1-Man’s Opinion on Sports-Wednesday. “Cleveland–Dark Days Coming”

Posted by on March 3rd, 2021  •  0 Comments  • 

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“Dark Days–MLB–Cleveland”

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Commissioner Rob Manfred’s office has its hands full now.
Now they have to investigate the Cleveland Indians front office.
They are investigating Mickey Calloway, the former pitcher, pitching coach and minor league manager.

It’s not 1980-where the behaviour was tolerated.
It’s not 1950-where women were not allowed to have careers.
It’s not 1930-where we needed the suffragette program to get votes.

In every workplace in America, sexual harassment has occurred.
But it can no longer be ‘guys just being guys’.
We’ve all cracked jokes about the women in our workplace.
Some have developed into relationships and marriages.
Some have been flat-out wrong.
Some brought apologies.

Women have rights.  Women should be protected.  Women should be  paid equitable salaries.  Women can no longer be victims.

I have had fellow female workers who went out with players.
Some became romantically involved.
Some were propositioned wrongly.
Some were hazed or intimidated.

It is now a different era, and that is what is so ghastly about this Cleveland story.

Mickey Calloway is done in baseball, and two things will come of this. Other women, whether working for a club, or in the media, will come forward now in a renewed #Me Too Movement.

But now there needs to be a deeper dive by MLB:
..When did the Indians really know about Calloway?
..Why did they not do anything about it?
..Why could the Mets hire him and not vet him correctly?
..How could the Angels hire him?
..What will MLB do to solve this systemic or isolated problem?

The ‘Athletic’ continues it’s in depth story of the predator pitching coach.  Be prepared.  It’s an ugly read.  But something all should be aware of.

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When Cleveland Indians team president Chris Antonetti addressed the media on Feb. 4, he opened his virtual news conference by telling reporters in a somber tone that he was “disturbed, distraught and saddened” by the allegations against former Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway, who had been a member of the organization from 2010-2017.

In a report published by The Athletic on Feb.1, five women detailed a pattern of sexually inappropriate behavior by Callaway that spanned at least five years, multiple cities and three teams. Three women said they were sent inappropriate photographs; one woman said he requested nude photos in return. The women said he routinely commented on their appearance in a manner that made them feel uncomfortable.

Callaway has since been suspended by his current employer, the Los Angeles Angels, pending an investigation. That inquiry is being performed in conjunction with a wider Major League Baseball probe, which is examining Callaway’s behavior during his employment with multiple organizations.

Addressing the alleged conduct laid out in The Athletic article, Antonetti said he wanted to make one thing clear: “When I read the article, that was the first time I became aware of the alleged behaviors.”

One reporter pushed Antonetti on that, pointing out that after the Mets hired Callaway as their manager before the 2018 season, they learned about an incident that happened during his time in Cleveland. The reporter asked Antonetti if there was ever any communications between the Mets and the Indians about that incident.

“Not to my knowledge, no,” Antonetti said. “And there had never been any complaints against Mickey in his time with us, either to me or to our human resources department or other leaders.”

Since the publication of The Athletic’s first article, more women have come forward to say that Callaway made them uncomfortable by sending them inappropriate messages and/or photos, making unwanted advances and more while they worked for the Indians. Additionally, in 2017, an angry husband repeatedly called the team’s fan services department to complain that Callaway had sent “pornographic material” to his wife. Those calls were brought to the attention of Antonetti, manager Terry Francona and general manager Mike Chernoff; the Indians spoke with Callaway about the matter. A Cleveland attorney spoke with the wife and said – in a phone call that was recorded – that Callaway had expressed remorse to him. The attorney added that “the Indians are frickin’ pissed as hell” at Callaway and offered to have Francona call the husband. Additionally, an MLB security official contacted the husband and told him: “Mickey wants this all to go away,” and the husband later emailed MLB directly about Callaway.

Over the past month, The Athletic has interviewed 22 people who interacted with Callaway during his years in the Indians organization, including 12 current and former employees. They say that Callaway’s sexual indiscretions permeated the workplace to such an extent that it would have been difficult for top officials to not be aware of his behavior, and they push back against any assertion that Callaway’s actions, when made public by The Athletic last month, caught team executives or MLB by surprise.

“I laughed out loud when I saw the quote (in The Athletic’s original report) that said it was the worst-kept secret in baseball, because it was,” said one Indians employee. “It was the worst-kept secret in the organization.”

Callaway joined the Indians in 2010, having spent the previous few years hanging on to the last vestiges of what turned out to be an unheralded playing career — toiling for a few seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization before working as a player/pitching coach for the independent league Laredo Broncos in 2008.

It wasn’t the outcome anyone envisioned back home in Memphis, where Callaway was once a local legend.

Named after Mickey Mantle, Callaway grew up on the local baseball diamonds. Once he began pitching for Germantown High School, he garnered local and national renown, playing in several national showcases, and in 1993 was named the 14th best high school baseball player in the country by Baseball America.

Said one woman he frequently pursued: “He was a high school celebrity.”

During his high school days and later when he left for the University of Mississippi and even after he was drafted in the seventh round of the 1996 amateur draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Callaway renewed contact with women he knew from back home, often courting individuals from the same group of friends. And it didn’t stop when he got married in 2001.

“He does have a way of making you — you kind of always thought it’s just you,” said a woman from his hometown. “Until one day you sit down with a bunch of girlfriends and a glass of wine and realize you’re not.”

Callaway’s ability to charm and win over a room quickly paid dividends in the baseball world.

When Ross Atkins, now the general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, interviewed Callaway in 2010, he said he originally thought of it as merely a favor to Callaway’s agent (a friend of Atkins’), according to a 2017 New York Post article. But Atkins was struck by Callaway’s “intellect and authenticity.”

“I’m not going to compete for him. I’m going to hire him,” Atkins said of hiring Callaway, then 33, for the Indians’ Low-A pitching coach job in Lake County.

Callaway was promoted from Lake County to High-A Kinston the following season. From there, he became the organization’s minor league pitching coordinator. For that job, he was also considered an underdog, and yet he presented a written plan for the team’s pitching that impressed Cleveland’s brass. When Francona was hired as Indians manager in 2012, Atkins said he was one of multiple Indians executives who vouched for Callaway and urged Francona to meet with him.

“Sometimes when a guy walks in the room it just becomes crystal clear,” Atkins said in the Post article. “With Mickey, it is crystal clear. Some guys interview well, but his body of work also is now exceptional.”

Callaway’s professional reputation grew steadily within the Indians organization, where he was viewed not only as a forward-thinking coach with interest in the expanding information and metrics becoming available, but also as someone with the distinct ability to synthesize and distill information for those who were less analytically inclined. As the Indians overhauled their pitching program to incorporate more advanced analytics into its plans, Callaway was considered a key conduit.

As Callaway’s track record for success in grooming and developing pitchers grew, however, so did his reputation for aggressively pursuing women.

One former pitcher under Callaway said that Callaway’s conduct was widely known as early as 2010, when he was working in the minor leagues; There, he made inappropriate, sexualized comments about women and pursued them relentlessly. He’d often ask fellow players “where’s the beef?” and indicate he was on the prowl for attractive women, the player said. (“Beef” is a term used within some MLB clubhouses to refer to women, particularly those who are not spouses or partners of players.)

The player said there were even times when he was warming up before a game and Callaway would be sidling up to women in the stands near the dugout and flirting with them instead of helping him.

“It gets kind of awkward when he’s checking out players’ girlfriends,” the player added.

In 2011, when Callaway was working as a pitching coach for the Indians’ affiliate in Kinston, North Carolina, he tried to rekindle a relationship with a woman who dated him during his playing days. She broke it off when she discovered he was days away from getting married. The woman, who previously worked in baseball, has known Callaway for decades and says Callaway never liked that she worked in the sport.

“He very much is of the mindset that women have one purpose,” she said.

(Kevin Sousa / USA Today)

Callaway’s promotion to the big club as a major-league pitching coach raised his profile. It also meant he was immersed in the nerve center of the organization and in the vicinity of women who worked in the team’s offices and contributed to the day-to-day tasks of running a major league organization. The new role also put him in contact with more junior-level staffers who worked for the team in a variety of roles.

He began reaching out to some via messages to their LinkedIn accounts. Others just took note of the long stares, the leering.

“It didn’t matter what you looked like, what size, whether you were White or Black, Asian or Hispanic, he’d be creepy towards you,” said one woman.

It wasn’t long before women in the office talked about his behavior; five current or former employees say they were warned about Callaway by others, the message unambiguous: Stay away from him.

In 2015, the wives of multiple Indians’ players began discussing what they perceived to be an extramarital relationship that Callaway was in with a woman who was around the team. Some wives shared those concerns with their husbands, and those concerns were conveyed to at least one department head and another staffer, though no formal complaint was filed with human resources or any other department, a source said.

“You definitely knew he had a lot of other women on the side,” said the wife of an Indians player that year. “He was just someone you wanted to stay away from.”

Also in 2015, Callaway brought another woman he was dating on road trips and they stayed together at the team hotel. That included a September series in Detroit where they stayed at the MGM Grand Hotel and a trip to MLB’s annual winter meetings in Nashville.

On June 19, 2016, during a season when Callaway would play an important role in helping the Indians reach the World Series, the woman who went on road trips with Callaway received a text message that included a shirtless photo from Callaway taken inside a clubhouse. He was wearing an Indians cap.

“What are you doing right now? Let me see u. I am headed out soon for (a) game,” part of the text message read.

In late 2016 or early 2017, he sent an unsolicited full-frontal nude picture of himself in a locker room to the friend of another woman he was involved with sexually, according to someone who saw the photo and asked about it. The friend worked in the Indians organization at the time.

As The Athletic previously reported, Callaway also sent a former Indians employee suggestive messages on LinkedIn in late December 2015. He also had made a pass at her on the field during the season.

None of the women who interacted with Callaway during his time in Cleveland reported these interactions through any official channels.

Said a woman who worked for the Indians: “I don’t think it’s necessarily a Cleveland issue but a baseball issue. As women, we feel like if we report something, we’ll be looked at like a tattletale or that if we talked, (the team) will figure out who reported it.”

Cleveland pitching coach Mickey Callaway on a 2017 mound visit. (David Richard / USA Today)

Perhaps the Indians were unaware that Callaway was harassing female employees, even sometimes on the field before games, and messaging them via social media apps, causing women to warn each other about his conduct and at least one former staffer to coin the phrase “the Mickey treatment.” Perhaps the team was unaware he was taking lewd photos in the locker room and sharing them with women. Perhaps the complaints from players’ wives never reached the executive suite.

But Antonetti’s declaration that “there had never been any complaints against Mickey in his time with us, either to me or to our human resources department or other leaders,” prompted multiple people who interacted with Callaway during his time in the Indians organization to contact The Athletic and accuse Antonetti of being evasive.

“(Those) comments hit me the wrong way,” said one former Indians employee. “I know that’s the way Chris has to do it and run things, but the amount of people in that organization who know about all that stuff, I don’t know how he can then face his staff.”

In the spring of 2014 in Arizona, Callaway met a married woman when she accompanied her son to seek an autograph. She gave Callaway her phone number in the spring of 2015, she says, because Callaway offered to come to her son’s T-ball game and needed directions. As avid baseball fans, she and her husband were initially thrilled.

The woman and Callaway began an affair that was consensual and included Callaway sending her explicit photos and at least one lewd video. The relationship ended when the woman’s husband found out in February 2017. When her husband confronted Callaway via text about the situation, Callaway texted back that he had to inform MLB security because his cell phone was “company property.” (The Athletic viewed this exchange.)

On April 16, 2017, Chuck Blalock, a former detective in the Phoenix police department and an MLB security agent, called the husband and left a voicemail (which The Athletic reviewed.) His voicemail references a dispute with Callaway and ends with: “This was to try to discuss this and see if we can come to some remedy.”

The husband said he returned Blalock’s call and was told, “Mickey wants this all to go away. He doesn’t want to file a report.” The husband agreed not to proceed, but later that summer, still upset, he began calling the Indians’ fan services department. He called MLB, and he followed up with Blalock and requested that a report be filed to MLB.

Blalock confirmed that he left the initial voicemail and received the husband’s follow-up request for a claim. When asked repeatedly what became of the husband’s request, he would only say: “I offered to submit a report.” The husband and wife, who spoke to The Athletic in separate interviews, say they did not hear from Blalock again. Nor did they hear from anyone associated with MLB or the Indians. (A league source confirmed that a report about the matter was filed to MLB.)

The husband continued to call the Indians’ fan service department, where a low-level employee would answer and route the call to the team’s public relations and communications staff. At some point later that summer, the husband was calling so frequently — basically “every other day,” according to a source — that the team’s PR and communications staff brought the matter to the attention of Francona, general manager Chernoff and Antonetti.

“This issue was addressed with him by the three highest-ranking baseball officials,” said a former employee.

That summer, the woman in Arizona spoke on the phone with Tom Mannion, a partner at a Cleveland law firm.

“(Callaway) shouldn’t have done it. He’s wrong; he knows that,” Mannion said during one call, which the wife recorded in August 2017.

Mannion continued: “I’ve actually talked to Francona and he told me he was willing to talk to your husband and you, and he said this has cost Mickey huge financially. It has cost him huge within the organization … he told me, he said, ‘Tom, I’m not losing my pitching coach.’”

Mannion at one point asked if a phone call from Francona would make her husband feel better. (Those offers were declined.) Mannion also told her that he “sensed” the Indians had punished Callaway, fining him in excess of $100,000. He expressed concern about the possibility that the husband would make public photos and/or a video Callaway sent to the wife.

“A baseball team is just like an office,” Mannion said in the recording. “Once one person finds out, I’m sure, Mickey has told me it’s embarrassing as hell for him. He’s gotten all sort(s) of shit for it. Major League Baseball found out. The Indians found out. The team found out. He got hurt in the pocketbook; he got hurt in his pride.”

The Indians said in a statement: “In June of 2017, we received reports from a man alleging extramarital contact between Mickey and his wife over a two-year period. Within days of the report, we spoke with Mickey about the alleged behavior, and he maintained that the relationship was consensual and outside of the workplace. Following our conversation with Mickey and to our knowledge, there were no further complaints of misconduct from this person during Mickey’s tenure with the club.”

The Indians added that they did not fine or discipline Callaway, nor were they ever in contact with Mannion regarding the matter.

When told of the 40-minute recording, Mannion initially denied ever telling the wife that Callaway was fined or disciplined in any way. He added: “I do not recall ever speaking to Terry Francona but I do believe if Terry talked with the gentleman he could calm him.” In a later email, he said the quotes attributed to him by The Athletic were taken out of context. He then said, “I never confirmed it was me on the call. You never provided a transcript or audio.” He also said the audio could be from an “altered source.” He also “did not recall” speaking to anyone from the Indians other than Callaway. “I was a newspaper reporter early in my career, please practice responsible journalism, not sensationalism,” he added. Finally, he said any comments taken from the recorded phone call would be “misquoting.”

Weeks after the Indians’ 2017 season ended, and just a few months after the Arizona husband’s complaints about Callaway reached the highest-ranking Indians officials, Callaway was hired as manager of the New York Mets.

It is not clear why Callaway leap-frogged other, favored candidates such as Mets hitting coach Kevin Long. Whatever the reason, it accelerated the team’s hiring process. On Oct. 18 of that year, Callaway interviewed with the Mets in what reports published at the time categorized as the “first round of interviews.” The following day, Callaway interviewed for the Phillies’ vacant managerial job.

During dinner with the Philadelphia front office that evening, Callaway got a phone call from Mets president Sandy Alderson telling him to get back on the train to New York. “I remember being incredibly uncomfortable,” a source at that dinner said, noting that the pricey meal, and any chance of high-ranking Phillies officials setting up a follow-up meeting, was over.

The Mets wanted to move quickly, with four other teams in need of new managers that offseason. Alderson didn’t want to let Callaway get out of town, a source said, telling the trio of other high-ranking Mets officials assembled in Callaway’s first interview, “we’ve got our guy,” as soon as Callaway walked out of the room.

Callaway was in New York the following day, Oct. 20, to work out the details of a three-year deal that would make him the new manager.

“When we hired Mickey, Mickey was the hot commodity. There was a number of teams that were anxious to talk to him and possibly sign him to a contract,” Alderson said in a Zoom call with reporters Monday. “We felt very fortunate at the time to get him based on his reputation in the game. Was that short-sighted on our part? Was it too narrow a focus? I think the answer is probably yes. Certainly in retrospect, there probably should have been a broader assessment of his qualifications.”

When he landed the Mets job, Callaway texted a lower-level female Indians employee asking her to help him pack up his Cleveland apartment. She declined, just as she had with his multiple offers to meet for drinks.

On the morning of Aug. 8, 2018, more than halfway through Callaway’s first season as manager, a number of New York Mets interns tasked with reviewing the emails that filter in through the team’s community outreach account flagged one from 9:48 p.m. from the night before.

The email, which The Athletic reviewed, was from the Arizona husband, who said he was reaching out to the Mets to notify them that Callaway had sent his wife “unsolicited pornographic material,” and that he had previously attempted to notify MLB of Callaway’s behavior.

“I would like to think that if the Mets were aware of this situation, they would not want this type of person as their employee representing their organization,” the person wrote in the email, which had also been sent to MLB’s customer service on Aug. 6.

After being told of the content of the email by interns within the department, a manager within the community outreach department forwarded the email to David Cohen, the team’s general counsel. Cohen, who has been with the team for decades, told the manager the following day that the issue had been handled. (Alderson was on leave at the time being treated for cancer.)

Cohen also asked the manager to keep the contents of the email private. That would be difficult, the manager said, as several interns had read the husband’s email.

The Mets confronted Callaway about the email and what it alleged, according to a team source. The source said the human resources department and team security were made aware of the email’s contents. Callaway told team officials that he had an affair that he had since dissolved and that the issue would not resurface. To support that assertion, Callaway added that he was in the midst of trying to work things out with his wife. Like the Indians, the Mets did not contact the husband who sent the email or his wife.

“To us, that wasn’t an on-field indiscretion that had to do with the team. Bad choice on his part. But that’s his personal life. Don’t let it affect the team,” the source said of the team’s general feeling on the matter.

The Mets declined to comment on the team’s handling of the situation.

Before and after the team dismissed the Arizona matter as “bad choice” on Callaway’s part, he aggressively pursued multiple women in sports media, as detailed in The Athletic’s earlier account.

“He was on his phone all the time,” recalled one male Mets employee. “(I was like), ‘Two hours before a game, buddy? Aren’t you having a meeting?’ You could tell it had nothing to do with the game. It’s 5:15, who are you texting?”

According to one former Mets employee, Callaway earned a nickname among several people within the organization:

“Dick Pic Mick.”

(Todd Kirkland / Getty Images)

Callaway was fired by the Mets in October 2019. His exit had nothing to do with his conduct toward women; he posted an underwhelming 163-161 record and missed the playoffs both seasons.

Less than a month later, he was hired as Joe Maddon’s pitching coach in Anaheim. In spring training last year, Maddon praised Callaway as “very bright” and as someone who could analyze the game “extremely well.”

“There’s so many things he brings to the table,” Maddon said. “But I think it’s primarily him. He’s got a nice way about him.”

Callaway, when reached before the publication of The Athletic’s article last month, said that any relationship he was involved in was consensual and that his conduct “was in no way intended to be disrespectful to any women involved.” Multiple sources told The Athletic that Callaway has denied any wrongdoing to the Angels.

When contacted Monday, Callaway responded via email: “While much of the reporting around my behavior has been inaccurate, the truth is that on multiple occasions I have been unfaithful to my wife, and for that I am deeply sorry. What I have never done is use my position to harass or pressure a woman.  I am confident that I have never engaged in anything that was non-consensual. I feel truly blessed that my wife and children have stuck with me as the most personal and embarrassing details of my infidelities have been revealed. I will continue to work as hard as I can to repair the rift of trust that I have caused inside of my family. “

In the wake of the revelations about Callaway’s behavior under their watch, Indians and Mets officials have attempted to look forward. Antonetti said it’s his “responsibility as a leader of this organization to redouble our efforts to make sure that we have a safe and inclusive environment.” Alderson said the Mets have “begun a review of our hiring processes to ensure our vetting of new employees is more thorough and comprehensive.” MLB has announced it is updating its harassment and discrimination policies.

Some who lived through Callaway’s time in Cleveland and were subjected to his aggressive advances questioned how the men who once supervised Callaway can be trusted to fix the culture that allowed him to operate so brazenly.

Said one former female Indians employee: “Either they were too afraid to say anything, or he was (doing) too good of a job (for them) to say anything.”

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