In case you haven’t heard, big news broke on social media on Friday afternoon, putting an end to any suggestion that this off-season has been boring and/or uneventful. In what can only be described as a “polarizing” move, Trevor Bauer finally made a long-awaited decision on his free agency and, in a somewhat surprising move, announced that he will be joining the Dodgers.
Reactions varied from shocked, to appalled, to impressed, to excited, to all of the above in some cases. And the biggest reason for the disparity in these reactions? As Bauer himself put it in this Sports Illustrated piece, not only is a good pitcher, he’s good at “pissing people off”…and as Dodgers fans, we have different views on how or even if we can separate the two, or if it’s possible to find that middle ground.
Get to know Trevor Bauer from those who have played with him, against him, and have covered his career.
There’s a lot at work here. First off, I understand and respect those fans who aren’t able to overlook a player’s less than desirable character; after all, I have long said that it is the human side of the game that not only drew me to it when I was 8 1/2 years old, but also eventually led me to the Dodgers and this life as a devoted fan. Back in the spring of 2014 when I fell back in love with this great game and starting following the Dodgers, if the team at that time had been full of jerks and didn’t have the exceptional human named Clayton Kershaw on their staff, there is a pretty good chance not even Tim Wallach in the role of bench coach would have kept me invested in the team.
But much to my great fortune, it definitely wasn’t full of jerks, Clayton Kershaw indeed existed…and heavily invested I became. It’s become very important for me to like, for the most part, the player as well as the man.
As Dodgers fans, we have admittedly been blessed with some exceptional humans on the roster over the years. And if you’re an avid follower of the team like I am, it’s easier said than done to separate the man wearing number 22 on the mound from the father adorably running the bases with his kids. To not put a great deal of value in the knowledge that your talented third baseman also runs a charitable organization that helps tens of thousands of people, and is so adored that he had an annual day named after him in Los Angeles.
Watch a group of guys play hundreds of games a season, and you will inevitably appreciate both sides of the players, even grow to expect nothing less than perfection from them.
I’m also of the belief that at the end of the day, it’s collectively the Dodgers that I root for, whether I am enamoured with each player or not. As mentioned, the Dodgers have had some exceptional talent and great characters over the years, but not all guys have been fan favorites (it’s impossible to assemble a perfect group of players, although the 2020 version came pretty close in my opinion). For example, I couldn’t stand Mat Latos the moment I laid eyes on him, and he didn’t do much to change that perception during his brief time in blue. But, I rooted for him to pitch well because when he did take the mound for the Dodgers, he was taking the mound for the Dodgers, and I wanted the Dodgers to win.
I’d also be lying if I said there is anything about Manny Machado that I particularly liked as an Oriole or like as a Padre, but while he wore Dodger Blue, I would have loved nothing more than to see him celebrating a Dodgers World Series win with his teammates, because, well, that would have meant that the Dodgers had just won the World Series.
Some fans have the ability to completely separate the person from the player – to not think or even care about the off-field persona and focus only on the team’s on-field play and results, and that’s ok too. In that regard, when I think only of an elite talent like Trevor Bauer throwing every 5 days for the Dodgers, I get giddy with excitement. In the realization that the best team in baseball somehow got even better. It’s impossible for me as a Dodger fan to not want Bauer to dazzle on the mound at Blue Heaven on Earth. If I didn’t want this team to continue to win, in my opinion, I wouldn’t have earned the privilege of calling myself a fan.
Many fans, on the other hand, may never be able to overlook Trevor Bauer off the field and are rightfully having a hard time accepting that he deserves to be a member of the same organization that has always held its players to the highest of personal and professional standards.
With Bauer earning himself a reputation over the last few years as an “internet bully”, among other things, it’s safe to say he has a long way to go before many fans will even consider accepting him.
Tonight, as I ponder this move and the reactions it’s elicited, I try to keep in mind that people can change, which I hope can happen, because seeing a player so strongly divide the fanbase just doesn’t seem right, and I’d rather be basking in the glow of our World Champion team’s pitching staff somehow going from “excellent” to “extraordinary” than fighting with other Dodger fans on the Internet. I mean, Bauer did go from being the guy who sliced his hand on a drone and getting shipped off to Cincinnati after throwing a tantrum on the mound, to honing his craft on his way to becoming one of the best pitchers in baseball and winning the Cy Young, so just maybe he’s capable of more change; only time will tell.
The Dodgers have already changed a lot of careers and lives over the years – goodness knows they’ve changed mine for countless reasons – and I have faith that they’ll continue to do so. One can only hope that being a member of this organization will help Bauer change as well and that he’ll grow to respect the name on the front of the jersey as much as, or even more than he does the name on the back.
So, even though I may not always agree 100% with every decision the front office makes, as a fan, I choose to believe, for better or for worse, that they have done and will continue to do what’s right for this organization. And I feel they’ve earned our trust after giving us a World Championship in 2020. I can only speak for myself, but I know there is nothing that will stop me from holding the Dodgers organization and everything it stands for in the highest regard, nothing that will prevent me from respecting the name on the front of that sacred uniform.
For many fans to even consider accepting him as a valued member of this storied organization, Trevor Bauer will need to prove that he can set aside his own ego and do the same.