Trevor Bauer won in court Thursday. A judge in Southern California denied a woman’s request for a permanent restraining order against the Dodgers pitcher. The woman testified that she feared Bauer, and her attorneys alleged that Bauer assaulted their client during rough sex.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Dianna Gould-Saltman determined that Bauer posed no threat to the woman. She also ruled that Bauer respected the woman’s boundaries during what both parties agreed were consensual encounters. Gould-Saltman lifted a temporary restraining order against Bauer, as well.
While the legal triumph is significant, it’s also a hollow victory because Bauer’s season is likely over even before MLB can consider a possible suspension. His career prospects aren’t looking too bright, either.
Police in Pasadena, Calif., continue to investigate the woman’s allegations. MLB is conducting its own investigation and has to wait for the police probe to finish before it can interview Bauer. Dodgers players reportedly don’t want him back. The industry’s opinion of him went from low to below ground after graphic details of his sex life were presented in court. A team would create a PR migraine for itself by pursuing Bauer in the event the Dodgers release him.
But even if everything improbably wraps in the next week and Bauer can get back on the field, there’s also a strong baseball reason he won’t pitch again in 2021.
The most MLB has been able to do during Bauer’s legal battle is to place and keep him on paid administrative leave. The commissioner’s office and players association agreed Thursday to extend the leave through Aug. 27.
Bauer last pitched on June 28, so he will now miss at least two months. Even if he is allowed back in uniform right after the current leave expires (if, for example, the union stops agreeing to keep Bauer on leave), and even if he has been throwing on his own, he will still need to get back into game shape after all the time off the mound.
Thirty-seven days will be left in the regular season as of Aug. 28. The Dodgers would be wise to insist that Bauer use that time to throw bullpen sessions, simulated games and a minor league rehab start just as if he had suffered an injury.
A long ramp-up would be a strong play in this waiting game, for three reasons:
— LA should want to protect an expensive asset. Bauer has two years and $64 million remaining on his contract after this year, although he can opt out after the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
— The team could run out the clock on having to activate him for the stretch run and/or the playoffs. Sources told the Los Angeles Times in July that Bauer’s teammates wanted him gone. That was before the hearing on the restraining order gave players more reasons to shun him.
— It would buy time for MLB to finish investigating the California claims and similar allegations made by a woman who was in a relationship with Bauer when he pitched in Cleveland. Baseball could do a more thorough probe if it’s reasonably sure Bauer won’t be able physically to pitch in September and October.
But baseball reasons shouldn’t need to come into play. Bauer’s latest actions should be sufficient to keep him out, and perhaps for a long time.