Assistant Director of Player Development Nick Francona received a phone call from then-Dodgers Director of Player Development Gabe Kapler in late February 2015.
He broke some bad news with us. At the team hotel in Glendale, Ariz., just a few miles from the Dodgers’ spring training complex, Kapler told Francona that “Something had gone on.” Francona was shocked.
Francona recalls Kapler’s recollection of the conversation as imprecise but troubling: “He didn’t have a lot of knowledge at that stage..” Players who had been drinking and playing loud music in their hotel room may have been involved in a disturbance at the hotel.”
Based on information from a 17-year-grandma, old’s Kapler wrote a story about her granddaughter being asked to join two older ladies and two minor league baseball players in a hotel room the night before.
Two ladies beat up a fleeing teenager who said she had taken half a bottle of vodka and vomited on the floor while someone in the group filmed it and shared it on Snapchat. Francona explains, “It was obvious that there was more to it.” Gabriel told us to come back to the complex in the next few days and figure out what was going on.
Instead of reporting the alleged assault of a 17-year-old at the hotel to police, Gabe Kapler sought to plan a dinner meeting. He was unaware of the facts or scale of the event. An invitee would be invited together with a potential victim to help him manage the issue.
An additional allegation of sexual assault by a Dodgers player was made to police a week after the original incident, following her detention on a different shoplifting accusation.
As the girl lay on a bed inebriated and under the age of consent in Arizona—according to a criminal police complaint received by Sports Illustrated via a public records request—an athlete began “touching her breast with his hand beneath her bra,” according to the report. She also recounted [the player] rubbing her clitoris with his fingers after slipping his hand down the front of her pants.”
The Arizona Department of Child Safety’s case manager “desired[d] prosecution” against the Dodgers player for sexual abuse, according to the letter. However, no charges were ever brought against the claimed victim, in part because she refused to help with the investigation. Since no charges have been made, SI has decided not to identify the player involved in the incident.
For two years, the incident remained largely unknown outside of Dodgers insiders and Glendale law enforcement circles.
The first act of Shakespearean baseball drama pitting an unlikely whistleblower against an institution that functions as his family business and against a self-styled baseball iconoclast who in his own way has also pushed against the game’s rigid structures was in retrospect the first act of long-running (and ongoing) Shakespearean baseball drama.
As a result, the Dodgers’ player development hierarchy had a tendency to keep complaints of player misbehavior against women in-house, actions that were at times in violation of Major League Baseball policies.
Kapler and the Dodgers were back at the same Glendale hotel just eight months after the February 2015 incident. An accusation of sexual assault was once again made against a Dodgers player. An alleged incident of sexual assault involving a member of the housekeeping crew was brought forth against a Dodgers minor leaguer.
Electronic records obtained by Sports Illustrated revealed that Juan Rodriguez, manager of the Dodgers’ Arizona operations, forwarded an email from the hotel manager describing the incident to five Dodgers colleagues, including Kapler, the highest-ranking employee on the thread, within two minutes of receiving the email.
“[The player] does have somewhat of an aggressive attitude at times, but this is the first scenario where it escalated,” Rodriguez said in an email.
“I just connected with [the hotel manager],” Kapler told the gathering the next day. I felt bad for our company after reading his report. I told him that the matter would be resolved quickly and that this would not be a problem in the future… It was bad enough to necessitate a meeting with all of our men, even though this was an individual event.”
“[The player] crossed a boundary and is really lucky he isn’t in jail,” said Roman Barinas, the Dodgers’ manager of international scouting, in a separate group text conversation (which did not involve Kapler).
The Dodgers eventually dismissed the player, citing the alleged wrongdoing as the reason.
One Dodgers scout objected to the deal and was furious that he hadn’t been contacted about it. The scout sent a WhatsApp message to Francona, wondering why the team had severed contact with the player.