For reasons that I am sure made sense at the time, MLB invited Mookie Betts to go to World Series Game 3 in Phoenix as a special correspondent to provide content for MLB Network and social media platforms. Dodgers Twitter was generally mixed on this move, but personally, as someone who occasionally calls himself a “Traveling Correspondent,” I was indifferent — let people enjoy themselves is what I say.
Betts’ day started fine, he crashed Aaron Judge’s press conference where it was announced that Judge had won the 2023 Roberto Clemente Humanitarian award, over others, including Chris Taylor. It is worth noting that Judge said something that would turn out to be quite prophetic:
...We get to this level in our careers and our life, I said it earlier ... to whom much has been given, much is required...
Betts was photographed with fans and Corbin Carroll while at Chase Field. While at Chase Field, he gave an interview to Bill Shakin of the Los Angeles Times. Betts addressed the obvious contradiction in coming out to a stadium where his team had been unceremoniously dispatched about two weeks ago.
“I definitely watch [the playoffs]” Betts said. “I’m in a bowling alley all the time when the games are on. This [sic] is a part of my identity. A lot of these guys are my friends. These are life relationships that you create through playing baseball.
“Obviously, I want to play and I want to win, right? But, if this is not your turn, that’s fine. I want my boys to be successful as well.”
During the interview, to his credit, Betts did not shy away from his disastrous NLDS against the Diamondbacks.
“There’s probably a million people with all the answers. I’m sure somebody is right,” he said. “But I don’t know what those answers are.
“I just know, for me, I have to do better. That’s pretty much it. I have to do better, no matter what.”
Had Betts’ interview ended there, this interview would likely not even be a footnote at True Blue LA or anywhere. After all, Betts has a podcast, he bowls, he has his fingers in quite a few pies. What’s the harm?
Or even if Betts had ended his interview after commenting about the bye period by stating “[a]t the end of the day, no matter what, there’s no excuse. You’ve got to go play, no matter what, and let the chips fall where they may.”
But Betts kept talking, and for some inexplicable reason, started talking about Trevor Bauer.
“Betts said he hoped major league teams would consider signing former Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer this winter.
“It’s something to think about,” Betts said....
“My experience with Bauer is not anything remotely close to what everyone else’s experience is. I love him. I think he’s an awesome guy. The personal things? I have no control. I have no say. Obviously, nothing ever came from it.”
First of all, why bring up Bauer at all? He has been exiled to Japan since he was released by the Dodgers because no major league team would sign him even for the minimum salary in 2023. While I have been quietly rooting for the meteor in this World Series, I will confess that there was not a single moment where I thought “gee, I wonder what Bauer is up to?”
Second, Betts is not even correct when he said, “The personal things? I have no control. I have no say. Obviously, nothing ever came from it.” If my friends said that they have no control or no say over the things I do, I probably would have some lousy friends.
But more importantly, Betts is flat wrong. For starters, Bauer was found to have been in violation of the the league’s joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy by a neutral arbitrator, one of the best in the business actually, resulting in the longest suspension (194 games) under the policy in the league’s history.
The Dodgers took far too long to make the correct decision, but back in January the team finally made a correct decision by releasing Bauer:
As I wrote back in January, which is still true now as it was then:
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] 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.
The only difference is that most of the lawsuits have either been dismissed or settled out of court. Bauer technically drops off the books after the World Series, which is a bit of foolish decision making that has justifiably haunted this team since the borderline-malpractice-level decision to sign him in the 2020 offseason.
But Michael, you say, what about loyalty to a friend?
Frankly, that point is a fair one. But in the name of charity and decency, you may stand by a person but honor dictates you abhor and castigate what they did. Turning an obvious blind eye to bad behavior is not being a good friend; that act is just called being an enabler.
If Betts had just said, “No comment,” we would not be here.
If Betts had just said, “I’m here to talk about the World Series, let’s focus on the games,” we would not be here.
If Betts had just said, “I consider Trevor a friend but I cannot condone what he’s been accused of. The fact remains he was suspended by the League and he has to live with the consequences,” we would not be here.
Just because someone is nice to you does not mean that they are a good person on the whole. To say nothing came from Bauer’s suspension just shows a baffling lack of self-awareness on Betts’ part.
And had Betts stopped talking, the damage would have been done.
“He’s an awesome pitcher. He’s a great guy, somebody who wants to take the mound every fifth day. But, at the end of the day, I don’t make the decision. That’s a decision that’s not as simple as baseball.”
The $365-million face of the franchise for the next nine seasons apparently is no judge of either talent or character.
Never mind the other accusers, never mind the suspension, never mind how middling Bauer actually was with the Dodgers and or even in Japan. Betts just gave an unexpected, unprompted, misguided full-throated endorsement of someone who is a literal pariah in Los Angeles to a vast majority of the fanbase.
If Betts wanted people to stop talking about his poor playoff performance over the past two seasons, he found a hell of a way to do it.
If Betts wanted people to completely change their perception of him overnight, he has succeeded by finding a way to torch his own credibility with a single interview. For someone who has promoted inclusivity in baseball, expressing full-throated support for Trevor Bauer is about as far away from that goal as you can get.
Words honestly fail.
Betts has gone out of his way to be a leader and a role model since coming to Los Angeles. If Betts had been taciturn or shied from the spotlight, as was his right, this moronic take, this betrayal of everything that the Dodgers are supposed to stand for, would still be hard to swallow.
As it stands now, Betts made a choice, a bafflingly stupid choice, and now he gets to live with the consequences, especially the reactions of a shocked fanbase. If anyone had “Mookie Betts gives a full-throated defense of released ex-Dodger Trevor Bauer” on their bingo card for this postseason, they need to go collect their winnings and stop.
It genuinely breaks my heart to write this way about Mookie Betts, but here we are.