He was there when Clayton Kershaw pitched seven perfect innings.
He was there when the Dodgers celebrated Jackie Robinson Day.
Trevor Bauer wasn’t there in person, but he didn’t have to be. Nearly a year after sexual assault allegations against him initially surfaced, Bauer remains out of sight but definitely not out of mind. His presence is everywhere.
That was the case again Sunday, when a 9-1 victory over the Reds was overshadowed by speculation of whether Bauer would return to Dodger Stadium.
If this were any other player, there would have been absolutely no chance of him trying to walk into a locker room in which he didn’t know whether he would be welcome.
With Bauer, the Dodgers couldn’t be certain.
He strives to portray himself as an iconoclast and craves attention. He operates a YouTube channel with more than 400,000 subscribers.
Ultimately, there were no reported Bauer sightings, but that almost didn’t matter. Whether he intended to do so or not, Bauer still managed to shift the focus from the team to himself.
And he will continue to do so, with The Times’ Bill Shaikin reporting that Bauer is still looking into the agreement between the commissioner’s office and players union to extend his administrative leave through Friday.
Bauer is exploring whether the agreement is binding, Shaikin reported, citing people familiar with the situation who were not authorized to speak about it publicly.
On the surface, Bauer’s questioning of the agreement looks like a ploy to force the slow-moving hand of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. Bauer is ineligible to play while on leave, but if the agreement isn’t binding, Manfred would theoretically run the risk of Bauer reporting to work if he doesn’t immediately suspend him.
Bauer maintains he didn’t sexually assault the San Diego woman who accused him of doing so during two encounters. The Los Angeles County district attorney said he couldn’t prove any charges beyond a reasonable doubt, but Manfred could suspend him without meeting that standard. Bauer can appeal any suspension.
The impasse has created a nightmare for the Dodgers. Whatever happened between Bauer and the woman, an organization that champions itself as an agent for positive social change is now attached to a player with a history of allegations that he harassed women, mocked transgender people and spread racist conspiracy theories.
The Dodgers knew of his reputation when they signed him. They couldn’t have known he would be accused of sexual assault, but they knew they were acquiring a player who contradicted their self-proclaimed values.
The situation hasn’t negatively affected the team. The Dodgers reached the National League Championship Series last season and have a 7-2 record this year.
“I think that we’re just focused on winning a baseball game,” manager Dave Roberts said.
But the image the Dodgers developed over generations is being diminished one headline at a time.
By now, Bauer has made clear he won’t disappear quietly. If anything, he has shown an inclination to create as much noise as possible, filing lawsuits against media entities and remaining active on social media.
He also appears disinterested in pursuing the most expedient path back to the field, which would almost certainly involve him negotiating a suspension with MLB. But accepting a suspension would mean he would have to agree to not appeal Manfred’s finding that he violated league policy, and he has maintained he did nothing wrong.
By dragging out the process, he is not only tainting the Dodgers’ history but also clouding the team’s present.
In the early innings of Kershaw’s pitch-count-thwarted perfect game, word surfaced of the now-disputed agreement to extend Bauer’s paid leave.
Two days later, the Dodgers were slipping into their No. 42 jerseys and preparing to meet Jackie Robinson’s son when news broke that Bauer could challenge the agreement and show up at Dodger Stadium on Sunday.
On the Sunday in question, Freddie Freeman inspired a couple more stadium-wide chants. Andrew Heaney looked like a new pitcher, striking out 11 in six scoreless innings. Bolstered by a seven-run fourth inning that displayed their offensive potential, the Dodgers won their sixth consecutive game.
And somehow, the story of the day involved a player who wasn’t on the field.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.