May 26, 2024

Clayton Kershaw did not survive the first inning of his postseason start. Bobby Miller did not survive the second inning of his start. Lance Lynn did not survive the third inning of his start, and the Dodgers went three-and-out in the playoffs.

Not even 10 minutes later, one of Trevor Bauer’s agents spoke up on social media.

“Love it or hate it, starting pitching in the Postseason is arguably the most important piece to have,” Rachel Luba tweeted.

Subtle, this was not. Luba did not mention Bauer’s name, but the inference was clear: The Dodgers could have had him as one of their pieces.

Bauer was their highest-paid pitcher this season. In January, after an arbitrator reduced his suspension for violating baseball’s policy on domestic violence and sexual assault and ruled he could return immediately, the Dodgers cut him a $22.5-million check to cover his 2023 salary and told him to go away.

“We have decided that he will no longer be part of our organization,” the Dodgers said in a statement.

No other major league team signed him, even with the Dodgers absorbing the salary. Bauer pitched in Japan, where the fans selected him as an All-Star.

In an era when starting pitchers who regularly can endure six or seven innings are practically an endangered species, Bauer, who will be 33 in January, can pitch himself to major league owners this winter. Might one sign him?

“I can’t think of one owner so desperate to win that they would take on that,” one former major league owner told The Times. “You’d have to be [former Raiders owner] Al Davis, or someone like that.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Bauer for two years. The independent arbitrator cut the penalty to 194 games, still the longest suspension under the domestic violence and sexual assault policy. In their statement, the Dodgers noted Manfred and the arbitrator separately had reviewed “all the available evidence.”

Five days before the Dodgers opened the playoffs, Bauer shared some evidence of his own on YouTube.

He announced that he and Lindsey Hill, the woman whose allegations triggered the investigation, settled their litigation. He showed a video Hill had taken on the morning after she claimed Bauer assaulted her, in which he said she was “smirking at the camera without … any mark on her face.”

To Bauer and his legal team, that was the smoking gun. To explain the motive for what he has maintained are false allegations, Bauer also displayed text messages Hill sent to others, among them “Next victim. Star pitcher for the dodgers” and “need daddy to choke me out” and “Being an absolute WHORE to try to get in on his 51 million.”

At trial, Hill would have had the chance to explain. On social media last week, Hill released pictures that she said showed facial bruising on the morning in question. In an interview on “Prime Time with Alex Stein,” she said the text messages were sarcastic and examples of what she called her “attention-seeking behavior.”

The Times does not identify people who accuse others of sexual assault, but Hill has identified herself in statements to the media.

Trevor Bauer at his news conference with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars on March 24, 2023, in Yokohama, near Tokyo.

Trevor Bauer, shown in a news conference on March 24 in Japan, pitched for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars this season and was voted an All-Star by fans.

(Eugene Hoshiko / Associated Press)

Stan Goldman, who teaches courses on evidence at Loyola Law School, said the evidence Bauer shared was “fairly damning to her” but by itself would not have been enough to clear Bauer had the litigation gone to trial.

“It’s not completely exoneratory,” Goldman said.

Bauer had sued Hill for defamation and in the process obtained the video. Hill countersued for sexual assault.

“The business about the lawsuits being dropped seems like kind of a facade,” Goldman said. “He filed the lawsuit and then claims victory when it is dropped.”

Bauer’s legal team publicly released the video last year. The arbitrator considered it.

In the arbitration hearing, the video was “dissected by both sides” in an “exhaustive back-and-forth,” the Washington Post reported last December, “with lawyers debating the meaning of her smile and whether her injuries weren’t visible because of lighting issues or the time it takes for bruises to appear.”

In the days between the settlement announcement and the Dodgers’ playoff debacle, I asked Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, whether the team had any second thoughts about its decision to release Bauer.

“We make decisions with the information we have in the moment,” Friedman said.

And, one year later, any team that would consider signing Bauer might not have any more significant information than the Dodgers had.

Bauer was not charged with a crime. Hill failed to get a permanent restraining order against him. The Dodgers knew that.

In the hearing, where allegations from multiple women were considered and where the league did not have to meet the criminal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the arbitrator concluded Bauer violated the policy against sexual assault and domestic violence.

On the day Manfred announced his suspension, Bauer tweeted: “In the strongest possible terms, I deny committing any violation of the league’s domestic violence & sexual assault policy.” He has not wavered in that position and has denied every allegation of sexual assault.

The Dodgers knew all of that too. What they did not have is a record of what happened during the months of arbitration hearings.

What, for instance, did Bauer say when he testified? (His attorneys told a court that Bauer’s testimony was “not videotaped, transcribed or recorded in any way.”)

What did his accusers say, and what evidence — in words, photos or videos — did they present to support their claims?

What did the arbitrator say to the parties to explain his decision?

When Hill’s attorneys demanded Bauer produce the arbitration record, he said no, citing the confidentiality of the proceedings. Before the settlement, Hill’s attorneys had been unsuccessful in persuading the judge to order the league to turn over the record.

Bauer could sue the league for improperly suspending him, based on his assertion that he never violated the policy. That could enable him to introduce the arbitration record as evidence, but he could face two consequences beyond public disclosure of the record itself: One, he probably would lose the lawsuit, since courts are reluctant to interfere with policies enacted in collective bargaining; and, two, even if he won, a legal fight with the league could deter a team from signing him.

The settlement with Hill serves the same purpose. The trial had been set for February, which could have splashed the assault allegations all over the headlines at the start of spring training.

In a Phoenix court, Bauer remains in litigation against a woman who alleged he sexually assaulted her in 2020 and 2021. Bauer denied the allegation and countersued for fraud and extortion. No trial date has been set.

So, if a team is looking for pitching and mulling Bauer as an option, that team would know pretty much what the Dodgers did: He has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women, he has denied all the allegations, he has not been charged with a crime and an arbitrator ruled the league nonetheless could justify a record suspension.

A general manager interested in signing Bauer would seek approval from ownership. One former team president told The Times he would be surprised to see a team sign Bauer.

“His chances are relatively small,” the former president said. “I think the pushback from the fan base, no matter where it is, is going to be significant.

“It’s really about fiercely protecting the brand and the values and the character of the organization. Does the person you’re hiring fit?”

There likely would not be an apology, followed by a plea for a second chance. A team cannot expect Bauer to apologize for wrongdoing, for he has spent millions in courts across the country trying to show he did nothing wrong.

To the extent an interested owner might want Bauer to say something reflective to the public, this is what he said in a video he released last year, when the Los Angeles County district attorney declined to pursue charges against him: “I’m not a perfect person. And, if you want to judge me for engaging in rough sex with a woman that I hardly knew, that’s OK too. In evaluating my life over the recent months, it’s clear that I have made some poor choices, particularly in regards to the people that I have chosen to associate with.”

Bauer has served his suspension. He enjoyed his time in Japan and has not ruled out pitching there again, but it is believed he would like to return to the majors. As he learned last winter, reinstatement of eligibility to play does not necessarily mean rehired to play. A year has passed, and he soon will learn whether time might be up on his major league career.

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