This is a baseball problem, first and foremost, the product of decades of pervasive old-boy-network behavior that used to be ignored, and then tolerated, and then excused. That day is over, and the bills are coming due. There is no more boys-will-be boys, and the sport will eventually be better for it.
But first it has to answer for it. First it has to recognize how it was that people like Jared Porter and Mickey Callaway were apparently able to get away with the creepiest kind of behavior imaginable, and keep getting moved up the sport’s food chain.
Porter, the Mets’ former general manager, admitted to harassing a female reporter with a relentless string of text messages, capped by a picture of male genitalia. His career, rightly, lies in ruins. Now it is Callaway’s turn to make a most public walk of shame through scorn and embarrassment, five female reporters accusing him of similarly unwanted advances.
Callaway, so far, denies any wrongdoing although the women, through The Athletic, have provided some awfully compelling evidence. As with Porter, a read through some of the saved text message provides a chilling tour through the legacy of relentless entitlement that has always skewed a certain way because men were dominant in professional sports and women merely bit players, both within the game and on its fringes.
That dynamic is changing. There is a woman GM now, in Miami, in Kim Ng. There are more and more women covering the sport, and demanding nothing more than equal footing to their male colleagues: equal access (which they had to earn through the courts); equal respect (which they’ve earned with years of quality work); and, lastly equal standing. “No” finally means no. For real. For keeps.
The Mets, of course, are one of the teams that will have to answer not so much for Callaway’s alleged misbehavior — if it’s true, that stain falls entirely on him — as to how it is that such a character was ever hired in the first place to actually manage the baseball team. The Indians and Angels have to answer the same questions about Callaway — same as the Cubs and Diamondbacks share responsibility for Porter’s unchecked rise.
But it does shine an already blinding spotlight even brighter on the way the Mets vet candidates. It’s pretty clear the Porter incident already shook the team to its core, and in addressing it Sandy Alderson hinted that a more stringent process had to be implemented in order to avoid future embarrassments — using the term “FBI-level” at one point. But Alderson hired Callaway, too, in his first term as the Mets’ baseball boss.
And what must be troubling to Alderson — a decidedly straight-arrow to whom such behavior must be cataclysmically nauseating, and who genuinely appeared both pained when the Porter fiasco came to light and embarrassed when he was forced to admit that he hadn’t spoken to or even sought out female professional references for Porter — is that, fairly or not, Callaway is a second strike against his good name.
Alderson has been in professional sports long enough to know that not every hire you make will be a good one — and from the start it was abundantly clear Callaway was neither qualified for the manager’s job nor blessed with a steep enough learning curve to grow into the gig. Bad hires happen even to good executives; George Young once thought Ray Handley would be a good idea.
But this is now two prominent positions Alderson has filled, two men he’s hired who apparently shouldn’t have been entrusted with any job that comes with even a modicum of power. What made Alderson appealing to Steve Cohen, of course, was a sterling reputation that had been mostly unsullied across his first 40 years in the game.
And has, over the last few weeks, taken a bloody beating — and rightly so. Baseball as a whole has a lot of explaining and self-analyzing to do. And so does Sandy Alderson, baseball lifer since 1981, suddenly saddled with a two-strike count.