On Thursday night, when the Mets signing Trevor Bauer seemed all but inevitable, I began the reconciliation process with my fandom in a way I have not done since the Mets brought back Jose Reyes. Would I not watch the Mets this year, despite my excitement about Francisco Lindor, another year of Jacob deGrom, and the other players on the 2021 Mets who are so fun to root for? Would I only not watch on days Bauer was slated to pitch? The last time I underwent this reckoning, I decided I would not let one man (Reyes) rob me of something so important to me. I would not let one man deprive me of the joy of a walk-off home run or the shared basis of lifelong relationships I have fostered because of baseball. No. He does not deserve that level of control over my life and the things I care about.
But each time it gets a little harder to return to the arms of baseball when the message that I am not wanted rings loud and clear. Bauer’s online harassment of women—the details of which are well-documented and need not be rehashed here—is certainly not a more severe transgression than that of Reyes, or that of Jared Porter, or that of Mickey Callaway. But these events have a compounding effect—waves slowly eroding the coastline of my fandom. And this time, given the fact that several of my friends and I have been impacted by Bauer’s conduct directly, it felt intensely personal. The Mets’ interest in Bauer, despite the events of the past couple of weeks involving Porter and Callaway, did not simply indicate that they did not care about women in the abstract. It indicated that they did not care about me.
But suddenly, after days of building momentum, a premature, false report, and a Twitter frenzy fueled by the content posted on Bauer’s website, the announcement came on Friday afternoon: Trevor Bauer would be signing with the Dodgers. A lot of Mets fans were likely disappointed. Some fans were happy. I momentarily turned off my camera during a work meeting so I could breathe a sigh of relief I felt like I had been holding inside me for two straight days.
In my view, the Mets dodged a bullet in more ways than one. There are performance questions, to be sure. Bauer’s record-breaking contract was offered to him on the basis of half a season’s worth of elite performance after a somewhat pedestrian career prior to his Cy Young season. It remains to be seen whether that performance can be sustained—with the aid of sticky substances or otherwise. But betting on Bauer’s Cy Young performance risks only money. Although harder to quantify, I would argue the greater risk the Mets have avoided in losing the Bauer sweepstakes is the risk of a circus that comes with his baggage. I’m not just talking about his harassment of women, although that should be reason enough in and of itself. The drama cooked up by teasing Mets merchandise on his website prior to making his signing decision is simply a small taste of the spectacle that would be to come from Bauer’s penchant for attention-seeking behavior, especially in the New York media market.
The fact that Bauer took the time to craft a written apology for the website fiasco and not for his conduct toward women says a lot about where his priorities lie. And it certainly doesn’t seem like his deal with the Dodgers comes with any conditions that he own up to his conduct, apologize, and commit to be better.
So the question remains: Is there any functional moral or ethical difference between my favorite baseball team desperately wanting to signing a known harasser of women in the aftermath of two sexual misconduct scandals involving men connected with the team and actually doing so? In my view, not really. Nothing has changed about baseball’s toxic culture just because Trevor Bauer is not on the team I happen to root for. He still got the contract. He still has not demonstrated any willingness to change his behavior. Women still do not feel like we have a home in baseball. There are still Mickey Callaways and Jared Porters behind every corner.
But, selfishly, just knowing that I can watch my team play unburdened by this particular player’s nonsense—his games happening across the country long after I’m asleep—is comfort enough for this moment.