The last few days have been a clear reminder the saying is true. Life does indeed come at you fast. Two notable players may have seen their major league careers come to an end for quite different reasons. I will say both decisions are baseball-related and are indicative of where the game is currently. I am completely on board with both decisions for different reasons.
Let’s start with the decision by the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball to suspend Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer for two full seasons, or 324 games, for his actions in an alleged sexual assault. Bauer was not charged criminally. Sexual Assault is defined thusly in Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assualt and Child Abuse Policy:
Sexual assault refers to a range of behaviors, including a completed nonconsensual
sex act, an attempted nonconsensual sex act, and/or nonconsensual sexual contact.
Lack of consent is inferred when a person uses force, harassment, threat of force,
threat of adverse personnel or disciplinary action, or other coercion, or when the
victim is asleep, incapacitated, unconscious or legally incapable of consent.
Nowhere in the policy does it state the player must be charged with a crime in order to be in violation of the policy. Bauer has not appeared in a major league game since last July; he has been on paid administrative leave since the allegations first surfaced. I must state here I commend the league for not rushing to judgment while the legal process was taking place. While the league was going to face an amount of criticism no matter which way they went, I am of the opinion they have sided with progress in this instance. Too often athletes have been shielded by leagues and colleges who hide behind the lack of a charge as a way to justify leaving the player on the field. The suspension on the part of Major League Baseball shows this may no longer be the case. As times are changing and we have a greater understanding of sexual assault, the league could not idly sit by and do nothing.
Trevor Bauer is a divisive figure in the baseball universe. He has played the foil to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on more than one occasion. I see him as a three-dimensional person; he is not all good or all bad. He is a bit of an iconoclast who challenges things he feels should be done differently or are just wrong. In the great book The MVP Machine by Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik, there is a portion that is devoted to the training methods Bauer developed in an attempt to improve; methods which were seen as radical at the time, but are now commonly accepted. Bauer was also among the leading voices which led to the leaguewide crackdown on foreign substances used on baseballs by pitchers. In both instances, he can be viewed as an imperfect messenger.
Trevor Bauer is a talented major league pitcher but with this suspension, he may be too radioactive for any team to sign him once the suspension ends. Major league teams value wins over just about anything, but alienating a significant portion of the fan base is simply bad business.
Not wanting to continue bad business brings me to the second player whose career may be coming to a close.
On Monday, the New York Mets designated second baseman Robinson Cano for assignment. Cano is 39 years old and had a triple-slash line of .195/.233/.268 in 43 plate appearances on the season. He looked every bit the player whose time had come. On May 2nd, the club had to make roster cuts in order to reach the 26-man limit for roster size. What makes this an interesting decision the Mets are still obligated to pay Cano the final two years of a contract which averages $24M per season. Cano is to be paid whether or not he is on the field.
Cano is coming off of his second suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. A suspension which caused him to miss the entire last season. This is something that has to be factored in here. The team has made moves around him. This roster includes players such as Luis Guillorme, Dominic Smith, and JD Davis-all of whom have minor league options left, so they could have been sent to the minor leagues without being exposed to waivers which would have allowed them to be claimed by other clubs. Sean Reid-Foley was another potential roster casualty, but he was injured with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament over the past weekend. Cano was well-liked and respected in the clubhouse, but that could not save his roster spot.
Baseball team owners don’t become wealthy by making a spate of bad business deals. Mets ower Steve Cohen is the wealthiest in the sport and I am certain his wealth is a factor in this. He was willing to pay Cano to essentially go home. His quote to Mets’ General Manager Billy Eppler was to “Make the baseball decision” is clearly a sign that the days of carrying an aging, a past-their-prime veteran might be coming to a close. Manager Buck Showalter had his life made a bit easier with Cano no longer being on the roster.
Both of these players had their careers stopped in different and a bit unexpected ways. I have suspicions Cano will pop back up on a roster this year. As I mentioned before, I think Bauer will have a tougher time. It has been shown Bauer is a bit litigious, so there is a real chance his suspension may be reduced if he takes the league to court, but even if it is cut in half, the damage done to the reputation of a club willing to sign him, not to mention the time he will have been off of the mound, makes seeing him on a big league mound seem unlikely. They can both remember the good old days of 2020 as they think back on how it all ended so suddenly.