The reigning World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers made the customary visit to the White House on Friday to meet with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, but were not accompanied by embattled pitcher Trevor Bauer, who was placed on administrative leave as he faces accusations of sexual assault.
The Dodgers captured the title by defeating the Tampa Bay Rays last October. They are the first professional sports team to be honored at the White House since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the first since Biden took office.
Friday’s ceremony bore few of the political overtones that became a hallmark of teams’ visits during the presidency of Donald Trump. Some title teams, like the Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia Eagles, skipped being honored at the White House. Others, like the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox, only sent limited delegations, with many players opting to stay home.
The visit comes at an awkward time for the Dodgers, who are in Washington play a four-game series with the Nationals, because Bauer is facing police and Major League Baseball investigations into allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman in California in April and May.
Prior to Bauer being placed on administrative leave, the team was being criticized for the decision to start Bauer on Sunday against Washington, with several sports columnists targeting manager Dave Roberts for the move.
‘Bauer needs to be benched. He needs to be benched now,’ wrote Bill Plashke of The Los Angeles Times.
Bauer will now be sitting out indefinitely.
Roberts deferred to MLB when speaking with reporters, saying that the decision to start Bauer in Washington is ‘out of our hands.’
‘I’m in the position of following the lead of Major League Baseball,’ Roberts told reporters Thursday. ‘Their recommendation was for us to … he was our scheduled [starter] Sunday, and to move forward and start that game on Sunday. And so for me to try to read into it anymore outside of what they advised me and us to do, I just choose to follow their lead.’
Bauer, who is disputing the allegations, has not been charged with a crime, but under the league and union’s joint domestic violence policy, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred can put a player on administrative leave during an investigation.
Robert said he spoke with Bauer but refused to share details of the conversation before declining to speak any further on the subject. Likewise, Bauer did not speak with reporters on Thursday
New court filings obtained by DailyMail.com on Thursday show Bauer’s accuser scratched and bruised after he allegedly choked and punched her while they were having sex.
The woman, identified as ‘Ms. Hill’ at her attorney’s request, filed for a domestic violence restraining order against Bauer on Tuesday. That petition, which surfaced Wednesday, includes photographs of injuries Hill allegedly suffered during sex with Bauer, such as black eyes and scratches to her face.
Also included are text messages between Hill and Bauer, in which he expresses concern for her injuries, as well as medical documentation for her intercranial hemorrhage, spinal cord injury, and concussion.
As for Friday’s visit to the White House, Biden praised sports’ ability to heal and bring a nation together in a time of crisis.
‘I think what we discovered is that we need sports more than we ever realized,’ said Biden, who praised baseball an important totem of normalcy in ‘one of the most challenging years’ in the nation’s history.
The president saluted the Dodgers as ‘a lot more than a baseball club, they are a pillar of American culture.’ He also praised the team for using its stadium as a mass COVID-19 vaccination site.
The ceremony marked the latest step in the White House’s efforts to return to large in-person events as it seeks to highlight the nation’s emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 50 members of the team attended the East Room event as well as a number of political heavyweights with California ties, including Vice President Kamala Harris, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Biden kept the mood light, teasing that he didn’t want to dwell on the fact that Harris roots for the Dodgers’ ancient rival, the San Francisco Giants. He also told stories about his own exploits in a congressional baseball game, saying he hit a ball off the wall that thrilled his sons more than any of his political accomplishments.
Clayton Kershaw, the team’s future Hall of Fame pitcher, presented Biden with what has become the standard gift: a jersey emblazoned on the back with the president’s name and number. Biden, the 46th commander in chief, joked that he was demonstrating that he was ‘a man of courage’ by holding the jersey up because he risked incurring the wrath of First Lady Jill Biden, a rabid Philadelphia Phillies fan.
‘My wife is a Philly girl from her belt buckle to her shoe soles, and if I root for anybody but the Phillies, I sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom alone,’ Biden said.
Mookie Betts, the star outfielder for the 2018 champion Red Sox, did not make that team’s trip to the White House. But Betts, now on the Dodgers, did attend Friday.
Trump also became known for serving fast food to the teams that did visit to executive mansion; details on any meals consumed by the Dodgers at the White House were not immediately released.
The 2020 title was the Dodgers’ seventh World Series championship and they are among the favorites again this year, prompting Biden to joke that he may see them again.