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LAWYERS, MONEY, LIES, MEDIA AND THE TREVOR BAUER CIRCUS
Before assuming the $102-million pitcher is guilty of sexual assault and fodder for “American Crime Story,’’ understand the agenda-fueled forces working against him — MLB, the Dodgers and the media
There isn’t much doubt that Trevor Bauer is a schmuck. He is guilty of stupidity, promiscuity, careless personal associations and deviant social-media behavior. I would not want him on my baseball team. Certainly, I would not have paid him $102 million if I owned that baseball team.
But as yet, there isn’t enough airtight evidence in an increasingly public forum to declare him guilty of sexual assault, even as a second woman is accusing him of the same non-consensual, punch-and-choke bed activity as a California woman did. What I do see is raging warfare between attorneys. This is typical in high-profile cases where lawyers aren’t as interested in the actual truth as much as lying, spinning, twisting and fabricating in seeking victory in the court of mass opinion.
Caution: Don’t be duped by the Conflate Game, from both parties.
As the Bauer drama explodes into a media feeding frenzy, Americans will recklessly take sides because that’s what Americans do, despite not having a clue what happened inside the pitcher’s sex dens in Pasadena, suburban Cleveland and who knows where else. Have at it, fools, but at least consider the forces that are furiously working against Bauer and the corporate-level agendas driving them.
Major League Baseball, targeted by his constant criticism and antics through the years, wouldn’t mind making him the latest scapegoat in its mission to punish off-field miscreants. And the Los Angeles Dodgers, who made the grievous error of signing Bauer and sullying their warm-and-fuzzy image as the franchise of Jackie Robinson, Vin Scully, Clayton Kershaw and Dodger Blue — sure, they’d like to purge their free-agent nightmare, recoup tens of millions and move forward with their World Series title defense, largely sabotaged by Bauer’s leave from the team amid two investigations.
The worse Bauer looks in the public eye, the easier it will be for MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to suspend the pitcher regardless of whether the Los Angeles district attorney’s office charges him. It’s all about leverage and perception now — not necessarily the facts — and I write this to guide a sports nation filled with amateur sleuths and hasty media judges. Before you assume, grasp the underlying factors.
At present, Bauer has been depicted as a serial sex abuser, the kind of creep who ends up on Ryan Murphy’s “American Crime Story.’’ Maybe it will be established, beyond reasonable doubt, that a frightful pattern is true: He has sex with women who agree to some measure of rough shenanigans before Bauer turns into a monster who delivers bruises and blood seen in UFC octagons. If so, he should be locked away in prison.
But we don’t know that yet. All we have are salacious accusations from both sides — along with stalled timelines, alleged demands for money and disturbing social-media messages that make Bauer and his accusers look mutually unstable. The Washington Post, in reporting Saturday that an Ohio woman sought an order protecting her from Bauer in June 2020, based its story on a claim by the woman’s attorney, who said “bruises on the woman’s face and blood in her eyes … were caused by Bauer punching and choking her during sex without consent.’’ The Post can’t assume that accompanying photos, which it says were “independently obtained,’’ are legitimate unless they are corroborated and timestamped. This is the legal profession’s dirty little secret in such cases. Anyone can take a photograph of a face that appears to be bruised. Question is: Did Bauer inflict the bruises? In the California case, Bauer’s attorney, Shawn Holley, readily admits that her client attacked the accuser as part of a mutually approved, rough-sex “continuum.” If it can be proven he did so without consent, throw the book at him.
Until then, be wary of columnists and commentators who think the Post story gives them license to conclude Bauer is guilty. The Dodgers and MLB certainly are helped when Los Angeles Times sportswriters keep weighing in, including a weekend column by Bill Shaikin that accused the pitcher of Trump-like “bullying’’ after he took to Twitter and disputed the Post’s report. “For now,’’ wrote Shaikin, “(former) President Trump is undefeated in using the deny-deny-deny-attack-deny-deny-distract strategy in response to allegations of sexual assault.’’
What, Bauer isn’t allowed to defend himself? Is this not America? Or in the cancel culture of the 21st century, is he just supposed to take his medicine, give back his baseball fortunes and fade away quietly?
Wrote Bauer, claiming the Ohio woman harassed and physically assaulted him and tried to “extort’’ him for millions last year: “Despite my representatives providing a wealth of contradictory evidence, documents, statements and background information showing the pattern of disturbing behavior by this woman and her attorneys, The Washington Post opted to ignore much of this information and to run a salacious story disseminating defamatory statements, false information, and baseless allegations.’’
He criticized the Post for “digging into my life and attempting to contact hundreds of female friends and acquaintances with whom they suspect I had some form of romantic relationship — some of whom I haven’t had contact with in decades — in an effort to create a false narrative. Several of these individuals have sent me screenshots of their requests, many shared that they only had positive things to say, and others felt uncomfortable or harassed by the nature of their requests.’’
The Post, in reporting the case, has the journalistic obligation to make unlimited phone calls and investigate every unturned stone. But if it’s true many of Bauer’s “female friends and acquaintances’’ had favorable words about him, the Post must include that element in its published stories. Otherwise, the probe looks like a witch hunt.
Maybe Bauer is a baseball version of Harvey Weinstein. Maybe Gus Garcia-Roberts and Molly Hensley-Clancy, the Post reporters, are doing outstanding investigative work. Point is, the outcome won’t be known for weeks, if not longer. And a monumental legal case, one that could end Bauer’s career and disrupt the rest of his life, shouldn’t be influenced by media with predisposed, uninformed opinions. Full disclosure: Years ago, I was involved in a legal matter in which ESPN allowed my fellow panelists, on our debate show “Around The Horn,’’ to immediately condemn me on the air when no charges had been filed. In the same news cycle, Chicago sports owner Jerry Reinsdorf — who never liked my critical pieces about his franchises, part of a good columnist’s job description — was calling me a bad guy in a one-sided story by my former newspaper. You think those comments didn’t sway public opinion and the case itself? You think the opposing lawyer didn’t love it? ESPN and Reinsdorf weren’t interested in facts. They were interested, evidently, in firing opinions without investigating all sides.
Years later, I’m still waiting for even one news outlet — including ESPN — to report I prevailed in a civil case and that the entire matter was expunged. The media had no interest in the outcome, newsworthy as it was, because floods of lies already had done damage in the perception arena. Since when did allegations become facts? I remain baffled that TMZ was chasing me around Los Angeles for months until my attorney finally called the gossip giant’s founder, Harvey Levin, reminding him that I was not a celebrity like, say, Robert Downey Jr.
Yes, it’s quite difficult mustering any defense for Trevor Bauer based on his rogue history in his sport. But a reasonable, responsible person can’t convict him before due process takes place. There are too many liars in the legal game, too many liars in the media racket and too many liars on Planet Earth.
Perhaps he is one of them. Only time and factual evidence will tell, though, not some sportswriter/Judge Judy wannabe who should stick to launch angles and pitch counts.
Jay Mariotti, called “the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes sports columns for Substack and a Wednesday media column for Barrett Sports Media while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts in production today. He’s an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and radio talk host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects. Compensation for this column is donated to the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust.