Major League Baseball announced a 324-game suspension for Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer on Friday, the equivalent of two full seasons and by far the most severe punishment handed out under the sport's domestic violence policy.
Bauer promptly released a statement announcing he was appealing the suspension, thus becoming the first player to contest punishment through MLB's domestic violence policy.
"In the strongest possible terms, I deny committing any violation of the league's domestic violence and sexual assault policy," Bauer's statement read. "I am appealing this action and expect to prevail. As we have throughout this process, my representatives and I respect the confidentiality of the proceedings."
Bauer, 31, was accused of sexual assault by a San Diego woman who requested a restraining order and essentially alleged that he took consensual rough sex too far over the course of two encounters last April and May. An L.A. judge denied the woman a permanent restraining order in August, and the L.A. County District Attorney's Office declined to file criminal charges in February. But MLB has the autonomy to suspend players without a criminal conviction, and spoke to other women who also said they had been assaulted by Bauer.
Hours after the suspension was announced, The Washington Post published an interview with a woman from Columbus, Ohio, who accused the pitcher of choking her unconscious without her consent dozens of times during their years-long sexual relationship. She is the third known woman to accuse Bauer of sexual assault. The Post reported that she spoke with MLB as part of its investigation into Bauer's conduct before the league issued its discipline. Bauer strongly denied those allegations through his social media accounts.
Bauer joined the Dodgers on a three-year, $102 million contract in February 2021, on the heels of winning the National League Cy Young Award during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. He spent the last 81 regular-season games on administrative leave, plus an additional 18 to begin the 2022 season. But his 324-game suspension doesn't begin until Friday, meaning he doesn't get credit for previous time served.
Bauer's suspension, if it holds through the appeal process, would last until the 19th game of the 2024 season, by which point his three-year contract with the Dodgers will have expired. The Dodgers would save the $28-plus million that remains on his contract in 2022 and the full $32 million on his contract in 2023. Bauer was immediately placed on the restricted list and can't be around the team, even with a grievance hearing pending. The Dodgers are not allowed to release Bauer until after his suspension ends.
MLB announced the suspension with a short statement that did not provide details of its findings, adding: "In accordance with the terms of the Policy, the Commissioner's Office will not issue any further statements at this point in time."
The Dodgers, who are home against the Detroit Tigers this weekend, released the following statement:
"Today we were informed that MLB has concluded its investigation into allegations that have been made against Trevor Bauer, and the Commissioner has issued his decision regarding discipline. The Dodgers organization takes all allegations of this nature very seriously and does not condone or excuse any acts of domestic violence or sexual assault. We've cooperated fully with MLB's investigation since it began, and we fully support MLB's Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse Policy, and the Commissioner's enforcement of the Policy. We understand that Trevor has the right to appeal the Commissioner's decision. Therefore, we will not comment further until the process is complete."
Bauer is the 16th player suspended since August 2015, when MLB and the MLB Players Association unveiled their joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy, which grants MLB commissioner Rob Manfred the autonomy to suspend players under "just cause." The prior suspensions -- not counting that of former reliever Felipe Vazquez, who is serving a jail sentence for sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl -- have ranged from 15 to 162 games and were the result of negotiated settlements in which players waived their right to appeal.
Bauer last pitched on June 28 of last year. The next day, a then-27-year-old woman filed a request for a domestic violence restraining order in which she detailed allegations that Bauer assaulted her over the course of two sexual encounters at his Pasadena, California, home in April and May. In her declaration, the woman -- whom ESPN has chosen not to name -- alleged that Bauer choked her unconscious on multiple occasions, repeatedly scratched and punched her throughout her body, sodomized her without consent and left her with injuries that warranted a trip to the emergency room.
Bauer and his attorneys, Jon Fetterolf and Rachel Luba, firmly denied the accusations throughout, calling them "fraudulent" and "baseless" in an initial statement.
Bauer was initially placed on administrative leave -- a means by which players are paid their full salaries but are not allowed around major league facilities while investigations are ongoing -- on July 2. Five days later, the Dodgers canceled Bauer's scheduled bobblehead night and removed his merchandise from its stores, stating that the team "did not feel it was appropriate while investigations continue."
At the conclusion of a four-day hearing on Aug. 19, L.A. Superior Court Judge Dianna Gould-Saltman dissolved the temporary restraining order, ruling that Bauer did not pose a continual threat to the woman and that her injuries were not the result of anything she verbally objected to before or during the encounter, pointing to texts from the woman in which she asked to be choked out.
The judge said the "injuries as shown in the photographs are terrible," but added: "If she set limits and he exceeded them, this case would've been clear. But she set limits without considering all the consequences, and respondent did not exceed limits that the petitioner set."
Days before the start of that hearing, The Post published a story about a second woman, from Ohio, who sought a temporary restraining order against Bauer in June 2020 and also accused him of assault. The woman dismissed the order six weeks later, after Bauer's attorneys threatened legal action, according to the report. The Post story included photographs showing injuries that were allegedly caused by Bauer, as well as threatening messages, including one in which Bauer allegedly wrote: "I don't feel like spending time in jail for killing someone. And that's what would happen if I saw you again."
Bauer's attorneys called the woman's allegations of physical abuse "categorically false" and questioned the validity of the photos and messages.
The Pasadena Police Department concluded its investigation of the San Diego woman's allegations against Bauer on Aug. 27, sending the case to the L.A. County District Attorney's Office, which spent the next five months reviewing the case before declaring on Feb. 8 that it would not pursue criminal charges. The District Attorney's Office considered and rejected charges of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury and sodomy of an unconscious person during the first sexual encounter between Bauer and the woman on April 22 and domestic violence during the second sexual encounter on May 16.
As part of its declination, the District Attorney's Office wrote: "After a thorough review of all the available evidence, including the civil restraining order proceedings, witness statements and the physical evidence, the People are unable to prove the relevant charges beyond a reasonable doubt."
Bauer promptly released a seven-minute video on YouTube in which he outlined his version of events, at one point saying: "I never punched this woman in the face. I never punched her in the vagina. I never scratched her face. I never had anal sex with her, or sodomized her in any way. I never assaulted her in any way, at any time, and while we did have consensual rough sex, the disturbing acts and conduct that she described simply did not occur."
The woman, who provided photographs and medical records as part of her domestic violence restraining order declaration, claimed she woke up the morning after the second sexual encounter with two black eyes, a swollen jaw and cheekbones, dark red scratches on the right side of her face, bruised gums, a lump on the side of her head, a split upper lip, black bruising over the top of her vagina and multiple bruises on her right butt cheek.
Over the past two months, while MLB continued its investigation, Bauer's lawyers filed defamation lawsuits against two media companies, claiming that Deadspin knowingly published false information in its coverage of the sexual assault allegations and that The Athletic led "a campaign to maliciously target and harass" Bauer.
Bauer's lawyers also subpoenaed the Pasadena Police Department for missing phone records from the San Diego woman, claiming in a court filing that "the requested materials will further reveal Petitioner's plan to ruin Respondent's reputation and career and to earn a large paycheck by making false and misleading allegations in her Petition."
But Gould-Saltman ruled in an April 4 hearing that Bauer would not be privy to the phone records, stating that his attorneys did not file the proper motion and that she nonetheless would've been skeptical of an argument that the records would help them show the woman misled the legal process and must pay his attorneys' fees.
On Monday, Bauer's attorneys filed a defamation and tortious interference lawsuit against the woman in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The suit claims she "fabricated allegations of sexual assault," "pursued bogus criminal and civil actions," "made false and malicious statements" and "generated a media blitz based on her lies" in an effort to "destroy" Bauer's reputation, "garner attention for herself" and "extract millions of dollars."