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LA-bound Trevor Bauer is the player to restore baseball to its former prominence. Now he has the audience to do it.
Trevor Bauer isn’t an ordinary baseball player. So it would be expected that he would announce where he would play in 2021 and beyond, the biggest decision of his career and the most-prized free agent target, unlike any other player.
Bauer does things on his own terms. He wasn’t going to allow the news to leak out through the media. Instead, he showed how adept he is at navigating the social media landscape by releasing his own dramatic video on YouTube, teasing his decision before finally revealing that he had signed with the defending World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
His name elicits a wide spectrum of emotions from baseball fans. Some despise him for his self-confidence bordering on arrogance and his predilection to go beyond traditional norms. But those same attributes also endear him to a part of baseball fandom that believes he’s just the type of player to bring much-needed attention back to the game. In Los Angeles, he’ll get the chance to prove a modern baseball player can succeed by being himself.
Taking the mound at Dodger Stadium gives Bauer an audience like he’s never had before. He’s now playing on MLB’s marquee team among the likes of Mookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw. His $40 million salary in 2021 ($45 million in 2022 if he doesn’t opt-out) makes him the highest-paid player in league history. He’s the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner and ERA champion. Los Angeles is getting not just a great pitcher but one who’s shown he’s not afraid to take the stage.
Bauer is MLB’s premier self-promoter
In 2020, when baseball suffered through labor strife and COVID outbreaks and needed some good publicity, Bauer started a vlog. Throughout 25 videos that attracted nearly 3.5 million views, he took fans behind the scenes, showing them what it was like to play in baseball’s most unusual season. He showed them his preparation, his unique training methods and the numerous tests he performs on himself every day to ensure he’s operating at his peak potential. He showed how COVID testing worked and the efforts to keep players separated even in the confines of their own clubhouse. And he wasn’t afraid to share his opinions.
When Joe Kelly threw a pitch behind the head of the much-hated Houston Astros and was suspended by the league, Bauer showed off the special cleats he had made in solidarity with Kelly; Commissioner Rob Manfred, a favorite target of Bauer’s barbs, refused to allow him to wear them on the mound. He called the league foolish when, minutes before a game was to begin and the pitchers had already warmed up, the game was postponed due to rain.
Bauer is the type of player who allows his personality to shine through, no matter how many so-called traditionalists are offended. In a time when the league’s popularity is plummeting among the younger demographics, Bauer wants to show kids that he’s a player who loves the game just as they do.
“It’s passion, it’s pain. It’s history, heartbreak, and hope. It’s the wide-eyed wonder of walking into a big league stadium for your first game,” he says in his free-agent announcement video.
He’s also a throwback to a different era when baseball reigned supreme in the American sports landscape. In his final start of the season, with the Cincinnati Reds fighting for a playoff spot, he pitched on three days rest and struck out 12 in eight innings. And he was prepared to do it again if the Reds needed him to. He threw more than 100 pitches in all but one of his 11 starts in 2020; there were 15 teams who didn’t have 10 starts of at least 100 pitches combined on their entire staff.
What does Bauer get for his attempts to promote the game? The vilification of people who just want him to be quiet and pitch.
But Bauer doesn’t want to remain silent, not when baseball is crying out for a player like him. He has the message; Los Angeles is giving him the medium.