When Major League Baseball Teams Weigh Player Acquisitions Against Potential Backlash And Public Relations Storm

In 2016, David Wright was still the face of the New York Mets, team captain and veteran clubhouse say despite nearing the end of his playing career.

That spring, when the club and then general manager Sandy Alderson took a chance on bringing Jose Reyes back to Flushing — after Reyes served a lengthy suspension for violating the joint domestic violence policy — it was Wright who welcomed the Dominican switch-hitting Reyes back into the flushing fold.

“One of (Reyes’) best friends was still there, and that was David Wright. When Jose walked in those doors of the clubhouse, the first guy that got up, went over and gave him a hug was David,” says Terry Collins, who was the Mets’ manager at the time. “That kind of told you the impact of having Jose back. Certainly David was the face of the team. I think that helped the situation quite a bit.”

That Reyes was embraced by his old club, only months after disturbing domestic abuse charges were outlined in a Maui Police Department press release, underscores the delicate and many-layered decision-making process teams face when considering the acquisition of a player who brings controversy into the equation.

Reyes was a member of the Rockies at the time of his arrest on October 31, 2015, and while he served his MLB-administered, 51-game suspension. But Colorado released him shortly thereafter, opening the window for the Mets’ signing. Reyes was never prosecuted after his wife refused to cooperate with Hawaii authorities.

Pitcher Trevor Bauer, who was released by the Dodgers earlier this month following the conclusion of his months-long arbitration hearing, now faces a similar professional crossroads: will one of the other 29 Major League Baseball franchises sign him in the wake of his very public legal saga over the last two years?

Bauer, 32, was disciplined by baseball commissioner Rob Manfred for violating the Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy — the same policy Reyes was deemed by MLB to have violated in 2016.

Bauer was the subject of a league investigation into sexual assault allegations leveled at him by multiple women. The right-hander was never arrested nor charged with any crimes — unlike Reyes — and a Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied one of Bauer’s accusers a permanent restraining order against him and also dissolved a temporary restraining order at the same hearing in August 2021.

Among the allegations a San Diego woman leveled at Bauer were that he choked her to the point of unconsciousness during two sexual encounters at Bauer’s Pasadena home in 2021. Bauer denied the claims and later released a YouTube video saying he had consensual “rough sex” with the woman

But Manfred has the authority to discipline transgressors of the policy even if they are not arrested or convicted in a court of law. Manfred gave Bauer a historic 324-game ban, which the pitcher appealed, and an independent arbitrator later reduced the punishment to 194 games. The suspension extends into the 2023 season. Bauer lost about $38 million in salary as a result of the discipline. He had signed a three-year, $102 million contract with the Dodgers before the 2021 season.

The charges against Reyes were listed in the 2015 Maui PD press release as “Abuse of a family and/or household member.” The release also stated that Reyes and his wife “were involved in an argument that turned physical and resulted in injuries. Mrs. Reyes was treated by medics at the scene and later transported to the Maui Memorial Medical Center for further treatment.”

Collins says now that he had “no problems with it at all” after Alderson made the decision to sign Reyes.

“I certainly didn’t get into the allegations of what happened,” says Collins. “I knew my boss (Alderson) as pretty thorough. If he was fine with it, I was fine with it.”

Alderson said in a 2016 New York Daily News story that one of the conditions Reyes had to agree to if he signed with the Mets was to continue therapy outlined in the joint domestic violence policy, as well as agree to numerous other team stipulations. Alderson said in the story that Reyes had continued to fulfill all of the conditions throughout the 2016 season.

“I know Sandy would have taken care of all of that stuff before Jose came in that clubhouse,” says Collins now.

The Mets made the 2016 postseason, but Reyes was a non-factor, going hitless in the Mets’ 3-0 loss to the Giants in the wild-card game. He hit .267 in 60 games that season.

Reyes had the benefit of several allies on the Mets, most notably Wright, as well as the front office approval. In Bauer’s case, although he may have had Dodger clubhouse allies — which he seemed to address in a statement upon his release — ultimately the team higher powers decided to sever ties. And despite still owing Bauer $22.5 million.

Bauer last pitched in the majors in late June 2021. He previously played for Cincinnati (with whom he won the 2020 National League Cy Young award), Cleveland and Arizona.

“I appreciate the wealth of support I’ve received from the Dodgers clubhouse,” Bauer said in his statement. “I wish the players all the best and look forward to competing elsewhere.”

Whether “elsewhere” will be in the majors or another professional baseball league remains to be seen.

Leave a Comment