Pitcher Trevor Bauer just squeezed an extra $2 million out of arbitration with the Cleveland Indians as the arbitrator ruled in favor of his $13 million annual salary request over the team’s offer of $11 million.
Bauer, who is in spring training in Arizona after the Wednesday hearing in Florida, told reporters that the Indians essentially engaged in “character assassination” by trying to lowball a star worth eight figures.
Part of the problem was that arbitration, normally a very cold-blooded sabermetric affair in which cold, hard math is used to say “this player is making X amount of money while other players with similar stats in similar markets are making Y, so please rule for our figure of Y and let’s all go home.”
And normally, there’s some wiggle room. A player could argue, “Look, I had an ERA under 3,” while the team says, “True, but you didn’t strike a lot of guys out and this Fangraphs piece says pitchers with your strikeout rate tend to regress,” and the player comes back with, “But looking at Baseball Reference, this other guy had my strikeout rate and a worse defense behind him and his ERA was even lower so mine should get better too.”
And then the arbitrator flips a coin.
This time, however, the Indians chose … a different tack, and one not terribly baseball-ish at all, according to Buster Olney:
In Trevor Bauer’s arbitration hearing, his use of social media was raised by those arguing the case for the Indians.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) February 14, 2019
Bauer was nearly as blunt as Olney’s tweet.
“The intent behind it, that I would characterize, was to demean my character,” Bauer said Thursday. “That kind of put a black mark on what I thought was a really well-argued case on both sides. There’s no room for that … Let’s just stick to the numbers. Let the numbers decide.”
And, of course, it leaves MLB in a position where they’re talking out both sides of their mouth, since it wasn’t that long ago that commissioner Rob Manfred was criticizing Mike Trout of the Angels for not doing more to market himself, and you don’t have to be LeBron James or Shaquille O’Neal (both superstars on Instagram and Twitter as much as they’re stars on the court or in the broadcast studio) to know that you need a strong social media presence for that.
Part of the problem is that Bauer seems utterly uninterested in keeping his social media all rah-rah “yay baseball,” speaking out and criticizing the league where he feels it is warranted.
Like when he accused the Astros of doctoring baseballs, for example.
If only there was just a really quick way to increase spin rate. Like what if you could trade for a player knowing that you could bump his spin rate a couple hundred rpm overnight…imagine the steals you could get on the trade market! If only that existed…
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) May 1, 2018
Or like the time he accused MLB of trying to muzzle him.
Just had a meeting encouraging all players to take a stance and be leaders politically. Here’s my stance. I find it disingenuous that @mlb commissioners office would encourage this when they’ve specifically tried to censor me for sharing my opinion on the matter. #RiseUp
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) March 8, 2018
Or the time he, in the “Me Too” political climate, continually doubled down on blame-the-victim tactics when a woman accused him of sexual harassment, seemingly oblivious to the notion that tagging someone in 30 tweets and accusing her of stalking is so ironic that Alanis Morissette should probably demand royalties.
All of the above is water under the bridge insofar as the arbitrator was having none of the Indians’ social media argument, instead invoking Rasheed Wallace when pointing at Bauer’s 5.7 WAR and 2.21 ERA in 27 starts (and possibly even the save he picked up in his one relief appearance) and effectively saying “ball don’t lie.”
So it’s only fitting that Bauer would take his victory lap on Twitter at the expense of his own team. At least he’s not asking to be traded to the Lakers.
Granted, salary arbitration involves the fine art of a Major League Baseball team letting a player know that it would really like to keep him on the roster and then telling a neutral arbitrator that the player isn’t worth more money than he’s already been offered to stay on the roster. But if arbitration truly left lasting scars, no player would ever play more than five years in the league.
We’ll all find out together when April rolls around. Play ball.
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