Mickey’s monkey business

If the Angels fire pitching coach Mickey Callaway over a five-year pattern of sexual harassment, it’s the least of baseball’s problems with the issue.

The man who was in over his head as the manager of the Mets seems in further over his head when it comes to ladies in the sports media. As in, five years or more worth of pursuit involving five young women, with “lewd” barely covering what he’s accused of doing.

Outside baseball’s innards, we didn’t know Mickey Callaway was any kind of sexual harasser. Inside those innards, alas, there’s a real chance that such suspicions were as one woman speaking to The Athletic says, “the worst kept secret in baseball.” If she’s right, Callaway’s head on a plate shouldn’t be the only consequence.

The Athletic‘s detailed story by Brittany Ghiroli and Katie Strang hit the Net running Monday evening. “Los Angeles Angels may be hiring a new pitching coach,” said one Facebook baseball group member in posting the article to the group. Needing a new pitching coach should be the least of the Angels’s worries. Or baseball’s.

Three organisations for whom Callaway’s worked should stand up for account. The Indians, for whom he was a respected pitching coach; the Mets, whom he managed clueslessly enough in baseball terms; and, the Angels, who probably did get caught with their own pants down about Callaway’s behaviours but probably have no choice but to fire him now.

As Los Angeles Times writer Bill Shaikin says of Callaway, “This is not a he-said, she-said story.” Not with five shes saying Callaway went considerably beyond being merely tactless in expressing his apparent interests in the five.

On baseball grounds alone there wasn’t a jury on earth that would have ruled the Mets unjustified if they’d fired Callaway months before the execution finally arrived after the 2019 regular season. In human terms, it’s now to wonder whether the Mets were half asleep when hiring him in the first place.

His reported sexually-implicit approaches to media women ran for five years across three different major league teams and in multiple cities, write Ghiroli and Katie Strang. “Two of the women said they were warned about his behavior – from fellow media members and others who worked in baseball,” they say. “An additional seven women who worked in various MLB markets said that, although they had not been approached by Callaway, they had been cautioned about him.”

The five Callaway’s believed to have pursued received anything from inappropriate photographs and requests for nude images in return to unsolicited messages, “uncomfortable” comments about their appearance, and his crotch “thrust . . . near the face of a reporter as she interviewed him.”

This emerges barely a fortnight after now-former Mets general manager Jared Porter lost his freshly-minted job over unsolicited explicit texts messages he sent a woman reporter while he worked for the Cubs.

The Indians issued a statement in response to the story saying they were “made aware for the first time tonight” that Callaway behaved like a predator toward women. “We seek to create an inclusive work environment where everyone, regardless of gender, can feel safe and comfortable to do their jobs,” the team said.

When Ghiroli and Strang contacted the Mets, the team told the two reporters they learned in August 2018 of “an incident” that occurred before they hired Callaway to manage them. “The team investigated that matter, a spokesperson said, but declined to reveal the nature of the incident, the outcome of that probe or whether Callaway was disciplined. Callaway continued managing the rest of the season.”

Mets owner Steve Cohen, who bought the team over a year after Callaway was fired, handed down a terse but unequivocal statement after seeing The Athletic‘s report: “The conduct reported in The Athletic story today is completely unacceptable and would never be tolerated under my ownership.”

Cohen had better mean that. Especially since the Porter firing and now Callaway’s exposure have the team’s personnel vetting procedures under serious question. Cohen’s owned the Mets short of three months and he’s had two nasty sexual harassment scandals to clean.

“I was unaware of the conduct described in the story at the time of Mickey’s hire or at any time during my tenure as General Manager,” said team president Sandy Alderson in his own statement. “We have already begun a review of our hiring processes to ensure our vetting of new employees is more thorough and comprehensive.”

Alderson has to do better than that. It was Alderson as GM who hired Callaway to succeed Terry Collins; it was Alderson as president who hired Porter. If he was really unaware that he’d hired a pair of sexual harassers, Alderson needs to exercise a top-down remodeling of the Mets’ vetting process.

The Angels were almost as terse as Cohen in their own statement. “The behavior being reported violates the Angels Organization’s values and policies,” the team said. “We take this very seriously and will conduct a full investigation with MLB.”

Six years ago the Angels stood on values and policies—and botched completely the Josh Hamilton incident, when he relapsed to substance abuse during a Super Bowl gathering but reported the relapse to the team promptly as required. Angels owner Arte Moreno could hardly wait to run Hamilton out of town on a rail despite the outfielder obeying the protocol.

If they were that willing to purge Hamilton without so much as a by-your-leave over “values” after Hamilton voluntarily reported his relapse straight, no chaser, the Angels better not take too long dispatching Callaway.

Hamilton’s relapse hurt no one but himself. Callaway can’t claim the same. The Angels had to find about about his predations the hard way, not by way of Callaway approaching them to say he’d been caught with everything but his pants down as a semi-serial sexual harasser.

“Rather than rush to respond to these general allegations of which I have just been made aware, I look forward to an opportunity to provide more specific responses,” Callaway said in an e-mail to The Athletic. “Any relationship in which I was engaged has been consensual, and my conduct was in no way intended to be disrespectful to any women involved. I am married and my wife has been made aware of these general allegations.”

Consensual relationships don’t generally provoke what Ghirolil and Strang describe, his pursuits putting the media women in question “in a difficult position at work given what they perceived as a stark power imbalance. The women were forced to weigh the professional ramifications of rebuffing him.” Not to mention his wife now forced to weigh the marital ramifications of her husband’s pursuits.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking Callaway and Porter before him remain isolated instances. Who can forget then-Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow rebuffing the opinion of his entire office, practically, in trading for relief pitcher Roberto Osuna at a time Osuna was still under suspension for domestic violence?

Or then-Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman making sure three women reporters heard him loud and clear when—celebrating their 2019 American League Championship Series triumph despite Osuna surrendering an almost-game-winning home run to Yankee second baseman D.J. LeMahieu—Taubman hollered, “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so [fornicating] glad we got Osuna!”

You don’t need to be a feminist to get that trading for an abuser of women or being so fornicating glad the team got him isn’t going to make women covering your team feel comfortable that they can do their jobs in the proper professional atmosphere.

You don’t need to subscribe to an automatic MeTooism to agree that a man taking “no” or “not interested” for an answer when he shows certain interest in a woman is simply plain sense and decency. For that matter, a woman taking “no” or “not interested” for an answer when she shows certain interest in a man is likewise.

Neither do you need to subscribe to cancel culture to agree that sending unsolicited shirtless selfies and asking for nudes in return, shoving your crotch in a woman’s face, continuous sexual implications in compliments about looks, near-incessant pressure to socialise together, or promising to share team information if she agrees to get drunk with you, among other things attributed to Callaway, are not the ways civilised men old enough to know better behave.

Baseball’s government is investigating the Callaway incidents. It needs to take an all-levels look into how rampant are the atmospheres in which women doing nothing more or less than their jobs feel discomfited by men taking too much more than professional interest in them, and refusing to take “no” for an answer to interest above and beyond the game.

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