Trevor Bauer Hearing Begins Today: Will His 324-Game Suspension Stand?

It has been 325 days since Major League Baseball first placed Trevor Bauer on administrative leave, the beginning of a process that has become longer and more complex than either party could have anticipated. Bauer, at the time a Cy Young Award winner and one of the highest-paid players in the game, faced accusations from a San Diego woman who blamed the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher for sexual assault, claims Bauer has vehemently refuted.

He emerged relatively unscathed from two legal battles, first when a Los Angeles judge denied the woman’s request for a restraining order and then when the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to pursue criminal charges. But MLB conducted its own investigation into that incident and eventually others, allegedly interviewing at least two other women who made similar allegations to The Washington Post. And on April 29, three weeks into the 2022 season, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred acted with unmistakable force, suspending Bauer for 324 games, the equivalent of two full seasons. It was twice as long as any player suspended since MLB and the MLB Players Association launched their joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy in August 2015.

Now, the validity of that decision rests largely in the hands of one man. His name is Martin Scheinman, and he is the currently contracted referee for MLB and the MLBPA. Beginning Monday, and possibly for several weeks thereafter, Scheinman will serve as chairman of the panel for Bauer’s grievance hearing against MLB, ultimately deciding whether his suspension will be upheld, reduced or lifted.

It’s a process rooted in the 1970s, but one that has primarily handled performance-enhancing drug-related suspensions in recent years: Bauer is the first of 16 players suspended under the domestic violence policy to challenge his suspension.

“The drug thing is a scientific pursuit,” a longtime referee who used to preside over MLB grievance hearings told ESPN. “It’s objectively verified. This is a very different circumstance.”

How the process works

The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) describes grievance hearings as “a cooperative effort to review and secure facts that will enable the Arbitration Panel to make fair decisions.” Scheinman will serve as head of a three-person arbitration panel that also consists of one MLB representative and one MLBPA representative and is expected to make the tiebreaker decision. That panel’s decision will be “full, final and complete,” according to the previous CBA. (The new CBA has yet to be published, but the language about complaint hearings hasn’t changed, according to one source.)

Complaint hearings often take the form of a trial, with witnesses called to testify and cross-examine. Rather than a courtroom, however, those hearings are usually held in meeting rooms and, in this case, could be held via video conference. The full list of witnesses for and against Bauer will remain confidential, like the rest of this trial, but one of the women who spoke to The Post said she is willing to testify. (MLB does not have and, under its domestic violence policy, is not allowed to publicly release the findings of its investigation. It is unknown how many women the league has spoken to or what allegations were made.)

These are “parties with unlimited resources, very demanding clients on both sides, so this is full-fledged litigation,” said the former arbitrator, who preferred not to be identified given the sensitivity of the issue. “It will be like litigation in federal court.”

Scheinman is the fourth umpire since 2000 to be hired by MLB and the MLBPA, which have the power to replace umpires at will. First was Shyam Das, who was fired by MLB after overturning Ryan Braun’s steroid suspension over a chain-of-custody issue in 2012, ending a 13-year streak. Then it was Fredric Horowitz, who was fired by the MLBPA after ruling against the infielder/outfielder charlie culberson in an injury assignment case in 2016. Then it was Mark Irvings, who was fired by MLB shortly after ruling in his favor at the hearing of Chris Bryant on alleged manipulation of service time in 2020.

Scheinman, who declined to comment on the case, was hired in 2020. A full-time arbitrator and mediator since 1979, he has resolved more than 20,000 disputes, according to his company’s website. The website claims that his practice, Scheinman Arbitration & Mediation Services, has “mediated dozens of the highest-profile cases involving sexual harassment claims,” ​​but says nothing about domestic violence.

Scheinman’s schedule is so demanding that two assistants at his firm are solely responsible for managing it. He presides over the hearings five days a week and is hired by a multitude of companies, a reality that could drag Bauer’s hearing of complaints well into the summer, according to sources familiar with the process.

In the past, MLB typically locked two days a month into its umpire’s schedule nearly a year in advance. But additional openings can often be created in an effort to speed up the process, particularly in a case like this, where a player suspended under the domestic violence policy must remain on the restricted list (as opposed to those suspended for drug use). prohibited substances, which can play while the complaint process is taking place).

Why this audience is different

The most notable grievance hearings in recent years — Braun’s positive test, Bryant’s call-up to the majors, Alex Rodriguez’s lengthy suspension for violating MLB’s drug policy — were based largely on verifiable facts. Bauer’s case will navigate the subjectivity of the alleged assault within the scope of consensual rough sex. MLB must prove just cause, which the former umpire says may be an “undefinable concept” in this scenario.

“In fact, I think it’s the hardest question there is, and the reason for that is that it’s entirely up to credibility, it’s entirely up to the arbitrator to determine that one side is telling the truth,” said Leigh Goodmark, Law professor at the University of Maryland and a leading voice in the field of gender-based violence. “In a case like this, at the point where the descriptions of what happened diverge from each other, they diverge so completely that the referee will have to go with one of these stories or the other.”

On February 8, moments after the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced that he would not be criminally charged, Bauer posted a seven-minute video on YouTube titled “The Truth,” in which he denied the assault allegations. of the San Diego woman and concluded, “I never assaulted her in any way, at any time, and although we did have consensual rough sex, the disturbing acts and behaviors she described simply did not occur.”

Bauer was just as forceful in his rebuttal of an Aug. 14, 2021, Washington Post story about an Ohio woman who filed for a temporary restraining order against him in June 2020, alleging that he strangled and beat her on multiple occasions. And in her rebuttal to an April 29 Post story of this year about another Ohio woman who alleged he strangled her unconscious multiple times during a years-long relationship that began in 2013. In both cases, Bauer used her accounts. social networks to firmly deny such behavior.

Bauer filed libel lawsuits against two media companies, Deadspin and The Athletic, and also filed a lawsuit against the San Diego woman, whom ESPN chose not to name. Sources close to Bauer point to his fraught history with Manfred, including harsh criticism of Manfred’s handling of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, checking for foreign substances in baseballs and efforts to market the game to a younger audience. , among other topics, as a potential reason why his suspension is so long compared to others.

Six of the 15 players previously suspended under the league’s domestic violence policy were punished despite not having been arrested or criminally charged, as was the case with Bauer. Those suspensions ranged from 30 games (Aroldis Chapman and Starlin Castro) to 81 (Sunday German) to 162 (Sam Dyson). But Bauer is the first among all players suspended under the policy to have multiple public accusers, an example of why MLB allowed itself the leeway to punish players for “just cause,” rather than relying on the system. legal.

There is no obligation to adhere to the Federal Rules of Evidence during a grievance hearing, which gives the arbitrator more latitude to review material as they deem necessary. But MLB’s burden of proof will remain difficult, according to a source familiar with the process.

“It’s very challenging to be a fact finder on a case where there’s an allegation that involves sexual misconduct,” said Jill Engle, who serves as associate dean for academic affairs at Pennsylvania State University School of Law and specializes in family law and domestic violence. “It’s hard for judges, it’s hard for juries, it’s hard for arbitrators, it’s hard for any investigator, whether it’s in the civil or criminal, private or public, big or small, because we’re dealing with human beings and the human behavior that occurs in the most intimate and private setting when there is almost never a witness.

What is at stake

Bauer signed a three-year, $102 million contract with the Dodgers in February 2021, after winning the NL Cy Young Award as a member of the Cincinnati Reds during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. But he was placed on administrative leave halfway through his first season and hasn’t pitched since.

Because Bauer is appealing the suspension, his administrative leave time did not count toward time served. His suspension began April 29 and runs through Game 19 of the 2024 season, beyond his contract with the Dodgers. Bauer received his full salary of $38 million in 2021, but could lose an estimated $60 million if he is upheld.

The Dodgers have refrained from commenting on Bauer as the process unfolds, but the expectation of people with direct knowledge of the team is that if his suspension is shortened, the Dodgers would eventually release him and absorb whatever money is left on his contract. .

The question then would be which team, if any, would be willing to take a chance on Bauer.

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Trevor Bauer Hearing Begins Today: Will His 324-Game Suspension Stand?