I’m not sure how to say it more clearly than this: Stop hiring predatory creeps. Stop defending predatory creeps.
The Athletic published a report Monday about Mickey Callaway — the former manager of the Mets and current pitching coach of the Angels — and his alleged history of harassing women in sports media, during his stops in Cleveland, New York and Los Angeles.
Five women spoke to The Athletic and detailed their encounters and interactions with Callaway. Seven others said they’d been cautioned about Callaway’s past behaviors.
“It was the worst-kept secret in sports,” one of the women told The Athletic.
Think about that for a minute.
“Worst-kept secret in baseball” just means everyone was keeping the same secret.
— Kate Feldman (@kateefeldman) February 2, 2021
That’s exactly right.
It was the worst-kept secret in the industry because those in the industry determined that it was acceptable for it to remain a secret. That’s inexcusable.
And this report was on the heels of ESPN’s report that Jared Porter — who had been hired as the Mets’ general manager in December 2020 — harassed a foreign reporter with more than 60 unanswered text messages over a period of several weeks in 2016 when he was the Cubs’ director of professional scouting, culminating with a picture of a naked penis. After he sent that picture, the woman — a foreign correspondent who moved to the United States for the job — finally responded, telling him that his messages were extremely offensive.
Shortly after ESPN’s report was published, Porter was fired. Callaway has been suspended by the Angels — he was fired as the Mets’ manager in October 2019 for team performance reasons and hired as the Angels’ pitching coach a few weeks later — pending the completion of an investigation.
Source: Mickey Callaway has denied any wrongdoing, which protects him from being fired without an investigation. MLB and the Angels are hoping to wrap up this investigation in relatively short order.
— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) February 2, 2021
If you’ve read the reporting in The Athletic, a pretty clear picture has been painted. Text messages were published. Other messages were viewed by the reporters and the legal team. The evidence of Callaway’s reprehensible behavior is there. He used his position of power to harass these women in sports media, not even trying to cover his tracks. An example: When he was the Mets’ manager, he promised one reporter that if she got drunk with him, he would give her inside information about the club. Callaway’s behavior is a textbook example of why women can be hesitant to come forward.
And yet, he still denies any wrongdoing. Still.
Is there a more damning indictment on the industry than that? People in baseball knew who Callaway was and how he acted, and their silence was all the approval he needed. Why would he stop? Why would he even think he was wrong?
The silence has to end.
Let’s be clear about this point, too: The responsibility to stop these predators does not lie solely — or even primarily — with the women who are being harassed. In nearly every case, both with Porter and Callaway and the countless examples before them, the behavior was reported, either to a colleague in the business or the team/company the harasser worked for. And far too often, nothing has happened.
That’s why Porter was still hired for the Mets’ general manager job years after he harassed the reporter in Chicago. That’s why Callaway was hired for the Mets’ managerial job after his behavior in Cleveland, and why he was hired for the Angels’ pitching coach job after his increasingly crass behavior in New York, and why that behavior continued with his move to California to work for the Angels.
And, yes, that those two were both hired by the Mets — by Sandy Alderson, specifically, in two different stints with the club — has not been overlooked. It’s an inditement on Alderson’s hiring practices, no doubt, that these two were “vetted” and these behaviors were not found. What good is even a well-intentioned vetting process that fails to ask the right questions, or fails to ask questions to the right people? If you scoop the cat litter with a grocery bag that has giant holes in the bottom, poop still gets everywhere, no matter what your cleaning motivation might have been.
“At this point, it’s (Callaway’s) reputation,” one of the women told The Athletic. “If they are vetting him, even an ounce of his personal life should reveal this.”
And the Mets aren’t alone here. This is an industry problem. Remember how the Astros aggressively defended Brandon Taubman in 2019, after he verbally harassed a group of women reporters covering the ALCS championship celebration, unprovoked? Houston’s front office issued a press release attacking the reporter who wrote about the incident, Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein, calling her article “misleading and completely irresponsible” even though it turned out that Taubman was the one who was lying. These two ex-Mets should represent — finally — the end of the line for men who behave like that, who use their positions of power to harass and intimidate those just looking to do their jobs.
For far too long, the actions and behaviors of men such as Callaway and Porter have been swept under the rug, the offenders given a slap-on-the-wrist punishment or a stern talking to.
The sad truth is, the only way to make sure that doesn’t happen seems to be going public.
But that’s crazy, right? How have we — as a society and a baseball industry — gotten to this point? How have these creeps, these predators, been allowed to not only survive but thrive? How are they the ones who have been protected and coddled, their actions and behaviors not just excused, but somehow justified? This has to stop. And it’s also ridiculous that the women who were harassed by Porter and Callaway have to remain anonymous — though the damning evidence is anything but anonymous — for the very real fear of reprisal, not just from the Callaways and Porters in baseball, but by those who have allowed them to thrive. Maybe, hopefully, one day they will be praised as the brave souls they are.
The good thing, though? The solution should be simple enough: Stop protecting the jackasses. This is a goal we can all work toward together. Those of us in the sports media can’t be silent. Those who work in baseball front offices cannot look the other way. Allegations need to be taken seriously.
And, yes, discerning intent can sometimes be complicated. Individual text messages can be misinterpreted. The benefit of the doubt cannot disappear. But the 60 unanswered text messages from Porter? The pattern of behavior by Callaway that was the “worst-kept secret” in baseball? There aren’t shades of gray with cases like these.
And what’s so galling is the line between what is appropriate and what isn’t IS NOT BLURRY, even though almost everyone who crosses it tries to say it is in retrospect. I’ve had interactions with many male baseball folks who never come near that line or even threaten to do so.
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) February 2, 2021
The proof against Porter and Callaway is there. They weren’t even trying to hide their behavior.
Actions must have consequences.
Men in baseball — that’s what we’re specifically talking about here, even though it applies outside this world, too — have to know that if they behave like this, they’re almost certainly going to lose their job because they are no longer being protected by some insane code of silence. And, as with most things in life, the goal can’t be solely about punishing the offenders for what they’ve done — the goal has to be about preventing the actions. Before they follow whatever creepy instinct of superiority drives them to send these messages and say these things in the first place, there needs to be a thought that pops into their heads to stop them.
And that brings up another point. The effort to prevent these actions can’t just be about the threat of punishment, though that’s a good first step. Those in leadership positions — with franchises, etc. — have to create workplace cultures that provide a good working environment for everyone, built on respect for others. It’s not a speech or seminar once a year, but a way of life within the organization.
That’s the long-term goal. The first step, though? Stop protecting the creeps.