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Rosenthal: Dodgers' decision to cut ties with Trevor Bauer shouldn't have been difficult at all

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So here’s the risk, if you want to call it that, the Los Angeles Dodgers seized on Friday by making, in my opinion, the right call in cutting ties with Trevor Bauer.

The San Diego Padres, the Dodgers’ biggest threat in the NL West, can now sign Bauer for the minimum wage of $720,000. The Dodgers owe Bauer the remainder of the $22.5 million he is owed, potentially paying him to beat them to the division title and National League pennant.

To which there is only one logical answer: who cares?

All teams want to win. All teams wince when helping a rival. But professional sports executives must ask themselves from time to time, “Who are we? What do we support?”

The Dodgers, by a Friday deadline to part ways with Bauer or reinstate him on their active roster, have repeatedly failed to provide adequate answers about the pitcher. Even when they let him go, they delayed the decision until virtually the last minute, worried about the potential competitive disadvantage, according to sources briefed on their thinking but not authorized to speak about the matter publicly.

And that wasn’t all. The Dodgers issued a statement announcing its decision on Bauer, but has yet to say it will not tolerate the behavior that prompted his suspension. Bauer, for his part, issued his own statement saying that Dodgers leadership “told me they wanted me to come back and pitch for the team this year”. If that’s true — and a Dodgers official said it wasn’t — the Dodgers’ desire to keep Bauer may have depended on him agreeing to several conditions that he might otherwise have refused to meet. He still hasn’t apologized or shown any hint of remorse.

Picking the Dodgers shouldn’t have been so difficult. Frankly, I don’t think it should have been difficult. Bauer’s 194-game suspension was the longest any player has ever served under the joint domestic policy agreed to by Major League Baseball and the Players Association. He was accused of hitting and choking several women during sex. He acknowledged such actions, but said they were prearranged and then solicited during consensual rough sex.

The league, in its disciplinary notice to Bauer in April 2022, offered a different account according to the Wall Street Journal, which viewed a copy of the letter. Bauer, the league said, subjected two women to “violent, non-consensual acts during sex.” He also choked a third woman unconscious on several occasions, the letter said, and had sex with her while she was unconscious. The league also cited a defamation suit against one of the women and her lawyer as “intimidation or tampering” and said Bauer made verbal threats against another of the women, all actions prohibited under their joint policy.

A Los Angeles superior court judge denied a woman’s request for a restraining order against Bauer. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to pursue charges against him. But two separate bodies, the MLB and a neutral arbitrator approved by the league and union, determined that he violated joint policy. The referee maintained the suspension of the championship, but reduced it from 324 to 194 games.

The Dodgers did not see the referee’s decision, which, under joint policy, is confidential. But how much more did they need to know? The woman who applied for the restraining order provided the court with several photos. In these photos, which Bauer’s team said “look edited,” the woman’s face was visibly bruised and swollen, including under both eyes. And Bauer’s unprecedented 194-game suspension was reason enough for the Dodgers to let him go.

However, the Dodgers, the franchise that made Jackie Robinson the first African-American player in the major leagues and now features former tennis player and social activist Billie Jean King as one of its owners, seemed more concerned about the fear that Bauer had success elsewhere than in doing the right thing.

Another team might sign Bauer, who turns 32 on Jan. 17, seeing him as a potential minimum-wage bargain. But Bauer hasn’t pitched a major league game since June 28, 2021. He would return to a league that has cracked down on gooey substances. And while the Dodgers’ concern over the Padres’ signing of Bauer seems, on the surface, well-founded from a baseball perspective, it’s also pretty short-sighted. The Padres would have a lot of explaining to do if they added Bauer when the woman who filed a restraining order against him is from San Diego.

Any club that wants to bet on Bauer would inherit all of his baggage. The Dodgers signed him to a three-year, $102 million free agent contract in February 2021, knowing his reputation as an online bully, particularly towards women. At his introductory press conference, he said, “I’m doing my best to improve. I am committed to being better on social media, being better on the pitch, being better at home, being better in life in general.”

Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations for the Dodgers added: “In our conversations, he alluded to past mistakes he’s made. We came away from it feeling good about it. Now, obviously, time will tell, but I feel he will be a huge asset, not just on the pitch, but for the club and the community.”

How did that work?

The alleged acts that led to Bauer’s suspension were significantly worse than his previous behavior. However, the Dodgers, until the end, acted as if they were passive observers of the process. His public stance, or lack thereof, was in direct contrast to that of the Washington Nationals, who in September 2021 made good on a promise to release infielder Starlin Castro immediately after he served a 30-game suspension for violating joint domestic violence. policy.

Castro, who owed around $1 million at the time, has not played in the majors since, even though he is only 32 years old. Bauer owes more money and is more talented, as evidenced by the National League Cy Young Award he won in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. But a team follows a zero or no tolerance policy. With Bauer, it was as if the Dodgers were afraid to admit their mistake.

When the restraining order request against Bauer became public, the team initially said he would make his next start, deferring to the league, which placed him on administrative leave. Team president Stan Kasten made flippant remarks after the sport’s investigation into Bauer began, leading to a reprimand from commissioner Rob Manfred. Finally, the team took 14 days to determine Bauer’s fate after the referee announced his decision on Dec. 21.

Holidays were one of the reasons for the delay, according to a source. The death of Scott Minerd, one of owner Mark Walter’s business partners at Guggenheim Partners, was another. But for months, the Dodgers had known a decision on Bauer was coming. Why weren’t they prepared to take an immediate stand?

They did just that when they struck a deal to acquire Aroldis Chapman from the Reds in December 2015, then pulled out after learning the reliever was the subject of a domestic violence inquiry. At the time, baseball writer Jon Heyman quoted Walter as saying, “Nobody did (please get Chapman). It was not (just) property.” But Kasten indicated the Dodgers were also concerned about the competitive aspect – a possible indefinite suspension for Chapman. “We didn’t know what the findings would be,” Kasten said. “There were many reasons to be cautious.”

The Yankees acquired Chapman later that month amid the same uncertainty. The league suspended Chapman for the first 30 games of the regular season. The Cubs acquired him from the Yankees near the trade deadline, then defeated the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series and won their first World Series since 1908, with Chapman playing a prominent role.

Could the Dodgers have won that series if they’d kept Chapman? Possibly. Do the Cubs and many of their fans care that a pitcher coming off a domestic violence suspension is part of their welfare story? Probably not. All professional sports franchises make concessions in one way or another, decisions that range from uncomfortable to noteworthy.

Some decisions, however, are so necessary, so important, that they shouldn’t require much thought.

The Dodgers split with Trevor Bauer qualified, and more.

(Photo: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)