Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated has an in-depth story about Indians starter Trevor Bauer and, boy howdy, is it worth a read.
The big picture: Bauer is not the most impressive physical specimen to ever grace the diamond, but he has worked his tail off to become one of the best pitchers in baseball. A lot of that has to do with his work at Driveline Baseball in Seattle, which Bauer routinely features on his social media feeds. The stuff in at the beginning and the end of the article about how he’s working on a new changeup is some of the weirdest and most enlightening stuff about a pitcher’s offseason I’ve read in a good while.
A lot of that is his mental approach which is . . . not much like that of other players we’ve known.
Bauer rubs people the wrong way pretty constantly. He can be arrogant as hell. He does not deal well with authority. His social media behavior at times is troubling, bordering on toxic. He does not apologize for it. He, and others who know him, cite his brutal honesty, but like a lot of people who pride themselves on their brutal honesty, they discount the “brutal” part of it. And the honesty, it seems, is limited to his assessments of others and is not robustly demonstrated in his self-assessments. Sure, he’ll admit he’s a slow runner or that the pitch he just threw was bad, but he’ll gloss over more personal shortcomings, just like a lot of self-proclaimed truth-tellers do. It’s an act that grows tiresome the more you get to know about the guy.
Many of his teammates seem to think so:
Bauer has a reputation as a troublesome teammate. Some members of his organization have griped that the clubhouse consists of “24 plus Trevor,” and, says one player, “I think Trevor cares about Trevor a lot.” Of course he does, Bauer says. “In what world is me being a Cy Young winner bad for the team?” he asks. “The better I am, the better the team is, so you should want me to be selfish about how good I am.”
Which is fine as long as you’re striking out 11 guys per nine innings, but it’s not going to get him a lot of extra chances if and when his stuff begins to fade. At least he seems to know that. One does not get the sense that, if he is later given a shorter leash than other players, he’ll complain about being treated unfairly. Oh, he’ll complain, but it’ll be more about how people don’t put up with is admittedly abrasive behavior than claim he is not, in fact, abrasive. A subtle distinction maybe, but a distinction nonetheless.
Not that there isn’t a place for some sympathy for Bauer here. It’s always risky and inadvisable to engage in armchair psychology, but Reiter reports that Bauer was bullied and shunned as a kid and his unconventional training techniques — not his abrasiveness — has led to high school, college and professional teammates giving him holy Hell. it’s hard to resist the urge to think that his personality and behavior now was shaped by that at least to some degree. Bauer was always different, always an outcast, and that has to make feeling comfortably in the clubby, tribal and conformity-rife community that is baseball all the harder. It seems to have caused him to form some emotional armor that continues to shape the person he is today:
One morning, during his junior year at Hart, Bauer returned home from an early pool workout, took a shower and looked at himself in the mirror, feeling sorry for himself as usual. Then something flipped. “I don’t see anything that I dislike,” he told himself. “I’m going to go off to college and play baseball. I’m successful. I’m smart. I like myself.” From that day forward, he says, “I just stopped giving a f— what people thought of me. And now I just don’t care.”
There’s also, at least to me, the sense that Bauer is simply wired differently than most people. I’m not saying it’s an excuse for his attitude and behavior — and again, I don’t wish to engage in armchair psychology — but the more one observes him, the more one begins to think that he simply doesn’t appreciate that being, well, the way he is, can be a bad thing. There are lots of way to characterize such an attitude, obviously. Some are more charitable than others. Some have different causes than others.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this, which again, points for honesty I suppose?
When Bauer meets a potential romantic partner, he outlines for her the parameters of any possible relationship on their very first date. “I have three rules,” he says. “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.”
Line forms on the right, ladies.
I highly recommend Reiter’s story. Check it out.