Consumed by ambition, Trevor Bauer must answer for his behavior
By Tyler Kepner
This was before his biggest dreams began to blossom and before his career fell apart. This was Trevor Bauer from three years ago, over lunch in suburban Cleveland, describing the forces that drove him.
“I want to be a billionaire,” Bauer said, the same way you might order a sandwich. “Not because I care about the money at all, just because that’s the highest level of achievement in the business world. That’s a marker of a successful business person. So I would want to do it just to do it.
“I want to win three Cy Youngs to do it. I want to win a World Series to do it. When I went to college, I wanted to win the Golden Spikes Award, and when I won it, I was like, ‘OK, great,’ and I moved on to the next thing. It’s part of what makes me somewhat unhappy a lot in my life, is I don’t celebrate my successes. I just move on to the next one.”
Bauer would win his first Cy Young Award the following year, for Cincinnati, and then sign a three-year, $102 million contract with his hometown team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in February 2021. He pitched his final game for them in June and may not pitch again for a very long time.
Major League Baseball suspended Bauer for two years Friday for violating the league’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy. The suspension covers 324 games, without pay, and runs into the 2024 season. Bauer, 31, had been on administrative leave with pay since July 2, and because he did not reach an agreement on a penalty, he was not given credit retroactively for time served.
“In the strongest possible terms, I deny committing any violation of the league’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy,” Bauer said in a statement. “I am appealing this action and expect to prevail. As we have throughout this process, my representatives and I respect the confidentiality of the proceedings.”
Under MLB’s joint policy with the union, which began in 2015, a player is subject to discipline for “just cause” by Commissioner Rob Manfred even without a conviction or a guilty plea. Bauer’s ban is the longest of the 16 players suspended under the policy, and he will be the first to take his case to an arbitrator. No date has been set for a hearing.
Bauer was investigated by the Pasadena Police Department after a woman accused him of assaulting her during sex in Pasadena, California, early last season. Prosecutors decided in February not to pursue criminal charges against Bauer, who this week filed a defamation and tortious interference lawsuit against his accuser and her lawyer.
Bauer’s accuser had sought a temporary restraining order against him in June, but a Los Angeles Superior Court judge dissolved it in August, calling some aspects of the request “materially misleading.” The judge noted that photographs of the woman’s injuries were “terrible” but ruled that Bauer had not exceeded limits on rough sex set by the woman.
Baseball’s investigation covered not just that incident, but another reported in the summer by The Washington Post, which detailed how an Ohio woman had sought a protective order against Bauer after accusing him of punching and choking her without consent during sex. Bauer has called that report false. A third accusation was reported by the Post on Friday.
Friday’s announcement did not specify how the league determined Bauer had violated the joint policy. But it is a formal declaration that Bauer, for now, is barred from the league he has chosen as the vessel for his life ambitions.
Some of his goals, Bauer has insisted, are designed to help the game thrive; if he were solely in it for himself, he has reasoned, why else would he be so public about his training methods? He was, indeed, an early adapter and eager promoter of using technology to improve pitch design and increase velocity. Early in his career, he spent $30,000 on a high-speed camera system to use in his personal training.
“The opportunity cost in not investing is way higher than the cost of investing,” Bauer explained in 2015 — and sure enough, he became very rich, and many of his training tools have become mainstream.
Bauer has also styled himself as a crusader against baseball’s stuffy adherence to tradition. On Thursday he posted a video of a Pittsburgh prospect, Oneil Cruz, celebrating a homer by flipping his bat and checking his wrist — time to end the game? time for a call-up? — on his trot. Bauer declared Cruz the latest winner of his contest rewarding minor leaguers for doing cool stuff. (He did not use the word “stuff.”)
“He turned a boring walk-off homer in the minor leagues that no one would have seen into a shareable moment that everybody gets to see now,” Bauer says in his post. “That’s worth $2,500.”
Of course, Bauer also stands to profit by sharing Cruz’s homer: In the post, he is wearing a headband with his personal logo, which sells for $25.95 on Bauer’s personal website. That item is sold out now, but the site does have a $32.99 T-shirt in stock with this timely slogan: Bring Bauer Back.
Manfred answered that plea Friday with an emphatic no. For the next two years — barring a successful appeal — Bauer must pursue his billion dollars outside of MLB. It will take a lot of T-shirts to get there.