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MLB

There’s Zero Reason Trevor Bauer Should Start On Sunday [Update: He Won’t]

Trevor Bauer of the Los Angeles Dodgers winds up to pitch during the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on May 26, 2021 in Houston, Texas.
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

It’s right there in the Dodgers’ probables: Trevor Bauer is scheduled to start Sunday’s game. Bauer is under investigation for assault, according to police, after a San Diego woman obtained a restraining order against him (first obtained by The Athletic). In two initially consensual sexual encounters, the woman said, Bauer choked her unconscious, punched her, and penetrated her anally, all without her consent. She sought and received medical attention; she says was diagnosed with an acute head injury and assault by manual strangulation and has the medical records to prove it; photographs submitted to the court show her with two black eyes, scratches on her face, and bruised and swollen lips; she is cooperating with police investigators. And still, as of now, Bauer is set to take the mound in Washington on Sunday morning.

The Dodgers claim, not believably, that it’s out of their hands.

“As of now, we’re kind of in the middle of letting the commissioner’s office, Major League Baseball, handle this,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Thursday. “It’s in their hands right now, and right now, our direction was to just move forward and not do anything as far as the player or Trevor, so our plan is he is gonna start on Sunday.”

This makes it sound, without outright saying, like the Dodgers have been instructed by MLB to let the league determine what should or shouldn’t be done with Bauer ahead of a July 23 hearing on the restraining order. Maybe it’s indeed the case that MLB wants to take the lead on something that could eventually prove a matter for legal and MLBPA involvement—it doesn’t matter. The Dodgers can act. Do not lose sight of that simple truth, no matter how many layers of bureaucracy grind in the background: The Dodgers can bench Bauer.

They can bench him! They can bench anyone! For any reason at any time! Bauer does not have any constitutional or human right to take his next turn in the rotation. He can sit on the bench, or in the clubhouse if he prefers, or even at home, and watch someone else start. It need not be disciplinary, nor carry an implication of guilt; there is no need to get MLB or the union input on it. He would receive his paycheck and remain on the roster. The day a manager isn’t allowed to set his own lineup would be a first.

And yet Roberts insists. When pressed, he claimed the decision was “out of our hands. Regardless of what direction the organization wanted to do, it’s something that this is what has to happen, and so it’s out of everyone’s hands.”

OK, let’s pretend this really and truly is out of Roberts’s hands—while still keeping in mind that it is not. Then MLB can and must step in and follow its own domestic violence policy, specifically exercising the administrative-leave policy which was enacted for exactly this sort of situation. The league can put Bauer on a seven-day leave (which, given the timing of the All-Star break, would be functionally two weeks), with pay and without an assumption of guilt. A lot can happen in two weeks, and there’s every chance the decisions that would have to be made at the end of that leave will be made with more information than is currently available. Certainly not less information, anyway, and keeping Bauer off the diamond and out of the headlines would be a gesture of respect to those fans hurt and rubbed raw and even retraumatized by this story. It would send the signal to those fans that they matter to MLB. Bauer would have his collectively bargained right to challenge an administrative leave, and could take it before an arbitrator, but just the act of invoking the leave would still send the message that so many baseball fans are desperate to hear.

MLB has the machinery in place to address this right now. (Or yesterday. Or the day before.) Every minute that passes without the Dodgers or the league doing something is another piled disgrace.

Update, 1:45 p.m. ET: MLB did it.