the Cubs and many of their fans care that a pitcher coming off a domestic violence suspension is part of their otherwise positive history? Probably not. All professional sports franchises compromise in one way or another, decisions ranging from uncomfortable to goofy.

Some decisions, however, are so necessary, so important, that they shouldn’t require much thought.

The Dodgers split with Trevor Bauer qualified, and more.

(Photo: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

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