Major League Baseball announced Friday that Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer was suspended without pay for 324 games — the length of two baseball seasons — after the league determined he violated the Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.

The decision by commissioner Rob Manfred came after MLB concluded its investigation into sexual assault allegations made against Bauer last year by a San Diego woman. It is the most severe punishment given to a MLB player in violation of the policy since it was first implemented in 2015. Bauer’s suspension is effective immediately, according to MLB.

Bauer, 31, announced Friday that he would appeal the discipline. None of the 15 other MLB players who were suspended for violating the policy fought their punishment in the past.

“In the strongest possible terms, I deny committing any violation of the league’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy,” Bauer said in a statement. “I am appealing this action and expect to prevail. As we have throughout this process, my representatives and I respect the confidentiality of the proceedings.”

Last June 29, the San Diego woman filed a request for an ex parte temporary domestic violence restraining order in Los Angeles Superior Court. In a declaration attached to the DVRO request, the woman, who was 27 at the time, alleged that Bauer sexually assaulted her on two separate occasions at his Pasadena home, in April and May, 2021.

Among the woman’s claims were that she was choked unconscious by Bauer during sex, punched by Bauer on different parts of her body, and that he sodomized her without her consent.

The Pasadena Police Department launched a criminal investigation of Bauer, and MLB began a separate, parallel investigation. Starting July 2, 2021, Bauer was placed on paid administrative leave, a non-disciplinary designation, and the leave was extended multiple times throughout the 2021 season. He has not pitched in the majors since June 28, 2021.

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Last year was the first of Bauer’s three-year, $102 contract with the Dodgers.

Following a four-day hearing in L.A. Superior Court in August 2021, Judge Dianna Gould-Saltman denied the woman’s request for a permanent restraining order and dissolved the temporary restraining order. Bauer did not testify during that hearing, and Gould-Saltman said in her ruling that the woman’s original declaration was “materially misleading.”

Five months after receiving the Pasadena P.D.’s case for review, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced in early February that it would not seek charges against Bauer. He remained on paid administrative leave this year once a new collective-bargaining agreement was reached, and the leave was extended until Friday’s announcement.

Manfred has the authority to discipline players deemed to have violated the Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy, even if the player has never been arrested or convicted, as was the case with Bauer.

Bauer will now fight his punishment through an arbitration hearing, where baseball and the players’ union will represent each side, and a neutral arbitrator will preside.

The MLBPA declined comment for this story.

In 2013, Alex Rodriguez fought his then 211-game suspension in a bruising arbitration hearing that played out at MLB’s offices over two months. Rodriguez was suspended for his role in the Biogenesis doping scandal, and MLB said in a 2013 release that Rodriguez violated both the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and the Basic Agreement. Ultimately arbitrator Fredric Horowitz reduced the ban to 162-games, the entire 2014 season.

Rodriguez sued MLB, then commissioner Bud Selig, and the players’ union, and separately the Yankees’ team physician, before eventually dropping all lawsuits.

If Bauer is unsuccessful in his appeal, he would lose the remainder of the money in his Dodgers’ contract — about $60 million. But if the discipline is overturned, his Dodgers contract would be in effect immediately, and Bauer would rejoin the team. He would be owed back pay based upon the time between Friday and when the ruling was made.

Another possible outcome is Bauer’s suspension could be reduced, like in Rodriguez’s case. If that were to happen, and the ban ended while he was still under contract with the Dodgers, he would be paid from the end of the suspension until the duration of the deal. As it stands now, the 324-game ban would conclude during the 2024 season, when Bauer would no longer be under contract with the Dodgers.

One baseball insider said Bauer’s best strategy in an arbitration hearing may be to argue that the punishment is unprecedented and excessive, and hope for a reduction in the ban.

MLB or the Players Association can fire an arbitrator at any time. The league fired arbitrator Shyam Das in 2012 after Das overturned Ryan Braun’s 50-game steroid suspension. Braun later served a 65-game suspension in 2013 for his role in the Biogenesis case.

The Dodgers released a statement Friday that read in part: “The Dodgers organization takes all allegations of this nature very seriously and does not condone or excuse any acts of domestic violence or sexual assault. We’ve cooperated fully with MLB’s investigation since it began, and we fully support MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse Policy, and the Commissioner’s enforcement of the Policy. We understand that Trevor has the right to appeal the Commissioner’s decision. Therefore, we will not comment further until the process is complete.”

Bauer earlier this week filed a defamation lawsuit in California federal court against the San Diego woman, and he filed two separate defamation suits against Deadspin and The Athletic last month.

Source: Forbes

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