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Shame on the Dodgers, and good riddance to Trevor Bauer

Or “Did the Dodgers really need two weeks to do the right thing?”

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San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

As we now know, in late December, the arbitration panel reinstated Trevor Bauer, upheld a suspension of 194 games, and docked Bauer pay for the first 50 games of 2023. Pursuant to major league rules, the Dodgers had fourteen days to decide whether to cut or keep Bauer.

Anyone who was saying that they disagreed with the arbitration result was simply posturing. Bauer is out $37.5 million and bears the stigma of being of having the longest suspension under the league’s joint domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse policy. The ongoing civil litigation that he started, including the countersuit for sexual assault against a San Diego woman — one of three Bauer accusers — would continue.

Now, you might wonder whether the arbitrator’s ruling means that Bauer is criminally guilty or civilly liable. Again — no. The arbitration result has nothing to do with what happens in any potential criminal prosecution, which the Los Angeles County District Attorney already declined to do, or in any ongoing civil litigation, some of which is ongoing. Each proceeding is generally independent of the other. But this essay is not about the law. I talk about that elsewhere.

Two weeks of inaction

The question of the right thing to do about Bauer has been self-evident for a while and the arbitrator's ruling and Bauer’s reinstatement started the clock on the team’s final decision. For whatever reason, the Dodgers decided to use every minute of those fourteen days to make a decision that should have been decided months ago.

Granted, in fairness to the front office, their fourteen-day window started literally a couple of days before Christmas. I can understand if folks were caught flat-footed due to the holiday. Originally, I had no issue with the Dodgers’ delay as I figured that there was no practical difference between releasing Bauer on December 23 or January 6, the final day to act.

What I failed to take into account was an account of the Dodgers being unprepared for the arbitrator’s decision, per Jack Harris, Los Angeles Times, which lost the Dodgers any benefit of the doubt in doing the right thing:

...[C]lub executives were still discussing how they would proceed, according to people with knowledge of the situation, and could wait to make a final decision until closer to the Jan. 6 deadline to either release Bauer or activate him.

The team would like to gather more information about precisely what led to the arbitrator’s decision. But confidentiality rules in MLB’s sexual assault and domestic violence policy, which was jointly negotiated by the league and player’s union, make it unlikely the Dodgers will learn much, if anything, beyond Thursday’s statement or receive a copy of the arbitrator’s final report.

I was stunned to read that information because it led to a single question that I now ask. At the risk of Ken Rosenthal beating me to print, I now ask the question that only a Dodger fan can ask.

What else did the Dodgers need to know?

From where I stand, the Dodgers have a lot to answer for. But I will commend them for finally getting to the right answer after they took far too long to get there.

Bauer’s 194-game suspension was the longest in the eight years of MLB’s joint domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse policy. They had eight months from the initial suspension in April to formulate an opinion on his roster status.

Bauer’s appeal was not going to last in perpetuity. Moreover, the arbitrator’s report, by its very nature, was always going to be confidential. The Dodgers would not be allowed to cite it when they released Bauer, because that act would violate numerous clauses guaranteeing the confidentiality of the participants, including Bauer.

I do not have any sympathy for the Dodgers and their “sudden” dilemma, and frankly, neither should you. It takes genuine talent to be willfully blind to something you know you have to do or decide on. Throughout this entire ordeal, I took it upon myself to keep tabs on Bauer and what he was sharing on social media. Purely on a baseball level, I was thoroughly underwhelmed with what he presented. In my opinion, after watching his content, his control seemed to be diminished and his enthusiasm for the game appeared as if it had fallen off a cliff.

At the end of the day, most folks right now will remember Bauer as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher — but that was 18 months ago. Based on what I saw throughout his layoff, in my opinion, I believe that Bauer would be a five or a six in the current rotation based on the deterioration of his skills. And that assessment would be apt if I could get past what Bauer did to get suspended, which the arbitrator upheld — which I cannot and will not do.

If you can get past what Bauer did, to quote Houston Mitchell of the Los Angeles Times in a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with, you have problems well beyond the ability of this column, of this website to help you with.

Shame on the Dodgers

I do not have any sympathy for the Dodgers right now. If your reaction to everything Bauer was found to have done, and your first thought is “oh no, the Dodgers!” I genuinely cannot help you.

As to personnel decisions, the Dodgers dug this hole all by themselves. If the Dodgers were now genuinely concerned about having Bauer be put in a position to now beat them at their own expense, I am genuinely at a loss for words.

Eventually, the Dodgers did the minimum actions that could be considered the right thing. Bauer responded by alluding to his assertion that the team wanted to keep him up until the day before he was designated for assignment. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the team states that Bauer’s assertions are untrue, but honestly any discussion of that misses the point.

For the Dodgers, the Bauer signing should now serve as a cautionary tale that exceptional talent means absolutely nothing in the absence of common sense. or basic human decency. For if the Dodgers cannot overcome a vainglorious, homer-prone, mercurial buffoon who has not seen major league action in 18 months, then the Dodgers deserve to wear that shame, that humiliation as a final figurative insult to this affair.

The Trevor Bauer era in Los Angeles will end by Friday when he is released and the epithet of “Trevor Bauer” should serve as a reminder of what happens when a team stops using its common sense and values raw talent over questions of character.

The Trevor Bauer era in Los Angeles should serve as a cautionary tale about the ends justifying the means. The fact that no one in the Dodgers’ front office has been publicly reprimanded or fired over this affair is troubling, because if the team will not learn its lesson, then it is likely to make the same mistake at a later date.

The Dodgers could have spent the money they have now figuratively set ablaze with the Trevor Bauer contract on just about literally anything else and that act would have provided more value to the Dodgers than Trevor Bauer did while a Dodger. Think about it, his magnum opus for the Dodgers was a start against the Marlins at home — well done.

What was lost

The Bauer signing, in part, is why a pillar of the community and overall good person Justin Turner is gone. Time will tell whether J.D. Martinez will replace Turner’s role on the team as an elder statesman. Personally, I am quite doubtful, not just because of what Martinez has previously done on social media but by how much good Turner actually did in Los Angeles, including things that were not widely reported on. Once again, Mr. Mitchell of the Times:

But it’s not only the on-field Turner the Dodgers will miss. He and his wife, Kourtney, were very active in the community, particularly with Children’s Hospital L.A. with many visits to the patients there.

But my favorite thing Turner did was during almost every Dodger home game. Most games, the Dodgers will introduce a “Military Hero of the Game,” a person they bring on field who has served in the armed forces. Quite often, these people will have been wounded in battle or done something heroic. They are introduced and the fans are told what they did, and they usually get a lengthy ovation as they walk back to their seat. Leaving the field, they always are led up the aisle next to the Dodger dugout. Waiting for them there very quietly at the edge of the dugout each time was Turner, who shook their hand, said a few words and gave them an autographed ball. It was a nice, quiet gesture, done with Turner not wanting to bring attention to himself.

[emphasis added.]

Being kind without seeking attention is something we should all seek to do more of. I will not fault Turner for seeking more money and more playing time in Boston. It will be fun to see him in Boston when the Dodgers visit in August, along with Enrique Hernández, Chris Martin, and Kenley Jansen.

But being a Dodger used to mean something special. The Bauer era has cheapened that.

For the Dodgers, the Bauer signing cheapened that unique good that should come with wearing a Dodger uniform and goes on the pile with other things that the team would like to forget like the Brawl at Wrigley Field 23 years ago or the shameful way that the team handled Glenn Burke.

For the Dodgers, the only way that they could have handled the Bauer decision in a worse manner would have been to keep him. And if the team had chosen that route, then the Dodgers would have not lost their collective minds, but a considerable portion of their humanity as well.

And as you can only sell your soul once, a Dodgers team that keeps Bauer around might as well try to sign Carlos Correa and Aroldis Chapman at that point, because clearly being a Dodger would not mean anything special anymore. A Dodger team that made those decisions I would not want to follow and I suppose I would have to find something else to fill my time.

“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle” - George Orwell

I could wax on how the team did not want to sign Correa or Chapman because of fan backlash, but truthfully, in my view, they passed because they were out of the team’s price range. As I have written elsewhere, right now, this team clearly does not care about its fanbase apart from its money. Based on its actions, this team clearly cares about the appearance of caring, without actually caring.

There is a difference in motivation because a team that was committed to doing the right thing would never have signed Bauer in the first place. But this team valued talent over character, even with a glaring absence of contrition for past acts and with plenty of evidence to the contrary, which was glaringly obvious from the start. Per Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times from July 2021:

[Friedman on February 11, while introducing Bauer]: “The most important thing is every teammate we talked to, all the feedback we got from every organization he was with, was not only incredibly positive in terms of the type of teammate he is but also in terms of the impact that he makes on each organization.

Bauer: “Everyone makes mistakes in the past — I try to learn from them as quickly as I possibly can,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people to try to understand other peoples’ perspectives, and I’m doing my best to be better in all walks of life. I am committed to being better on social media, to being better on the field, in the clubhouse, and in life in general.

[emphasis added.]

Words are wind, actions are what count and the Dodgers’ actions were wanting. Never forget that this team deluded itself and thought it could get Bauer to conform to the team-first culture led by Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, and Mookie Betts. Once again, Mr. DiGiovanna of the Times:

[Kershaw]: “I think our clubhouse does a really good job of taking in all types of personalities, different people, and getting the best out of them. And we expect that with Trevor. We’re going to let Trevor be himself and do what he’s continued to do over the course of his career.

[Betts:] “I mean, obviously, you get a Cy Young winner and you’re going to be excited...But all those things are ... he is who he is. You know what you’re getting, so I don’t really worry about it. It doesn’t bother me. “He goes out there and competes, he gets wins … I don’t know what more you can ask for. He’s got to be Trevor Bauer. You can’t try to turn him into someone else.”

[emphasis added.]

The Dodgers and their players knew what they were getting. Like a child playing around a hot stove, the only natural result was that someone or something was going to get burned. How can anyone truly be surprised at this point?

A team that was actually interested in doing the right thing would have prepared Dave Roberts to give an actual human answer prior to Bauer going on administrative leave in 2021 rather than have Roberts cower behind an attorney. If you need an example of what a responsible answer to a similar situation would have looked like, you need only look east at Davey Martinez and what the Nationals did in immediately releasing Starlin Castro after his suspension in 2021.

A team that was actually interested in doing the right thing would have not done the bare minimum in its interaction with its fanbase regarding the ongoing controversy. It should not have taken a deep dive into various league policies in order to know what was going on and what was going to happen. At the risk of pandering, the readers of True Blue LA are some of the most knowledgeable and insightful fans, not just for the Dodger fandom. for all of baseball. And if you folks needed an actual lawyer to parse what was happening, how is the average Dodger fan going to figure it out without team intervention?

A team that was actually interested in doing the right thing would not have dragged out the decision to cut Bauer until the literal last minute like an unprepared student cramming for an exam.

A team that was actually interested in doing the right thing would not need confidential information to inform a decision that should be apparent based on publicly available information.

A team that was actually interested in doing the right thing would have told its players to not talk to the media and informed everyone that a unified statement would come out shortly instead of having leaks that say some players want to bring Bauer back and some players want Bauer gone, dividing the clubhouse and making the team look inept and feckless.

A team that was actually interested in doing the right thing would start publicly making amends. The team got it right by the skin of its teeth on one of the easiest examinations around — shame on the Dodgers.

Now if another team fails to learn the lesson that the Dodgers should have learned prior to signing Bauer and signs Bauer anyway, that’s on them. Let Bauer darken our collective doorstep no more. And if Bauer wants to continue to argue he did nothing wrong, he has that right, but not as a Dodger. Bauer has the opportunity to give deposition testimony and answer written discovery under penalty of perjury and afford himself of his right to his day in court. Considering both MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and independent arbitrator Martin Scheinman found that punishing Bauer was justified, I do not expect that I will have to revise my view on this matter.

Once released, Trevor Bauer will finally, mercifully be gone. He will be someone else’s problem. As to who, who knows? More importantly, who cares? All we as Dodger fans can do to move forward is do better and use our voices and dollars to hold this team to account so that this situation is never repeated. Let us never forget the lesson of this self-inflicted blunder.