In a winter during which they have been roundly criticized for not spending money, the Dodgers just made the most important investment of many seasons.
They spent $22.5 million to reaffirm their place as a leader in this community.
They spent $22.5 million to reset the personal conduct standard for their employees.
They spent $22.5 million on Los Angeles.
In an obvious yet no less important decision announced Friday, the Dodgers chose to cut loose embattled pitcher Trevor Bauer amid the completion of his record 194-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s policy on domestic violence and sexual assault.
They officially designated him for assignment, which means they have seven days to trade or release him, but in either case they’ll have to pay most if not all of the remaining $22.5 million on his contract.
Good for them. Smart for them. They decided to stand on the right side of history at great cost. For Jackie’s sake, for Sandy’s sake, for Vin’s sake, it’s worth it.
“Two extensive reviews of all the available evidence in this case — one by Commissioner [Rob] Manfred and another by a neutral arbitrator — concluded that Mr. Bauer’s actions warranted the longest ever active player suspension in our sport for violations of this policy,” said the Dodgers in a statement. “Now that this process has been completed, and after careful consideration, we have decided that he will no longer be part of our organization.”
As expected, Bauer went down throwing a curveball. In a statement released shortly after the announcement, he claimed the Dodgers actually wanted him back.
“Following two weeks of conversations around my return to the organization, I sat down with Dodgers leadership in Arizona yesterday who told me that they wanted me to return and pitch for the team this year,” he said.
He’s right about the meeting, it was the first time they met since the suspension of two summers ago. But there is absolutely no indication that any member of the Dodgers leadership team told Bauer he was wanted back. It was more likely that Bauer was just trying to throw one last trick pitch.
The Dodgers wanted him gone, and so he is gone, and that’s all that matters.
Make no mistake, this move carries a trio of huge risks — in the stands, in the clubhouse, and on the field.
In one stunning development, a VFAB poll revealed that the majority of respondents wanted Bauer to return to the team.
Not quite as surprising were the reports that some current players contacted by the Dodgers were also in favor of his return.
Then there’s the matter of the Dodgers’ paper-thin starting rotation, into which the former Cy Young Award winner would have fit as one of its most important pieces.
If Bauer wasn’t going to be the actual ace, he would have been a close second. If Bauer ends up pitching for one of the Dodgers’ rivals while they continue to pay his salary, management will be criticized all summer. Seriously, can you imagine him as a San Diego Padre?
Fine, imagine away, it doesn’t matter where he plays or how he pitches, the important thing here is that he is no longer a Dodger.
If they had kept Bauer, the message they would have sent is one of tolerating violence against women, a philosophy that would have compromised safety in their Dodger Stadium stands and created a win-at-any-cost mandate in their culture.
That’s how the Houston Astros became the Houston Astros.
No, Bauer was never charged with a crime, but as the Dodgers noted in their statement, he just served the longest suspension in the seven-year history of MLB’s policy on domestic violence and sexual assault. That means something.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the league’s notice of discipline sent to Bauer regarding the suspension detailed “violent and non-consensual acts during sex” with two of the women and choking to the point of unconsciousness with a third woman.
Bauer has denied wrongdoing in every instance and became the first player to appeal a suspension under the sexual assault and domestic violence policy. This led to the arbitration hearing, which eventually proved to be Bauer’s final undoing. The hearing featured testimony from two of the three women and included, according to the Washington Post, a recording of a 28-minute phone conversation between Bauer and his San Diego accuser in which Bauer admitted hitting her.
The Dodgers don’t need this on their field. They don’t need this in their clubhouse. And they certainly don’t need this in their community.
The late great Tommy Lasorda once said, “Don’t play for the name on the back of your shirt, you play for the name on the front of your shirt.”
In releasing Trevor Bauer, the Dodgers played for the name on the front of their shirt.
That’s 22.5 million well spent.