(Writers note: All opinions here are my own and not necessarily those of all the writers at TBPC.)
There are a multitude of reasons why. I did not see them going out and spending this much money on a pitcher who really only had one great year, in a shortened season nonetheless. I guess staying under the Luxury Tax Threshold immediately after a season that happened during a pandemic was not all of that big deal. And why were all those people laid off if they had the money to play a player like this? It also really seemed to be that the Dodgers were most worried about getting that power, right-handed bat, which still has yet to be done. But, most importantly, Bauer’s character seems not to be within what the Dodgers had purported their players’ to be.
On the surface, for the Dodgers, this is exactly the type of contract they were hoping to give a talented pitcher. High AAV and short in length. Bauer will receive $40 million in 2021, $42 million in 2022, and $37 million in 2023. He has the option to opt out after year one or year two of his contract.
No doubt the Dodgers now have one of the nastiest starting rotations in all of Major League Baseball. Last season with the Cincinnati Reds, Bauer held opposing batters to a .159 batting average, first in all of MLB. He won the NL Cy Young. And with that, he still figures to be third in the Dodgers rotation behind Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler.
Unless he has an even more phenomenal year than he did last year and feels like he could make more money elsewhere, Bauer will be in Dodger Blue for the next three seasons. But that money will be off the books by the time Cody Bellinger and and Buehler are eligible for free agency. It will not be off the books in time when Corey Seager becomes eligible at the end of 2021. Kershaw’s will end after the conclusion of this upcoming season as well. (If Clayton does not retire a Dodger, that would be a huge mistake. But that is for another post).
This also leaves one to wonder where the team stands with re-signing Justin Turner, or any power righty bat, for that matter. Also, are the Dodgers going to once again relegate Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin to Triple-A, or are they going to trade one of their starting pitchers, perhaps to get that right-handed bat? There have been rumors that they have been shopping starter David Price, who has yet to pitch a meaningful game wearing a Dodgers uniform. I guess time will tell.
But the biggest concern to me is where, exactly, does Bauer’s huge ego and personality fit in to that very closely-knit Dodger clubhouse? The Dodgers just brought in Mookie Betts, who made the team better by showing his leadership on the field, and off by being a quiet, strong force. Bauer has been incredibly outspoken in many aspects, such as calling out other pitchers that he thinks are cheating.
A huge ego isn’t necessarily a bad thing, nor the thing that would rock the clubhouse. A starting pitcher needs that ego to take the mound and oppose batters, while always striving to get them out. But some of the other things that Bauer has been outspoken about, are. Bauer was a very big fan of the previous President, and while I’m sure there are many a player that also were, his outspokenness about it does not sit well with a lot of fans. “Make America Great Again” has its roots in white supremacy. Bauer also once wiped a Black Lives Matter drawing in the dirt of the pitcher’s mound completely off of the mound. He also has replied to other racist tropes in this manner:
Bauer has also used his Twitter platform to sic his fans and followers on other users who try to call him out on such things, especially women and women sports writers who didn’t write exactly what Bauer wanted to hear.
Seems pretty innocent what Molly Knight said, and as we Dodger fans know, the truth. But instead of playful banter with her, or even saying “I am the hardest worker in baseball, Molly!,” Bauer chooses to question her authority and knowledge on the matter.
There are so many instances of female writers having their mentions filled with fans of Bauer’s, slinging misogynistic, homophobic, and anti-Semitic slurs at them just for simply doing their job. Yes, there are always those people, but his fans are out there disproportionately with their vulgar and bigoted replies.
There was also the time that Bauer repeatedly went after a woman for 12 hours, harassing her for no good reason.
The Los Angeles Dodgers organization is that of Jackie Robinson and Sandy Koufax. Breaking the color barrier and the best Jewish pitcher ever. The same organization that walked away from trading for Aroldis Chapman after his sexual assault news came out. Signing someone like Bauer to the highest one-year total for a pitcher ever is a slap in the face of those great men, and to all the racially, religiously, and gender diverse fans who love this team so dearly.
“I’m good at two things in this world,” Bauer said in this 2019 Sports Illustrated interview, “throwing baseballs and pissing people off.” Well, the Dodgers organization has helped in that regard.
There are, of course, like-minded Dodger fans who are thrilled with the signing, and many, many fans who can put aside his beliefs for the sake of the name on the front of the jersey. But for the rest of us, it will take awhile to reconcile that the team we love, that we just celebrated a huge World Series win with, signed someone of Bauer’s character.
Let’s hope he helps bring Los Angeles another ring or two, and that he pitches his brains out, because at a time where baseball needs its fans the most, the Dodgers may have lost quite a few.