GOODYEAR, Ariz. — It was classic Trevor Bauer, utterly and entirely unfiltered Thursday morning.
Bauer, who won his $13 million salary arbitration case, was upset about the tactics used during the hearing and accused MLB’s labor relations department of “character assassination” against him.
“They spent the last 10 minutes of the case trying a character-assassination,” said Bauer, who went 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 175⅓ innings. “I learned that giving to charity is a bad thing. I learned that agreeing with someone on a podcast just for the sake of argument that I was worth $10.5 million, and should be the definitive answer why I’m not worth $13 [million].”
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Bauer said the league’s labor relations department – which represented Cleveland – ridiculed him for his “69 Days of Giving” charity campaign, along with his active role on social media.
The campaign donated $420.69 to a different charity for 68 days, and $69,420.69 to another charity on the 69th day. The labor relations lawyers argued there was a sexual connotation with “69″ and that “420″ is associated with marijuana use.
“The whole content attaching those numbers to it,” Bauer said, “was to draw as much attention to the campaign as much as possible. … If you attach specific numbers to it that mean something socially, everybody looks at it. Everybody jokes about it. It continues the news cycle on that which is good for all of the charities and all of the people those charities help. That was the whole design.”
The spin used against him in the arbitration hearing?
“Basically, that I’m a terrible human being,” Bauer said, “which was interesting on their part. I thought that giving to charity, especially because they didn’t mention it was a charitable campaign, just mentioned the name. They don’t mention that I gave to 68 charities or that I donated over $100,000. Or that the whole point of the campaign was to bring awareness to all those charities. Nothing about that. They tried to tell me I was running my campaign because of those numbers.
“Apparently, the arbitrator didn’t see it as a negative.”
Bauer, who was summoned by Indians president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff to the front office after his comments were published, reiterated three hours later that he doesn’t have any ill-will towards the Cleveland organization. He enjoyed the process, but it still doesn’t excuse the tactics used against him.
“It kind of put a black mark on what I thought was a really well-argued case on both sides,” Bauer said. “There’s no room for that. Let’s just stick to the numbers. Let the numbers tell the story.
“You don’t need to bring character assassination into it, especially for charitable campaigns.”
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Antonetti said in the afternoon that he wanted to speak to Bauer after reading his comments, to assure him it wasn’t the organization that tried to demean him, and making sure there’s no lingering bitterness.
“I understand it,” Bauer said. “I have no ill towards anyone. I look at it as a very intellectual pursuit, and not very emotional.”
Earlier in the day, Bauer had predicted this from the front office.
“That’s the game they play. Not ‘they’ as in anyone specifically, but for a long time, that’s how it’s been done in arbitration. The higher-ups on the team don’t go,” Bauer said in the morning. “They have lawyers argue the case for them.
“That’s the game they play. ‘It wasn’t us. We didn’t say that. We still like you as a player.’”
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Bauer joked about the formal personal invitations he sent to Antonetti and Chernoff to attend the hearing. They laughed about it, but declined, wondering why he forgot to ask their meal preferences. Cleveland assistant GM Matt Forman instead represented the front office.
“I sent them a nice ‘Plus One’ invite, a postcard, designed it all myself,” Bauer said. “It said, ‘You are formally invited to the attend the arbitration hearing between Trevor Bauer and the Cleveland Indians.’ I had the date, the location, you and plus-one, the whole deal. And they decided not to come.
“That was what I was most hurt about, you know. I had this big event, a custom suit, I dressed up, and they didn’t show up.”
Bauer got the last laugh and says the organization was fortunate he was hit by Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu’s line drive in his right leg on Aug. 11 last year – which cost him five weeks – or they would have really paid the price.
“[They’re] lucky I got hit, or I would have won the Cy Young,” Bauer said, believing he would have been awarded $16-$17 million. “A lot of things would have changed if I won the Cy Young. A lot of things. A freak injury cost me a couple million dollars.”