Trevor Bauer's Crisis of Reputation
Trevor Bauer taking advantages of the lesser opportunities presented to him
Trevor Bauer is an accomplished Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher, having won a coveted Cy Young Award and earning tens of millions of dollars to this point in his career. Yet he is now persona non grata in MLB and having accepted that reality, he is off to a different country — Japan — to find employment and for a relative pittance of a salary for his talent, skills and achievements.
Similar to the ongoing Johnny Depp - Amber Heard social argument, Bauer has his loyal supporters — and also his critics — who are convinced he is guilty of abusive sexual interactions, involving three women, an allegation Bauer has denied.
It took one woman coming forward to lead to reports of two others being harmed. The legal issues and media stories have been prominent and scandalous.
Bauer was suspended part-way into the 2021 season and was not allowed to play for all of 2022. He was however reinstated by MLB in January. His suspension lasted a record 194-games.
That reinstatement didn’t turn out as well as Bauer had maybe hoped for his return to playing. Not only didn’t his current employer want him, no other franchise did either, at least they weren’t willing to say so publicly.
“After every MLB team answered "no," the Yokohama DeNA Baystars just emphatically answered "yes,” wrote Jack Baer at Yahoo.
What does Bauer have to say about this steep fall — going from making $30+ million a year pitching in his home state (and a city where he played collegiately) for the successful Los Angeles Dodgers organization, to making $4 million, according to the Wall Street Journal, although he will still make money from the Dodgers ($22.5 million) not to play for them?
“Bauer and his team released a statement on the new chapter of his career. Bill Shaikin of the LA Times released the statement via his Twitter.”
"I am very excited to be able to play for the BayStars this season. It is my dream to play in the Japanese professional baseball world, and I will be able to show that dream in front of the fans. As a team, I don't think there is a better team than the BayStars. I am very happy to have the opportunity to become a member of a wonderful team and aim for the championship together. I miss the players and the fans. I'm already looking forward to it, and I'm looking forward to seeing you in the city of Yokohama."
Bauer’s alleged abusive sexual encounters made for shocking stories. Men and women both turned on him. Bauer didn’t go underground entirely in his crisis of reputation, as he eventually released a video on YouTube defending himself and tweeted what he inferred was evidence contradictory to the claims of sexual violence.
It earned him empathy by some people yet not anywhere near the majority. He is now going to be working in Japan, which with all due respect, is not the first choice of many American professional baseball players.
What the present and future look like for Bauer?
Bauer gets to get back to what he does best in his chosen profession. Pitch. Compete.
Maybe he’s stuck in Japan for the rest of his career. That is not intended to be an insult to the country, its people or Japanese baseball. It’s about Bauer’s new reality.
Yet you know what is possible and more likely? I believe Bauer, who signed a 1-year deal, will pitch again in the United States and in MLB. Right now though his name and the emotions attached to it are radioactive. No franchise wants to be attached to the media-and-public-relations nightmare a relationship with him would bring.
So imagine a scenario where Bauer pitches one year overseas, where MLB owners and general managers hope him being away from the major leagues for yet another season and two-plus seasons overall, while he works on his legal issues and self, brings down the emotional temperature of the disgust.
MLB owners and GMs can hope that with effective crisis communications and crisis management work — what the critics sometimes like to call, accurately or inaccurately, reputation laundering — will make Bauer a less significant PR risk.
That could happen, as crazy as it sounds, as soon as next season if Bauer stays healthy, excels as a player in Japan, keeps his personal and professional life clean, and resolves his legal and reputation issues to the best of his ability stateside.
The current stain on his name, the loss of respect, trust and credibility have made Bauer’s brand unsavory. It could very well remain that way with an improper attitude and short-sighted approach moving forward or it could significantly improve, depending on what happens in his legal pursuits to defend his name and his humility, communication and compassionate efforts from this point forward.
He has some difficult, emotionally challenging work to do in the minds of the media and public.
The question is whether Bauer will show the strength and commitment to do what is expected and necessary to rebuild his reputation with a variety of critics.
With a commitment to do the “hard stuff,” he can move from being a PR hot potato, so to speak and too dangerous an investment, to a professional and person allowed back into his tribe (MLB).
Is Bauer guilty of the disturbing claims against him? Who knows. What is known is that the court of public opinion has largely determined he is guilty and that’s enough for all MLB teams, reportedly, to not want to employ Bauer, whether for moral or PR reasons.
He’s been and remains a pariah. That is painful for most people. Maybe Bauer is different and unaffected or maybe his humanness leads him to feel discouragement and depression.
Regardless, his professional life is been foolishly and negatively impacted. Did he drop the bomb on his career and life or is he, despite his rogue behavior, and as he claims, a victim on some level to horrific false allegations?
At this point, all that matters reputation-speaking, is that Bauer learns objectively learns where he failed, accepts his new reality and decides wisely how to honorably and skillfully respond, or not, to his crisis of reputation.
Michael Toebe writes “Reputation Notes” and is the founder and specialist at Reputation Quality, a practice that serves and assists successful people and organizations in further building reputation as an asset and responsibly, ethically protecting, restoring or reconstructing it.
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