Trevor Bauer was suspended for two years by Major League Baseball on Friday, triggering a new front in Bauer’s efforts to fight sexual assault allegations that could keep him off the field until well into the 2024 season.
The Dodgers pitcher can pursue an expedited appeal to the league’s independent arbitrator. He cannot play during the appeal process.
Of the 16 players suspended under baseball’s sexual assault and domestic violence policy, Bauer is the first not to agree to a negotiated settlement. He could argue that he does not warrant any suspension because he did nothing wrong, and that commissioner Rob Manfred has suspended him for unconventional but consensual sex rather than for sexual assault.
“In the strongest possible terms, I deny committing any violation of the league’s domestic violence & sexual assault policy,” Bauer said in a statement. “I am appealing this action and expect to prevail.”
In a statement, Manfred said the league’s investigation had concluded, and he had determined Bauer’s conduct violated the policy and warranted a suspension. In statements announcing such suspensions, the league does not reveal the specific conduct that triggered the discipline, in accordance with the collectively bargained policy.
An arbitrator can reduce or overturn a suspension. In 2014, when MLB suspended Alex Rodriguez for 211 games for “use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances … over the course of multiple years,” an arbitrator reduced the suspension to 162 games. In 2012, after Ryan Braun had been suspended 50 games for testing positive for performance-enhancing substances, the suspension was thrown out via arbitration because testing protocols had not been followed.
Previous suspensions under the policy ranged from 15 to 162 games. Negotiated settlements are not considered as precedent, so the league could not tell an arbitrator its suspension of Bauer is in line with previous suspensions under the policy.
However, the policy negotiated with the players’ union calls for sexual assault and domestic violence policies “comparable … in scope and discipline” for team employees, league officials and owners. The league could argue that a precedent was set in 2019 by the four-month suspension of San Francisco Giants President Larry Baer, whose wife fell to the ground after he reached for her cellphone during an argument.
Bauer’s case is the first with more than one publicly identified accuser. An Ohio woman applied for a restraining order against Bauer amid her allegations of sexual assault, according to the Washington Post. The application later was withdrawn, and Bauer’s attorneys dismissed those allegations as “baseless.”
The league would not comment beyond Manfred’s statement and declined to say whether league investigators had spoken about Bauer’s conduct with any woman beyond those two.
On Friday, after the league announced the suspension, the Post reported a third woman had reported similar allegations against Bauer and had cooperated with the league’s investigation. Bauer’s representatives told the Post the new allegations were “defamatory and baseless.”
The woman said she decided to come forward, the Post reported, “after Bauer denied similar allegations made by two other women and accused them of lying for potential financial gain.”
In a statement, the Dodgers said they had cooperated with the league’s investigation and support the league’s policy. They declined to comment further “until the process is complete,” citing Bauer’s right to appeal.
The Dodgers paid Bauer $38 million last year. His contract calls for him to be paid $32 million this year and $32 million next year. Players are not paid while suspended.
If the suspension stands, the Dodgers would be off the hook for the balance of the contract.
If Bauer were willing to consider a settlement, he could have negotiated for some or all of the 111 games he has missed on leave to be counted as part of the settlement. Bauer instead is appealing, and if he loses, he will miss 435 games.
Bauer has not pitched for the Dodgers since June 28, the day before a San Diego woman accused him of sexual assault during two sexual encounters at his Pasadena home. In the interim, with Bauer on paid leave through the end of last season and the start of this one, a judge denied the woman’s request for a restraining order against him, and the Los Angeles County district attorney declined to file charges against him.
Under baseball’s sexual assault policy, Manfred is empowered to suspend a player for violating the policy even if he is not charged with a crime.
For instance, the judge in the restraining order hearing ruled that “the only evidence of anything which happened while [the woman] was unconscious was having been hit on the butt,” despite her allegations of other injuries sustained while unconscious during the two encounters last spring. The judge also said her injuries, as depicted in photographs, were “terrible,” even if she was “not ambiguous about wanting rough sex in the … first encounter and wanting rougher sex in the second encounter.”
The woman has provided medical records in which doctors diagnosed her with “assault by manual strangulation” and “acute head injury” following the second sexual encounter with Bauer. His legal team contested the accuracy of the medical assessment. Bauer has said that, when she left his home after each encounter, “She certainly did not look anything like the photos that were later attached to her family court declaration and circulated by her lawyers to the media.”
Although the district attorney said he could not prove any charges beyond a reasonable doubt, Manfred does not need to meet that standard and evaluated Bauer’s conduct against a league policy that defines a nonconsensual sexual act in part as “when a person uses force … or when the victim is … unconscious or legally incapable of consent.” The policy states that “a single incident of abusive behavior … may subject a player to discipline.”
Said Bauer: “I never assaulted her in any way, at any time.”
The judge in the restraining order hearing said the woman had been “materially misleading” in her written testimony to the court.
However, the judge April 4 denied Bauer’s demand for access to her cellphone records, which his attorneys said could have shown how the woman implemented “a plan to seek rough sex so she could later seek to profit.” Her attorneys, who previously had denied the woman had sought fame or profit, said the demand was simply a way to continue harassing the woman months after the restraining order had been denied.
On Monday, Bauer sued the woman, claiming she had set him up, filed a false police report, and then conducted a “malicious campaign” against him that included providing “altered and filtered” photographs of alleged injuries to the court and the media, leading him to lose “revenue and opportunities for revenue provided by his contracts and prospective contracts with sponsors and others.”
If the appeal holds, Bauer would receive about $41.5 million of his $102-million contract. Bauer could cite that loss in his suit against the woman.
Bauer also has sued Deadspin and the Athletic for defamation.
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