CloseESPN Staff WriterESPN baseball reporter. Covered the L.A. Rams for ESPN from 2016 to 2018 and the L.A. Angels for MLB.com from 2012 to 2016.
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Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports”
MLB handed out a 324-game suspension to Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer on Friday. The ban — which covers two full seasons — is the longest punishment under the sport’s domestic violence policy since it was instituted in August of 2015.
Bauer released a statement that he will appeal the suspension, making him the first player to do so under the policy.
What does the suspension mean for Bauer, the Dodgers and Major League Baseball?
Bauer has been on administrative leave since July 2. Does MLB’s 324-game suspension start now or include the time Bauer has already missed?
The suspension begins Friday, which means — given that postseason games do not count — Bauer won’t be eligible to return until the 19th game of the 2024 season. While on administrative leave, Bauer ultimately missed the last 81 regular-season games in 2021 and the first 18 in 2022. But he was paid his full salary throughout. And the fact that he is appealing the suspension means that period will not count as time served.
What happens now that Bauer is appealing?
Because he did not agree to the suspension, Bauer can file a grievance to be judged by an arbitrator, who is hired (and can be fired) in concert by the league and the players’ union. Bauer’s side — his lawyers as well as the MLB Players’ Association — will present its case; MLB will present its own. The arbitrator will render a decision. The domestic violence policy doesn’t specify when this hearing needs to take place, and there is no timetable at the moment. One key difference between Bauer’s case and other player appeals: The automatic stay for an appeal of a PED suspension does not exist in the league’s domestic violence policy, so he will not be able to pitch during the process.
What does the suspension mean for the rest of Bauer’s contract with the Dodgers?
If an independent arbiter upholds MLB’s suspension, the Dodgers probably won’t have to pay Bauer anything other than what they already have. Los Angeles paid him his full $38 million salary last year and has paid him just shy of $4 million this year. The latter number, a source said, is what would be used to calculate how much Bauer counts toward the Dodgers’ competitive balance tax payroll. That would put the Dodgers’ CBT estimation in roughly the $270 million range, which represents the third of four tiers under the new collective bargaining agreement.
Why would MLB issue such a long suspension after the Los Angeles D.A. did not see evidence worthy of charges?
The standards in criminal and civil cases differ from those of a private business. The judge dissolving the temporary restraining order and declining to issue a permanent one does not absolve Bauer of liability within the joint policy. Neither does a prosecutor passing on pressing charges.
MLB’s imposed discipline is based on its own investigation, separate from the criminal proceedings. The league’s investigation into Bauer’s case lasted 10 months. Details about MLB’s findings have not been released, but the league’s investigators considered more than just the sexual assault allegations of the San Diego woman from last year. They looked into at least one other allegation, from an Ohio woman who sought a temporary restraining order against Bauer in June of 2020, details of which were reported by the Washington Post.
Hours after Bauer’s suspension was announced, the Post published a story about another Ohio woman who accused Bauer of choking her unconscious without consent during sex on multiple occasions over the course of a relationship that dated back to 2013. Bauer’s attorneys denied those allegations, as they did the allegations by the other women. But the two Ohio women told the Post they cooperated with the league’s investigation, and we don’t know if others were involved as well.
How does this compare with other suspensions MLB has given since instituting its domestic violence policy in August 2015?
Fifteen players had previously been suspended under the joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy that was agreed to by MLBPA in August 2015. Those suspensions — not counting that of former reliever Felipe Vazquez, who was charged with sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl — have ranged from 15 to 162 games. So, Bauer’s suspension is twice the previous high (MLB suspended reliever Sam Dyson for the full 2021 season — 162 regular-season games and the postseason).
Do players win appeals?
Occasionally. In August 2013, MLB suspended Alex Rodriguez for a record 211 games after he possessed and used performance-enhancing drugs over multiple years. He appealed and was allowed to play for the remainder of the season.
Rodriguez’s suspension was ultimately reduced to the full 2014 season — 162 games. The most recent suspension known to be fully overturned was Ryan Braun’s positive performance-enhancing drug test, which was nullified because of a chain-of-custody issue. Braun later agreed to serve 65 games for his involvement with Biogenesis, the same lab that provided Rodriguez with PEDs.
A fully overturned suspension for a domestic violence case seems unlikely, according to sources familiar with the grievance process, but because this will be the first such case appealed, anything is possible.
Will Bauer ever pitch in MLB again?
In recent weeks, agents and executives polled on this were skeptical that a team would take a chance on Bauer even if he were eligible to pitch this season, given, at minimum, the public-relations storm that would follow. If an arbiter upholds MLB’s suspension, Bauer will be 33 years old by the time he’s eligible to pitch again, and he’ll have gone almost three years without playing in the majors. More details about MLB’s findings will undoubtedly spill out eventually, and in all likelihood they won’t be pretty — otherwise the league would not have come down so hard. It’s impossible to rule out a team taking a chance on him in spite of all that; we’ve seen examples of this throughout sports. But it’s very difficult to envision right now.
At the moment, Bauer is on MLB’s restricted list. The Dodgers are not allowed to release him while he’s suspended, so he is technically still under contract (even though he is not being paid). That means he can’t pitch professionally elsewhere while his suspension plays out.