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Trevor Bauer Must Not Start Sunday

Major League Baseball and the Dodgers organization are so consumed with technicalities that they can’t be bothered to do the right thing.

Editor's Note: This story includes graphic descriptions of sexual assault allegations. After this story published on Friday, MLB placed Bauer on seven-day administrative leave, meaning he will miss his next start. This story has also been updated to reflect post-publication comments from Trevor Bauer’s representatives.

In May, Trevor Bauer allegedly used his hands to inflict severe head trauma on a woman during sex. On Sunday, the Dodgers announced Thursday, he will use them to start a baseball game.

On Wednesday, The Athletic published the details of the temporary ex parte restraining order the woman filed against Bauer on Monday. They are sickening: She says that consensual rough sex on one occasion devolved into unconsensual choking and anal rape, and then on another into assault that sent her to the hospital with “significant head and facial trauma” and signs of a basilar skull fracture. (A CT scan entered into court filings, highlighted by Bauer's representatives, indicated that she did not suffer a skull fracture.) If reporters got a hold of these documents, the team and the league surely can, too.

Bauer declined comment to reporters at Nationals Park on Thursday. His agent, Jon Fetterolf, provided a statement that read, in part, “Mr. Bauer had a brief and wholly consensual sexual relationship initiated by [the woman] beginning in April 2021. We have messages that show [her] repeatedly asking for ‘rough’ sexual encounters involving requests to be ‘choked out’ and slapped in the face. … Her basis for filing a protection order is nonexistent, fraudulent, and deliberately omits key facts, information, and her own relevant communications. Any allegations that the pair’s encounters were not 100% consensual are baseless, defamatory, and will be refuted to the fullest extent of the law.” Bauer’s representatives also included what they say are one example of the relevant messages.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, asked Thursday whether Bauer would make his scheduled Sunday start, said he would. “I’m in the position of following the lead of Major League Baseball,” Roberts told reporters. “Their recommendation was to—he was our scheduled Sunday starter, and to have him move forward and start that game on Sunday. And so for me to try to read into it anymore outside of just following what they had advised me and us to do, I just choose to kind of follow their lead.”

Roberts added, “It’s out of our hands.”

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That is not true. Per the terms of the domestic violence policy agreed to by the league and the union, the Dodgers cannot unilaterally discipline him. But they can certainly give the ball to someone else.

Instead they seem to be counting on MLB to deal with this. So far, that has not been a smart bet. That domestic violence policy says that the league can place an accused player on paid administrative league for up to seven days while it investigates. That leave can be extended by agreement of the league and the union.

Perhaps MLB is waiting until Sunday so as not to start the clock. If they wait, that would keep him out of action until after the All-Star break. That may make sense legally. It is indefensible morally. These people are so consumed with technicalities that they can’t be bothered to do the right thing. “We are not going to start Trevor Bauer on Sunday.” Not “We are going to take away Trevor Bauer’s money.” Not “We are going to suspend him.” Not “We are going to release him.” Not “We are going to throw him in prison.” Just “We are not going to offer this man the privilege of striding out to a mound in front of tens of thousands of people who paid for a nice afternoon.”

The cowardice has infected people on every level. Commissioner Rob Manfred should have by now placed Bauer on administrative leave, which exists for exactly a case such as this one. Dodgers majority owner Mark Walter, minority owner and president Stan Kasten and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman should have ordered Bauer’s start pushed back. At a minimum, they should have faced the media rather than let Roberts answer questions the whole organization knew were coming. And Roberts, as the man who fills out the lineup card, should have said he wouldn’t be writing Bauer’s name Sunday.

Instead, fans of the Dodgers and of the sport and of civil society have to wait days to learn whether a man said to have inflicted severe head trauma on a woman will get to pitch on the Fourth of July in the nation’s capital.

(After publication of this story, a representative for Bauer highlighted documents to SI indicating that, while the emergency room doctor suspected an acute basilar skull fracture, a subsequent CT scan did not find one. This story has been updated to reflect that.)