Trevor Bauer is back in the spotlight, and isn’t going anywhere

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It takes a lot for me to compliment MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, mostly because there’s very little he does in his day-to-day as the owners’ representative that merits a compliment from me. However, the handling of Trevor Bauer and his suspension has been a rare bright spot, with Manfred and the league effectively telling him he was unwanted when they suspended him 324 games following their own investigation during a lengthy stay on the restricted list in the back half of the 2021 season, for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

Bauer missed the entire 2022 season, but he’ll be back for 2023: while he won’t be paid for the first 50 games of the year, he’s now eligible to play in them thanks to the decision of independent arbitrator Martin Scheinman, with the 144 missed games plus the time on the restricted list essentially acting as time served. Bauer’s camp, of course, complained in a statement that there never should have been any suspension in the first place, and likely would have asked for the entire 2022 season to be replayed but now with Bauer in it if they thought it were possible to do so, but you knew that’s the angle they were going to take even before they released the statement.

I say “he’ll be back in 2023” but that’s actually unknown at this time. The Dodgers have until January 6 to decide whether or not they’re going to cut Bauer and eat his salary to keep him off of their roster, and while I certainly have negative feelings for the way Andrew Friedman ran things in cash-strapped Tampa Bay, or about the whole crimes.xls Dodgers thing, or the abuse occurring in the minors, or… Jesus, the Dodgers are a real mess on the ethical side of things, huh? Anyway, I have to imagine that Los Angeles isn’t going to keep Bauer even if it feels like a thing they could do, given they are the team that signed Bauer when his being literally Trevor Bauer wasn’t exactly a secret, and that Manfred is going to call every day until he’s released if they’re planning to cut him.

Even if Bauer doesn’t play for the Dodgers, even if they release him, he’s not going to go away now that he’s reinstated. There will always be the fear that some team will decide to give him a chance in ‘23 on the Dodgers’ dime — Bauer wouldn’t be the first player with credible accusations against him to be given a roster spot because the price was right, and he’s unlikely to be the last, either — and if somehow no one signs him, you can bet that Bauer is going to attempt to file a grievance against the league or yet another lawsuit to claim that he’s been wrongfully blacklisted and should be compensated for it. After all, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office declined to prosecute him 10 months ago, which resulted in both he and his supporters acting as if this was the same thing as being declared innocent, and he’s currently suing both the victim in that case and media members — four active defamation suits in total, now that the one against The Athletic and former contributor Molly Knight was dismissed — who said things he believes were unfair in a way that he can punish them for legally. It was just last month that a judge ruled twice against Bauer, allowing a countersuit from that first victim to continue — this story isn’t going to go away anytime soon, basically, and much of it has to do with Bauer’s clear obsession with what he sees as justified countermeasures to recover his reputation. The thing is, we’ve heard the words and seen the tweets and read about the actions, though, so no amount of successful defamation suits will change the fact that the guy is pretty obviously an asshole, and as the dismissal of the case against The Athletic and Knight shows, chances are good he’s not going to find much success in this route, anyway.

So, we’re basically stuck with Bauer updates for the foreseeable future. Will the Dodgers keep or cut him? Will some other team sign him when they’re only on the hook for a six-figure sum in 2023? Will Bauer tweet through it all while all of these lawsuits are ongoing, and more could come if he thinks he’s been wronged by the Dodgers, by MLB, by the Players Association for not advocating for or defending him vigorously enough. Hey, it’s happened before: Alex Rodriguez sued the MLBPA for a supposed failure in “its duty of fair representation” i.e. not getting his 162-game suspension for the 2014 season reduced enough. A-Rod eventually dropped the suit, but can you picture Bauer doing the same?

Maybe this is all pessimistic, but how could it not be? An arbitrator decided that Bauer had already served enough of a punishment, and that he should be allowed to make $24 million and have a chance at taking the mound again, even as he remains embroiled in legal battles and [do not click that unless you are prepared for graphic descriptions of abuse] has another two women besides the one counter-suing him claiming that he assaulted them in a similar manner to the first as well. It sadly would not be a surprise at all to see Bauer signed by someone in 2023, anyway, or for him to blame the Dodgers and the league and the PA for his employment situation if not. Or hell, even if he is signed, since the Dodgers were his first choice and that was taken from him. I would love to be wrong about all of this, but we are talking about a league that recently had multiple executives who had to be talked out of drafting or signing a child molester because his potential on-field ability exceeded his acquisition cost, so.

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