Indians, MLB need to take Trevor Bauer’s harassing tweets seriously

Jason Miller/Getty Images

Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer is what we extremely online people call “extremely online.” For those of you who, unlike me, still understand what it means to see sunlight and experience human contact, to be “extremely online” is to inculcate oneself to Internet culture, including humor. Bauer exemplified this last year when he went to arbitration with the Indians. He wanted to file for $6.9 million, but as Jeff Passan (then of Yahoo Sports) reported, the right-hander was warned that the figure was too high and could result in him losing his case. He then wanted to file for $6,420,969.69.

Why 69? As any teenager can tell you, it references a sexual position and that’s funny stuff on the Internet. Why 420? Well, that references April 20, or 4/20, a day of celebration for marijuana enthusiasts. Bauer eventually settled on filing for $6.525 million – no reference to sex or drugs. Still needing to scratch the Internet humor itch, Bauer started “The 69 Days of Giving” in which he would donate $420.69 daily to a different charity. On the 69th and final day, he pledged to donate $69,420.69 to a secret charity. So, that gives you a bit of a picture of Bauer’s personality and sense of humor. We also know he’s a huge drone enthusiast and he’s been very critical of MLB’s arbitration system overall. He marches to the beat of his own drum.

That was mostly fine until two days ago when Bauer responded to a critic on Twitter. The critic, a baseball fan named Nikki, wrote of Bauer, “My new least favorite person in all sports,” tagging Bauer’s Twitter account (@BauerOutage). Bauer responded, “Welcome to the fan club” and included a kiss emoji. If that was the start and end of it, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But Bauer persisted, repeatedly going after her. Deadspin’s Laura Wagner captured a large quantity of Bauer’s tweet in an article on Monday, so check that out for the full context.

One of Bauer’s offenses was making a transphobic joke, which will need explaining for those who aren’t “extremely online.” Nikki wrote to Bauer, “Maybe you should act like the PROFESSIONAL you are, and like the 27 year old MAN you are, and not harass me for 14 hours. You are a horrible human.”

Bauer responded, “I identify as a 12 year old. This is 2019. You have to have empathy for my situation. Those are the rules”.

Bauer is referencing an Internet meme (specifically a “copypasta”) that started out as, “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter.” It’s meant specifically to discredit non-binary people, suggesting that one can identify as anything, like an attack helicopter, along with the various identities in the gender spectrum. Bauer, whose humor exactly lines up with those who would use this meme, understands the implication behind the joke. Bauer made hundreds of replies to people since the debacle started, but interestingly did not respond to FanGraphs writer Sheryl Ring, who is trans. Ring simply asked to have a conversation about why the comment “really isn’t an okay thing to say.” [Update: I’ve been told that Bauer did respond, but the conversation or certain tweets have been deleted. So feel free to ignore this point.]

Bauer’s other offenses were continually harassing Nikki, who had ceased replying to his tweets early on. Bauer also replied to Nikki’s tweets publically – direct replies can only be seen by those who follow both parties – which allowed all 134,000 of his followers to get in on the drama and chime in. Bauer was repeatedly inviting his fans to harass Nikki on his behalf, and they did. Nikki ended up temporarily deleting her account. Responding to a Bauer fan who criticized her for deleting, Nikki wrote, “Sorry I didn’t like being told to kill my self for 4 days straight. You’re right. I’m so soft.”

Additionally, when responding to people, Bauer repeatedly put the blame on Nikki for starting the whole thing. Which is true, she did start it by criticizing him. But he didn’t have to respond and amplify the remark to 134,000 people. He needs to have a thicker skin and an ability to resist the urge to engage critics, of which he has many.

Why is Bauer’s behavior wrong? Simply put, it’s because there’s a power imbalance and Bauer exploited that to harass a woman, a baseball fan. Even after the online fracas with Bauer, Nikki has only 600 followers. Only a handful of people would go to bat for Nikki, but even a tiny percentage of Bauer’s 134,000 followers going after Nikki constitutes a gross amount of abuse. Let’s say that only 0.5 percent got involved. That’s still 670 people — more than Nikki’s entire follower count. It’s tough to get an actual count of just how many people were in Nikki’s mentions as a result of her interactions with Bauer, but a cursory search shows it’s quite a lot.

In short, Bauer wielded his power – his fame and online influence – improperly and unfairly towards Nikki. He bullied her. It is also notable that Bauer chose to obsess this way over a female critic. He has never gone to this length to challenge a male critic. In fact, Bauer’s fans were repeatedly tattling on Craig for criticizing his behavior earlier, essentially begging Bauer to tear Craig a new one, and Bauer only responded once, brusquely asking to be untagged from the conversation. Why is Bauer willing to tear Nikki apart publicly but not Craig, whose platform and influence is much, much more vast?

Major League Baseball’s fanbase is among the most homogenized and stagnant in professional sports. The league has been actively searching for ways to attract fans from more diverse backgrounds, like women, people of color, and LGBTQIA people. Teams have held various promotions like Pride Night and Women in Baseball Night. MLB also joined an anti-bullying campaign.

Dan DeRoos of Cleveland 19 reported that the Indians are aware of Bauer’s recent tweets. The club believes that players are in control of their own social media accounts and don’t represent the Indians as an organization. The club declined to elaborate beyond that. MLB, so far, has not acknowledged Bauer’s tweets.

Generally speaking, it’s a good thing that athletes have access to social media. It allows us to get a more intimate experience with those who play the sport at the highest level. This brings some really cool experiences, like seeing Sean Doolittle and Brandon McCarthy’s senses of humor on Twitter, as well as their charitable efforts. Even Bauer has been entertaining, like when he was trash-talking with Alex Bregman. It would be bad for the sport if players were encouraged not to post on social media.

With fame and a platform comes responsibility. There is a very easy line to tow when it comes to bullying and bigotry, and Bauer clearly crossed it. The Indians – already in constant hot water over the use of a racist caricature for a mascot – and MLB can’t both try to appeal to fans of diverse backgrounds and do nothing when players abuse their platforms to harass fans. Furthermore, the whole “he doesn’t represent us” defense is a cop-out. We just had a season in which Josh Hader, Sean Newcomb, Trea Turner, and Michael Kopech’s old tweets were dug up and they had to answer for them. They answered unsatisfactorily, but they were at least held to account in some small way, which is more than can be said for the Indians and MLB with Bauer.

Even ignoring the specifics of Bauer’s offenses, the league shouldn’t want its players harassing fans on social media anyway, no matter who it is. This, at minimum, should have resulted in Bauer being told, “Stop being extremely online.” It would be nice to see Bauer ordered to take sensitivity training and curtail his social media use until he proves he can use it in a healthy and productive manner. It is literally the least MLB and the Indians could do for women and non-binary fans.

Update (3:55 PM ET): Bauer has responded, though he didn’t apologize.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.