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The Attempted, Failed Redemption of Trevor Bauer
I’m relatively new to baseball, and thus have only really learned about Trevor Bauer as a result of friends asking me for my PR take on him A) joining the Los Angeles Dodgers and B) not addressing his history of harassing women online, giving a vague “I want to be better” apology that he immediately torched by liking tweets that suggested people were overreacting to his past exploits, which included a grotesque harassment campaigns against a college student that dared to give him shit.
Here Is My Problem
Bauer’s history of harassment is both direct and indirect - a popular professional baseball player naturally has a huge online following, and thus any time that you directly mention someone is, explicitly or otherwise, an invitation to have an opinion on said thing or person. As a result, Bauer saying someone is bad, and stupid, or wrong is a rallying cry for the assholes of society to cluster onto said person and harass them.
The issue is that celebrities either do not think that doing that is a problem - that it’s not their doing, and thus not their problem - or they think it’s cool that happens, and is a consequence of tangling with them.
Bauer’s comments lean toward the former:
"I don't shy away from confrontation and am often quick to defend myself, but I am by no means a bully and I take great offense to my character being called into question. I understand what comes with having a following on social media but I have never asked for nor do I condone anyone making threats or lewd comments on my behalf."
This is one of my least favorite bit of defensive posturing by those in power - the suggestion that they were “just defending themselves” from someone who could do no actual harm to them, other than hurting their feelings - ironically, all of these “facts don’t care about your feelings” guys are all thin-skinned worms, even if they’re making tens of millions of dollars.
But wait, what’s that about Bauer “understanding what comes with having a following…and never [having] asked nor condoned” anyone doing bad stuff?
The answer is that he is fully aware of the damage and horror shows he can send after people, and suffers from our former President’s thin skin and dark sense of being bulletproof. He thinks that everything he says is both right and important, which is why he managed to share his Dude Bro Party Sociopathy Dating Philosophy, and he thinks that nobody can actually stop him from doing this stuff because he’s in the moral right, and he’s Trevor Fuckin’ Bauer, The Pitching Genius.
"I have three rules. One: no feelings. As soon as I sense you're developing feelings, I'm going to cut it off, because I'm not interested in a relationship and I'm emotionally unavailable. Two: no social media posts about me while we're together, because private life stays private. Three: I sleep with other people. I'm going to continue to sleep with other people. If you're not O.K. with that, we won't sleep together, and that's perfectly fine. We can just be perfectly polite platonic friends."
Like, sure, if that’s how you live your life, if it’s between two consenting adults who both know the score, that’s great. Why share that with the world? What does this do other than make you sound like a jock from a mid 2000’s romantic comedy? Is this to appeal to your weirdo fans? I don’t know.
Why This Is All Unsustainable
The problem with any persona and situation like this is that it all works fine until it absolutely doesn’t. Right now, Bauer is great. He is potentially redefining baseball. He’s a Cy Young winner. He happily refers to himself as “the most polarizing figure” in baseball because he can, because he’s just that good, and everybody can look at him and say damn, Trevor Bauer is so good, and potentially ignore a truly vile personality.
The problem with the “I’m so good, I can do what I want” strategy is that it works until it doesn’t. It is bulletproof, unstoppable, brutally effective and disarming to the rest of the world until you stumble and fall. It is all-powerful until you are not, and while you feel like a God running the “I shall see through the dark by my burning bridges” routine, the moment you realize you’re screwed is the moment it’s too late to change. The scrutiny of Bauer is not going to decrease any time soon without him attempting to fix things soon, and will only increase as he continues to kick sand at the media.
And he will fall. He’ll get injured. Or he’ll just get worse at baseball as he gets older. Or he’ll keep doing what he’s doing and land himself in real, actual trouble, trouble that’s going to be impossible to navigate out of because of all the trouble he’s already put himself in, entirely by his own hand. His agent/PR representative should be telling him to at least shut the hell up, but it seems that the general strategy is “he’s just speakin’ his mind!'“ which is, ultimately, a terrible idea.
Why? Because fueling a brand entirely on being pissed off only works for a while, and the fans of people like this are extremely capricious and will turn on you incredibly fast.
Do you really think that the people who sent death threats and anti-semitic slurs to Kate Feldman are going to give a shit about Bauer if he, say, doesn’t play well? Or the Dodgers start losing when he plays? Or if he gets injured and loses months and he just sits around getting madder and madder?
Even if he’s fantastic for two years, how fantastic is he going to have to be to mitigate his continual dedication to being a frustrating, ghoulish distraction? As we head into Post-Trump America, how tolerable is a guy who’s been unapologetically terrible to women? The “my agent’s a woman” thing is not a response.
In short: every time Bauer is toxic and does not show true, meaningful remorse, he compounds his previous and current problems. Every time he doesn’t apologize in a complete and meaningful granularly increases the amount of good he needs to be to balance it out.
What May Happen
The most likely situation is going to be Bauer being quieter but still being annoying and never quite apologizing for the things he’s done, neither being shitty enough to get fired but not being a good enough person to redeem himself. He will stay “quiet” but continue to needle and piss off people, but never quite enough to get in trouble.
Less likely is Bauer messes up big time, either through continued harassment, or some other sort of classical right wing guy bullshit, and has to do a massive mea culpa (I’ll get into how below!), which will be much harder to do when he fucks up badly. He’ll have to really apologize.
Note, everything will hinge on the reality of his apology. Bauer seems allergic to truly apologizing, and every time he makes a little fuckup makes his next half-apology (or non-apology) more damaging. Without true remorse, his toxic nature will outweigh his usefulness.
How He Can Fix this
Bauer is truly stupid, because he is very good at sports, and could literally just post “I like to eat food” and everyone would be happy. Everyone would love him if he only talked about baseball, or if he didn’t randomly get mad at people and send his fans after them. It’s really easy to not be what he is, and it’s not as difficult as he’s making it to be what he is right now.
Putting on my PR hat for a second, I think that Molly Knight’s “What Trevor Bauer should’ve said” piece for The Athletic was great, and I’d go even further than she did. Knight makes salient points in her apology - that Bauer acknowledges being an underdog, like an outsider, that he should lean into the polarized aspect as a sign of vulnerability, acknowledging that he didn’t think of his position as a pro baseball player and the effect it has - except for the fact he absolutely does - and she makes a really good point that he has to acknowledge the harm he has done by proxy.
Where I’d take it further is that I believe Bauer has reached a point of no return on apologies that don’t directly, fully and declaratively apologize, with clear-set things he did, and an actual dedication to things in the future.
If he was my client, here’s what I’d draft - note, I am not the biggest baseball guy in the world, so I’ll probably miss stuff.
I’m here to address a clear and present problem with my conduct up to this point. This isn’t an easy conversation, but it’s a necessary one.
It’s easy to look back and justify a number of acts and a number of things you’ve said when you view them through the lens of self-defense. As a human being, even a famous one, even one that is protected by money and status, you still feel the things that are said about you from every source, and they still have an emotional effect on you.
The true mark of maturity and adulthood is being able to have an adult, mature and moral response to something that hurts you - to not punch walls or scream at someone when you’re angry, to not cry every time you get hurt, to not to respond immediately to perceived or real cruelty with cruelty in return. To be an adult is to be empathetic - to understand and people’s beliefs without choosing to hurt them in the process, and appreciate the identities and cultures of others without judgment or venom.
In short, I have failed to act as an adult. I’ve been immature, callous and cruel. My intention or reasoning is irrelevant - no amount of context (emotional or otherwise) justifies being bigoted and sexist, or encouraging mobs of people to harass women.
I apologize to Nikki Giles for my harassment campaign, and again apologize for the half-apology I made following doing so. I apologize to Kate Feldman, who I have actively encouraged my fans to follow, and by proxy, regardless of my intentions, harass.
I apologize to the LGBTQ community for comments I’ve previously made.
My actions were made out of a lack of maturity, a lack of decency and a lack of empathy. My endless drive and focus in becoming a great player led me to actively let my personality erode, and I became a malicious, defensive and cruel person as a result of my own irresponsibility. I can never apologize enough for what I have done.
If you are reading this as a fan of mine who has seen me quote-tweet someone and attacked them as a result - stop. I understand that you think you’re defending someone who needs defending, but you aren’t. I’m a wealthy white guy playing professional sports - I will be fine. You do not need to defend me. Furthermore, your actions are disgraceful - you know that, and I know that - and unjustifiable in any context. There is no need to harass someone. In the same way you’re a living, breathing human being, they are too, and you have no reason to hurt other people in anyone’s name, let alone mine. It’s disgusting, and you should be disgusted with yourself, as I am disgusted with myself in giving you even the slightest justification to act this way.
Now, what’s equally important is what I’m going to do.
I intend to seek counseling and truly understand what led me to this point. I intend to vastly change the way I conduct myself online, and I encourage those who have followed me to do the same. I am going to privately seek to make amends with Nikki and Kate.
Willie Stargell said once that baseball, to him, has always been a reflection of life, and that like life, it adjusts and survives everything. I believe that I can and will adjust and survive, but only by improving myself as a person. It’s not about winning games - it’s about being the kind of person that inspires, that encourages, that uplifts everybody around them, on a societal and organizational level.
I will make no further public comment on this matter, and focus myself on being a better person and on the Dodgers’ next World Series. Thank you.
[Note: I would also suggest a significant donation to organizations like the Trevor Project - like in the millions - something that suggests he gives a shit]
Sadly, I don’t see Bauer ever really apologizing. And that’s what kills me. That’s what upsets me. It kills me how easy it is to be a good example to people, to be a good person, to not continue to spread and cultivate hatred and anger. Yet people choose not to every day. And that sucks.