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.

Old sexts mean new unemployment

Imagine for one moment an otherwise bright child who’s made mistakes as most children make, bright or otherwise. He comes home from whatever he was doing with his friends, but he discovers an old incident he thought passed without notice or consequence was now unearthed, and his father demands accountability.

Let’s say it was something like giving a push back to that cute but obnoxious little girl who decided the way to make friends and attract the opposite sex was to push, shove, or even punch. He took it long enough because he was taught young gentlemen do not push, shove, or punch young ladies, but he finally got fed up with this particular chick who didn’t know the meaning of the words “knock it off.”

Nobody was truly harmed. It’s not as though she’d shoved him out of third-story windows, it’s not as though he finally dragged her to the nearest open window on the sixth floor. But somebody, who knows whom, let the ancient push back slip within his father’s earshot, and Dad confronts him subsequently giving him minus two seconds to explain himself.

Aware that the conversation is about a comparatively ancient error, he gives the deets straight, no chaser, certain that no father in his right mind would even think about punitive action regarding such a cobwebbed misstep. But he discovers the hard way how wrong he is when Dad pounces, pronounces him grounded for the rest of the forthcoming month, and fans his behind rather mercilessly for an exclamation point.

The boy repairs to his room with more than just a chastened ego and a very sore bottom. He’s between rage and sorrow because it was only a foolish mistake, not exactly the crime of the season. He pushed back after taking it long enough, but it didn’t make him any less a young gentleman or prove he had murder in his heart.

You might want to contemplate that when you wonder whether the Mets went a few bridges too far firing general manager Jared Porter Tuesday morning—almost a fortnight after he and the Mets delivered the trade of the winter bringing Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco aboard—over infractions he committed while he was the Cubs’ director of professional scouting four years ago.

Our hypothetical push-back kid merely responded in kind at long enough last. Porter wasn’t pushed. He sent, shall we say, naughty/nasty sexual images among 62 text  messages to a young woman working as a reporter whose only provocation, if we can call it that, was exchanging business cards on the pretext of coming discussion about international baseball scouting.

The lady discovered the hard way that Porter had amorous designs upon her and didn’t readily take “no” for an answer or ignorance as a subtle hint.She was a foreign correspondent come to the United States for the first time, assigned specifically to cover the Show. She had no idea going in that she’d run into more than a few Porter screwballs on the low inside corner.

“The text relationship started casually before Porter, then the Chicago Cubs director of professional scouting, began complimenting her appearance, inviting her to meet him in various cities and asking why she was ignoring him,” say ESPN writers Mina Kimes and Jeff Passan. “And the texts show she had stopped responding to Porter after he sent a photo of pants featuring a bulge in the groin area.”

Kimes and Passan say ESPN knew of the Porter texts to her in December 2017 and thought about reporting them until she told the network she feared her career would be harmed. She has since left journalism, though Kimes and Passan say she’s kept in touch with ESPN concurrently and went public only under anonymous cover, fearing backlash in her home country.

“My number one motivation is I want to prevent this from happening to someone else,” she’s quoted as saying. “Obviously, [Porter]’s in a much greater position of power. I want to prevent that from happening again. The other thing is, I never really got the notion that he was truly sorry.

“I know in the U.S., there is a women’s empowerment movement. But in [my home country], it’s still far behind,” she continued. “Women get dragged through the mud [in my country] if your name is associated with any type of sexual scandal. Women are the ones who get fingers pointed at them. I don’t want to go through the victimization process again. I don’t want other people to blame me.”

The Mets hired Porter in December, from the Diamondbacks, for whom he worked as an assistant GM since 2017. On Monday night, Porter told ESPN that yes, he’d texted with her, but no, he hadn’t sent any pictures, until he was told their exchanges included selfies and other images, at which point he said, “the more explicit ones are not of me. Those are like, kinda like joke-stock images.”

Mets owner Steve Cohen isn’t exactly laughing, tweeting Tuesday morning, “We have terminated Jared Porter this morning. In my initial press conference I spoke about the importance of integrity and I meant it. There should be zero tolerance for this type of behavior.” Especially since, speaking metaphorically, the lady didn’t exactly push, shove, or punch Porter first all those years ago.

The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal says the lady had an ally in a baseball player from her home country, who helped her create a rather forceful message to Porter back when that Porter didn’t exactly heed at first: “This is extremely inappropriate, very offensive, and getting out of line. Could you please stop sending offensive photos or msg.” He’s said to have apologised to her much later.

“Colleagues of mine who are women use words such as ‘tired’ and ‘exhausted’ to describe their daily struggle to be treated the same as men, to command the same respect when they walk into a clubhouse, to do their jobs without facing sexual provocation,” Rosenthal adds. “They are professionals, not playthings.”

It’s one thing to ask a lady for a date. It’s another thing to try your best to change her mind if she says “no.” But turning from there to hot pursuit sexting is something entirely different and disturbing.

The Mets were unaware of Porter’s sexually explicit hot pursuit until Monday. They cut Porter loose early enough the morning after. A 7:30 a.m. Eastern time firing happens when enough New Yorkers have barely finished coffee at the breakfast table before rumbling out  hoping for just a little more snooze on the subway before work.

Some think the Mets could have been aware of Porter’s old lewd hot pursuit sooner. Some think Cohen and company have surrendered to cancel culture, to which Cohen had a reply when one indignant tweeter demanded to know Porter’s path to redemption “now that his life has been ruined.”

“I have no idea,” Cohen replied, though surely he knows Porter’s redemption is likelier to come away from baseball than within it, as second chances so often do. “I have an organization of 400 employees that matter more than any one individual. No action [taken] would set a poor example to the culture I’m trying to build.”

A subsequent tweeter isolated a parallel point addressed directly to the demand for a path to redemption: “As someone who is 100% opposed to cancel culture, this is a ridiculous thing to say. Jared brought this on himself. His path to redemption is on him. This has nothing to do with cancel culture.”

Others think the Mets in the Cohen era have now become the essence of decisive action when made aware of such wrongdoing. The joke is kinda like on Porter now. But nobody’s laughing.

The sordid case of Felipe Vasquez

2019-09-18 FelipeVasquez

Pirates relief pitcher Felipe Vasquez. His ubiquitous tattoos helped identify him as a sex predator with at least one underage girl.

Let’s see. Either the Astros or the Braves will be the next team to clinch their division titles, and in theory they could do it on the same day, since they both awoke this morning with magic numbers of three. In theory.

The Astros have a better shot at doing it first since their remaining schedule is just a trifle easier than the Braves’. But remember Andujar’s Law: In baseball, there’s just one word—you never know. And the Astros’ main 2019 rivals for the best ratio of excellence to injury compromise or depletion, the Yankees, are a game from clinching their division.

I was wrong so far about the loss of Christian Yelich to the Brewers and their general manager David Stearns was right so far. I thought losing their by-far best player for the season last week meant a gut punch to their season. Stearns thought it was just a gut punch for the night. Stearns wins that argument.

Even if they did it against bottom feeders mostly, the Brewers are 6-1 since Yelich went down after fracturing his knee cap on his own foul off the plate. And they’re tied with the Cubs, who have their own issues, for the second National League wild card.

And I’m still rubbing my eyes over the fact that this year, too, as seems to happen too often in baseball’s wild card era, we’re watching all the thrills, chills, and spills of at least eight teams fighting to the last breaths to finish . . . in second or even third place.

As of this morning it’s still possible mathematically that the National League’s second wild card could be won by a team finishing third in its own division, and two teams (the Mets in the NL East; the Brewers in the NL Central) still have a shot at that. Which means, in theory, a third-place team could heat up enough to go to, if not win the World Series.

And even if the Giants and the Red Sox are out of the races, it was still a thrill Tuesday night when Mike Yastrzemski of the Giants—the grandson of the Red Sox’s Hall of Fame legend Carl Yastrzemski—confabbed with Grandpa on the field before the game at Fenway Park, then blasted one into the center field seats with two out in the top of the fourth.

But all the above gets knocked to one side upon the news that the best pitcher on major league baseball’s possible most fractured and fractuous team this year may be a sex criminal.

Bad enough that the Pirates’ clubhouse became a well known mess this season. Enough of a mess that two of the key culprits, relief pitchers Kyle Crick and Felipe Vasquez, had a clubhouse fight over Vasquez’s music that caused Crick a season-ending finger injury. Way worse is Vasquez arrested Tuesday in Pittsburgh, on Florida and Pennsylvania charges involving sexual misconduct with underage girls.

According to KDKA, CBS Pittsburgh, Vasquez is charged with “computer pornography–solicitation of a child and one count of providing obscene material to minors,” out of Lee County, Florida. Denied bail at his arraignment in Pittsburgh Tuesday—senior district judge Eilenn Conroy considered him a flight risk—he faces an extradition hearing a week from today.

Far more grave is what Pennsylvania State Police announced Tuesday evening, according to The Athletic: charges of statutory sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor, corruption of a minor by a suspect eighteen or older, and indecent assault of a victim under sixteen.

Yardbarker reported this girl told officers she met Vasquez when she was thirteen and they kept in touch via text messages and other computer/phone apps. USA Today‘s Chris Bumbaca reported the girl’s mother “discovered the messages, two pictures and a video one week after they were sent to the victim on July 16. At that point, the mother told the suspect he was communicating with a minor. Police began an investigation on Aug. 8.”

Bumbaca added that Vasquez’s face wasn’t visible in the images but authorities identified him by way of his numerous and too-distinctive tattoos, and by the girl addressing him as Felipe during their text message exchanges.

“These allegations are very, very serious,” said Pirates pitcher Chris Archer, whose own season ended officially Sunday thanks to shoulder issues keeping him on the injured list since late August. “One term that was used earlier was heinous. Right now, as far as we know, they’re just allegations. There’s not a lot more we can say.”

There wasn’t? The Pirates wasted practically no time wiping Vasquez off the face of their earth before the Pirates hosted the Mariners at PNC Park Tuesday evening, The Athletic‘s Rob Biertempfel writes.

By game time, looking around the stadium, it was as if Vázquez had never played for the Pirates. His clubhouse locker was empty. His banner outside PNC Park had been taken down. His image was scrubbed from the scoreboard videos. His name was deleted from the list of National League save leaders that flashes on concourse monitors before the game. The scorebook magazines with Vázquez on the cover, which normally are handed out to fans as they enter the stadium, were stashed out of sight.

The Pirates informed the commissioner’s office almost at once and Vasquez was put on administrative leave and baseball’s restricted list. He’ll face worse if he’s tried and convicted. And that would still be nothing compared to what his victims and their loved ones have to come to terms with. They deserve your compassion and your prayers.

This isn’t just an athlete accused of and disciplined for domestic violence. This is one accused of having or seeking actual sexual activity with underage girls. ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweeted even more grating news this morning: “Police said . . . Vazquez admitted that he drove nearly an hour in 2017 to meet a 13-year-old girl and tried to have sex with her, according to a criminal complaint released today. After a failed attempt, Vazquez, then 26, left to go to a game, per the complaint.”

Only after 1980’s-1990s Cubs/Indians/Yankees/Giants outfielder Mel Hall’s career ended did we learn he spent much of his off-field career maneuvering 12- and 13-year-old girls into sexual activity. Those grotesque maneuverings continued after his career ended. Hall was finally arrested for rape in 2007 and sentenced to 45 years in prison in 2009.

Until now the worst thing that ever happened to the Pirates in legal terms (the absolute worst at all, of course, was Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente’s death in a 1972 plane crash) was probably six players testifying and facing discipline from then-commissioner Peter Ueberroth as part of the 1985 Pittsburgh drug trials.  Analysts observing the dissipation of this year’s Pirates and suggesting a housecleaning should come may want to amend that suggestion to a fumigation.

One of life’s saddest realities is that there are times, indeed, when a man can be accused falsely and wrongly of such sordid crimes as those with which Vasquez is charged. The evidence known thus far suggests he isn’t even close to one of those men.