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WASHINGTON — It was the Los Angeles Dodgers who went against the wishes of many of their fans and lavished $102 million on Trevor Bauer, who in a quainter time was merely known as an extremely online pitcher with a penchant for cyberbullying paired with a side of misogyny.
And it is the Los Angeles Dodgers who could determine that he never pitch for them again.
How much is a proud franchise’s dignity worth? Or the respect of tens of thousands of women in their fan base?
Bauer, the 30-year-old pitching maverick and reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, will not pitch for the Dodgers this weekend, nor next week, and perhaps not for many months. He has not been charged with a crime but faces accusations of sexual assault brought by a 27-year-old San Diego woman who obtained a temporary restraining order against him.
Friday, the paper transaction was executed: Major League Baseball placed Bauer on seven-day administrative leave, ensuring that a crowd of fans on the Fourth of July in the nation’s capital won’t have their holiday sullied by paying money to watch a pitcher who, his partner alleged, choked her unconscious with her own hair and then anally raped her.
Bauer, through his legal team, has said anything that happened in their two encounters in his Pasadena residence was consensual. Yet the woman’s diagnosis of head and facial trauma, according to a hospital exam included in her request for a temporary restraining order, goes far beyond anything resembling consent.
The fact-finding is not done, by any means. Pasadena police told USA TODAY Sports on Friday that its investigation into the matter “is bigger than we thought.” Stan Kasten, Dodgers president and CEO, told USA TODAY Sports before Friday’s game at Nationals Park that he has “not yet been privy to all the facts. There are a lot of things that have not yet been in the public domain yet that are relevant.
“So, I really have to wait; everyone has to wait. I’m very comfortable with baseball’s decision so far. And let’s see how it goes after.”
Kasten and owner Mark Walter, both in town for the Dodgers’ White House trip to celebrate their 2020 World Series title, spent close to an hour chatting in the dugout Friday, joined for a time by manager Dave Roberts, who until Friday was the lone organizational voice to answer for their star right-hander’s legal trouble.
The Bauer saga can take many turns, both legally and as it relates to his MLB eligibility. The Dodgers brain trust is familiar with many of them. Friday’s starter and 2020 World Series hero Julio Urias served a 20-game suspension in 2019 for an incident with his girlfriend that resulted in deferred prosecution of a misdemeanor domestic battery charge.
Though Bauer has not been arrested nor charged, the accusations against him are far more severe; additionally, the evidence suggests anything short of an utter recanting by the victim would compel MLB to suspend him.
For now, a key date looms: July 23, when a hearing in Los Angeles County Superior Court will give Bauer and his legal team a first chance to officially air their version of events and potentially have the temporary restraining order lifted.
MLB’s domestic violence policy was enacted six years ago, and the 13 incidents resulting in suspensions span a grim spectrum of physical assault, verbal and emotional abuse and gunplay, the most egregious drawing suspensions of 75 to 162 games. None involve sexual assault.
Bauer is alleged to have committed sexual assault. With the Dodgers at exactly the halfway mark of their season – 81 games – when Bauer was placed on administrative leave, it’s hard to imagine, barring a significant turnabout, him pitching again this season.
While there’s currently no precedent for a case like Bauer’s, the severity and wide range of allegations would seemingly compel MLB to issue harsh discipline. Sam Dyson’s 162-game ban for the 2021 season remains the longest penalty handed out.
Such discipline in Bauer’s case would sideline him until this time, next year, at which point the Dodgers could welcome him back.
Their fans – who come through the gates 4 million strong – might feel differently.
With a fresh World Series title and six capable starters in tow, Bauer was a luxury item this winter, a commitment to answer the significant moves the division rival Padres made. That the Dodgers scarcely flinched at Bauer’s subpar treatment of women – from online harassment of a college student to his ground rules for, um, dating – did not sit well with a significant portion of their fan base.
The discomfort became palpable when Roberts deferred to MLB on the Bauer issue; certainly, there is a league process involved, but if felt distasteful to have Bauer pitching with a temporary restraining order against him and the active police investigation seemed like mere paperwork to the organization.
“I have heard from fans, colleagues, staff in the organization, family members, who have views,” Kasten said Friday. “Everyone’s views are valid and important to me. And I think respecting this process is the best way to get to the right result.”
Make no mistake: This process is going to take a while. Police and MLB investigations will likely stretch for weeks and perhaps months; Bauer’s administrative leave may end up rolling over multiple times, subject to league and union agreement.
Yet from here, based on precedent and barring new information to the contrary, the proper result would ultimately look something like a year’s suspension. That would cost the Dodgers a good pitcher in their repeat bid; it would also save them roughly $30 million in salary over this year and 2022.
Famously, Bauer opted to negotiate a shorter-term deal with opt-outs after every season to maximize his per annum. It is hard to imagine him opting out of a contract halfway through or coming off a domestic-violence suspension.
A one-year ban, then, would leave the Dodgers on the hook for about $48 million upon Bauer’s return – his 2023 salary plus half of 2022.
Oh, the Dodgers will have to pay him. They just wouldn’t have to play him.
Is nearly $50 million too hefty a price to admit a mistake, to show your fans that you care, to send a message to women that their safety, well-being and sanity are valued?
Check back in a year. By then we’ll have plenty of clarity on Bauer’s situation – and the direction of the game’s moral compass.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trevor Bauer must sit until MLB, Dodgers can find 'right result'