Trevor Bauer is a major league pitcher in the same sense a Ferrari Testarossa is a car: They perform the same basic functions as others in their class, yet will always glean more attention from passersby.
Bauer essentially had a red, blinking light following him from the moment he took the mound this season, and not because of the three-year, $102 million contract he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, nor the 2020 Cy Young Award on his mantle, or wherever he may choose to place it.
It’s in part because of his strident social media presence. And his determined brand-building. And most notably, because of a spike in spin rate from 2019 to 2020 that came after years of accusing opponents of foreign-substance use to enhance their pitchers.
Bauer-inspired or not, Major League Baseball announced a crackdown on foreign substance use in 2021, noting it would collect game-used baseballs and test them for foreign substances, as well as track increases in spin rates.
And thus cracked open a Pandora’s Box of surveillance and, possibly, jurisprudence for an act that, within reason, was long accepted between the white lines.
Given the previous scrutiny, it was altogether unsurprising Bauer became the first pitcher identified as “under surveillance” by MLB; an Oakland Athletics broadcaster noticed balls Bauer used removed from the game and a subsequent The Athletic story revealed the league office was, in fact, reviewing them.
Trevor Bauer joined the Dodgers as a free agent over the winter. (Photo: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports)
Of course, it is alsoreviewing dozens of other baseballs from a wide array of pitchers.
A high-ranking MLB executive told USA TODAY Sports that Bauer is not being singled out and said that baseballs have been collected from virtually every pitcher the first week of the season.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss publicly.
“My understanding is that umpires collect baseball from all pitcher and balls in play to collect samples,’’ Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Friday. “That’s what I get from it. I hope our player is not singled out.’’
For now, it’s unclear if MLB is paying inordinate attention to Bauer – or if that’s merely what fans, media and broadcasters are doing.
"It's the only name I've heard floating around," Roberts said.
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