Matthew Roberson: Dave Roberts and the Dodgers cowardly waited for MLB to deal with Trevor Bauer

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NEW YORK — Major League Baseball took a step in the right direction on Friday by preventing Dodgers’ pitcher Trevor Bauer from making his next start. The league did so by placing Bauer on administrative leave following allegations of sexual assault. Bauer has denied all of the allegations but will not appeal MLB’s ruling.

While the league collects information in its ongoing investigation with the Pasadena Police Department, which said the investigation is “bigger than we thought” and “not close to the end,” per USA Today, it has briefly halted Bauer’s baseball season. That is something Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts was too afraid to do on his own.

As of Thursday, when Roberts said he still planned to start Bauer on Sunday, his official disciplinary stance was basically to wait and see. He made hollow remarks about the whole ordeal being out of his hands and how he’d follow Major League Baseball’s orders, a cowardly response for someone who had the ability to take a stand against sexual violence. Instead, he recycled the same tired, canned rhetoric typically used when people side with their personal interest over the survivors of alleged assault.

Now, Bauer will be unable to make that scheduled Sunday start. MLB’s administrative leave is not disciplinary by nature, nor a declaration of guilt, rather a procedural move. By the letter of the law, it makes sense that MLB would opt for administrative leave over a suspension while they wait on the investigation’s findings. What doesn’t make sense is the Dodgers’ handling of this, particularly by Roberts.

In her restraining order document filed against Bauer, the alleged victim described a sexual encounter that started consensually. The medical notes from the hospital stated that she had “significant head and facial trauma,” The Athletic reported, something that, even if it began through a consensual agreement to rough sex, is a red flag pointing to a dangerous level of violence and a shaky understanding of consent on Bauer’s part.

She also said that, after being choked, she woke up from an unconscious state to find Bauer penetrating her anus. She said in the document — signed under penalty of perjury, per The Athletic — that she did not consent to anal penetration in advance, and she surely could not have consented to it while she was unconscious. No matter what level of roughness she and Bauer agreed upon leading up to the incident, penetrating a person while they’re unconscious is rape.

Roberts electing to start Bauer, as he initially planned to do before the league stepped in, would have been unconscionable. The entire saga has been a cop out for Roberts, who claimed to be powerless despite being in charge of the lineup card. Roberts was originally willing to pitch Bauer to win a baseball game, subjecting the world to the sight of another alleged abuser continuing their life while their victims are left to carry the emotional, physical and mental scars. The only reason he didn’t is because his boss said no.

This is what a system that allows its inhabitants to defer all the way up the ladder looks like. Major League Baseball set a precedent by placing Bauer on leave, but it’s a move that should have come directly from the Dodgers. Ultimately, Roberts’ weakness was bailed out by the league’s administrative leave ruling, sparing the Dodgers’ manager from having to answer questions about why he believes not hustling out of the batter’s box is bench-worthy but alleged rape is not.

The victim should not be blamed for enjoying rough sex, as the reported texts between her and Bauer indicate that she agreed to. Parties agreeing to rough sex should also not be blamed for revoking that agreement — which hinges on trust and consent — if those things are violated. An agreement for rough sex does not mean agreeing to a trip to the hospital or penetration while unconscious. As her restraining order stated, the woman “did not agree to be sexually assaulted.”

Bauer’s past behavior of online, targeted harassment toward women demonstrates the air of invincibility that he operates under. People who engage with him on Twitter trust (or at least, used to trust) that he won’t respond by tagging them in over 80 tweets and siccing his large follower base to pile on, as he did in 2019. No real consequences came of that, fostering Bauer’s default setting of “They’re out to get me.”

Now, with a much more serious accusation, his employers threw their hands up and simply did nothing. MLB’s reactionary measure is a solid, if tardy, initial move but does nothing to dent powerful men’s shield against alleged wrongdoing. In Bauer’s specific case, the league and the Dodgers have shown an inability to handle the complexity of consensual sex turning into something predatory. Roberts’ spineless refusal to acknowledge the horrifying allegations against his pitcher, or to even view them as a problem at all, is sadly par for the course. While the league was undoubtedly in his ear about how to handle things, Roberts has a brain of his own between those ears and could have chosen a different, more noble route.

Silence is violence in instances like these. Roberts, and by extension, Bauer’s teammates who haven’t said anything publicly, only reinforce Major League Baseball’s systemic boys’ club culture that allows incidents like these to persist.

The Dodgers’ inaction perpetuates rape culture and sends a damaging message to survivors of sexual assault everywhere: I don’t believe you.

Survivors of sexual assault deserve better than that.

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