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Trevor Bauer was never going to start Sunday. MLB & the Dodgers should have made that clearer, earlier

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“It’s out of our hands” was not an acceptable answer

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Bauer is not starting for the Dodgers on Sunday. That was the obvious decision from the moment a temporary restraining order against the pitcher was filed on Tuesday, and even more so when the graphic and disturbing details were revealed on Wednesday. That the decision for Bauer not to pitch didn’t come until Friday is the infuriating part, emblematic of a sport that pays lip service to caring about women but always seems slow to demonstrate this support in practice.

Major League Baseball placed Bauer on paid administrative leave on Friday, the mechanism by which Bauer is removed from the roster for seven days while an investigation is ongoing. MLB can extend the administrative leave, which is not yet considered discipline (but can later be applied as time served against a future suspension), by asking the Players Association for a seven-day extension.

Since the joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy was instituted in 2015, seven players before Bauer were first placed on administrative leave. Five had their administrative leave extended at least once, agreed to by the MLBPA as an investigation was ongoing.

A sixth — Jose Reyes in 2016 — had his leave converted to a paid suspension until the completion of his legal proceedings. The collective bargaining agreement gives the commissioner the power to do this if he feels that “allowing the Player to play during the pendency of the criminal or legal proceeding would result in substantial and irreparable harm to either the Club or Major League Baseball.”

MLB in-season domestic violence investigations

Player Team News/action Admin leave Suspension date Suspension Comments
Player Team News/action Admin leave Suspension date Suspension Comments
Jose Reyes Rockies 10/31/2015 2/23/2016 5/13/2016 51 games Arrested Oct. 31, 2015
Hector Olivera Braves 4/13/2016 4/13/2016 5/26/2016 82 games Admin leave started day of arrest
Roberto Osuna Blue Jays 5/8/2018 5/8/2018 6/22/2018 75 games Admin leave extended 4 times
Addison Russell Cubs 9/19/2018 9/21/2018 10/3/2018 40 games Blog post by ex-wife prompted MLB
Odubel Herrera Phillies 5/27/2019 5/28/2019 7/5/2019 85 games arrested for assault on May 27, 2019
Julio Urías Dodgers 5/13/2019 5/14/2021 8/17/2019 20 games reinstated after 7 days on admin leave
Domingo Germán Yankees 9/16/2019 9/19/2019 1/2/2020 81 games Admin leave extended thru World Series; not charged with crime
Trevor Bauer Dodgers 6/29/2021 7/2/2021 TBD TBD Restraining order filed Tuesday; admin leave Friday
Since the start of the Joint Domestic   Violence , Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy, agreed to by MLB and the MLBPA, started on August 21, 2015.

Bauer’s hearing to respond to the restraining order is July 23, so it’s reasonable that his administrative leave could last until at least then.

Reyes had already been arrested in Hawaii and had a trial date set for April when he was placed on paid suspension five years ago. Charges were eventually dropped because Reyes’ wife did not cooperate with prosecutors. To date, Bauer has not yet been arrested or charged by the Pasadena police, though an investigation remains ongoing, and per Bob Nightengale at USA Today, is increasing in scope:

“We were looking into some things and we thought we were nearing the end,’’ Lt. Carolyn Gordon, who is overseeing the investigation, told USA TODAY Sports Friday. “We are not close to the end.

“This investigation is bigger than we thought. So we have to look a few more places. We want to try to uncover as much stuff as we can.’’

Gordon said the police department has received new leads in the investigation that began about six weeks ago.

The restraining order obtained filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday, as described by Katie Strang and Brittany Ghiroli at The Athletic, as well as Jeff Passan and Alden Gonzalez at ESPN, detailed sexual encounters with Bauer on April 21 and May 16:

On May 17, the day after the alleged assault, the woman went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with “acute head injury” and “assault by manual strangulation.” San Diego police spoke with her. The woman said she “attempted to downplay what occurred out of concern for my privacy and what my statements might lead to.” She told police she didn’t want to file charges.

Bauer’s representatives sent along screenshots of texts between Bauer and the woman who filed the restraining order, along with a statement from one of Bauer’s agents, Jon Fetterolf, which includes, “We have messages that show [the woman] repeatedly asking for ‘rough’ sexual encounters involving requests to be ‘choked out’ and slapped in the face. In both of their encounters, [the woman] drove from San Diego to Mr. Bauer’s residence in Pasadena, Calif. where she went on to dictate what she wanted from him sexually and he did what was asked.”

At Beyond the Box Score, Sheryl Ring outlined the legalities of consent, specifically how it relates to Bauer:

With this background, you probably now see what the problem is with the text messages released by Bauer’s team...and why they haven’t yet used them in a court proceeding. First, the messages essentially confirm that some sort of encounter occurred and that violence was involved. Second, they do not, in and of themselves, constitute consent for either encounter; at best, they constitute ratification of the first encounter only. Flirtation, in and of itself, is never consent. Third, nowhere do the messages mention punches or concussions, which means that even if Bauer’s victim consented to rough sex and choking, those messages don’t excuse the concussive blows. And fourth, Bauer admitted to performing sex acts on his victim without her knowledge whilst she was unconscious, and she cannot legally consent to those acts.

Bauer hasn’t yet been charged with a crime. It doesn’t mean he won’t be, and it certainly doesn’t mean he won’t be suspended by MLB. The seven previous players who were placed on administrative leave were all suspended, for an average of 62 games. The fewest was 20 games for Julio Urías in 2019, who spent the minimum of seven days on administrative leave after getting arrested on suspicion of domestic battery for reportedly shoving his girlfriend in a parking lot.

From Jorge Castillo at the Los Angeles Times in August 2019:

In June, city prosecutors announced they would not file charges against Urias and no action would be taken in connection with the report, as long as he is not arrested again for violent criminal behavior in the next year and he participated in a 52-week domestic violence counseling program in person.

Which brings us back to the timing of all this.

Of the six MLB domestic violence suspensions in which the incidents took place in season, five players were placed on administrative leave within 24 hours of either the incident itself or news of the incident. Domingo German’s incident in question came on September 16, 2019, but pitched two days later for the Yankees, who said they didn’t know about the incident until he was placed on administrative leave on September 19.

With Bauer, the restraining order was filed on Tuesday. Even if MLB and the Dodgers didn’t know of the severity right away, those details were widely reported on Wednesday.

But we had to go through the charade on Thursday, before the Dodgers’ series opener in Washington D.C., during which manager Dave Roberts said that Bauer was going to start on Sunday and that the team was simply following the direction of MLB.

“Regardless of what the organization wanted to do, this is what has to happen,” Roberts said. “It’s out of our hands.”

While technically true that the CBA gives the commissioner sole authority to impose discipline for violations of the domestic violence policy, there’s also the common sense of not wanting a player who is accused of felony assault to represent your team right now.

The Dodgers have made roster moves with ulterior motives before.

Ross Stripling was sent to Arizona for a month while on the minor league injured list for “lower body fatigue” in 2016, which was really just to limit his innings not yet two years removed from Tommy John surgery.

Walker Buehler was optioned during the All-Star break in 2018, which just so happened to deny him enough service time to fall four days shy of a full year, which assured he’ll be a free agent after 2024 instead of 2023. “It’s workload, it’s roster management,” Roberts said at the time.

The Dodgers could have sat Bauer themselves by saying the decision was related to the long-term health of the roster. But please spare us the line, “It’s out of our hands.” That was insulting, and it’s ridiculous Roberts was even in the position of having to say it.

MLB might not have been too concerned about acting promptly, perhaps wanting to wait until the morning of Bauer’s start, to start the seven-day clock as late as possible. Maybe their timeline was accelerated by the terrible optics — and resulting bad press — of having Roberts go through the motions, not realizing the harm it inflicted.

Or maybe the league didn’t care.

This is an industry that saw Jared Porter rise through the executive ranks, receiving nothing but glowing reports about what a great guy he was. Only to have it all come crashing down within days after being named general manager of the Mets, for sending unsolicited, lewd texts to a female reporter years earlier. When Hannah Keyser at Yahoo Sports asked Mets president Sandy Alderson how many women were interviewed about Porter’s character before getting hired as GM, he said none.

MLB is an institution in which Mickey Callaway’s lewd behavior to women was called, in a report from The Athletic, “the worst-kept secret in sports.” Yet he was hired by the Mets and Angels after his time in Cleveland despite this reportedly notorious past, before getting suspended this year.

Callaway and Porter were both placed on MLB’s ineligible list through at least 2022, but they are by no means alone. MLB as an industry has fostered this abhorrent behavior towards and treatment of women for decades.

When Addison Russell was placed on administrative leave by the Cubs in September 2019, that same day, as chronicled by Sara Sanchez at Bleed Cubbie Blue, owner Tom Ricketts and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein answered questions from the media.

On Friday, with Dodgers team owners, team CEO and president Stan Kasten, and head of baseball operations Andrew Friedman all in Washington D.C. to visit the White House for winning the 2020 World Series, only Kasten spoke to reporters.

Kasten said some substantive things, including, per Bill Plunkett at the Orange County Register, “We’ll have things to say about questions like that when this is over. But it isn’t over, and to say anything while it’s ongoing would not be proper. I don’t want to do that.”

But it was this, in Dylan Hernandez’s column at the Los Angeles Times, that is enraging:

While Kasten offered lip service about being “mindful” and “sensitive” to the opinions others have on Bauer’s situation, he sounded as if he failed to grasp the seriousness of the problem.

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?””

He laughed.

As an organization, you can’t puff out your chest after backing out of a deal for Aroldis Chapman in December 2015 after news of his domestic violence — for which he was later suspended for 30 games — came to light; and you can’t boast about how acquiring someone like Roberto Osuna, as his 75-game suspension was ending, was not for you, only to turn your head now.

When the Dodgers signed Bauer to a three-year, $102 million contract in February, a good chunk of the introductory press conference featured questions about Bauer’s past online harassment of women — I talked about this at the time on two different podcasts — which persisted mostly because he kept giving non-substantive answers.

“There’s some stuff that’s more public with Trevor that definitely was something that we wanted to dig into. We had multiple conversations with Trevor. Stan and I talked to Trevor,” Friedman said on February 11. “From our standpoint, it was important to have that conversation. We came away from it feeling good about it. Obviously, time will tell, but I feel like he is going to be a tremendous add, not just on the field, but in the clubhouse in the community. That’s obviously why we’re sitting here.”

The Dodgers bet heavily that Bauer’s pitching would outweigh all the baggage. Right now those odds aren’t looking so good.