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On Mickey Callaway, Investigations, and Accountability

The Mets, Angels, and Cleveland all say they didn’t know about Callaway sexually harassing women. Here’s why you shouldn’t believe them.

MLB: New York Mets at Cincinnati Reds Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

For several months now, Major League Baseball has been investigating allegations against Mickey Callaway of sexual harassment. Callaway has had a long career in MLB as pitching coach for the Angels and Cleveland, sandwiched around a period pitching coach and former Mets manager. Those allegations were first reported back in February by Brittany Ghiroli and Katie Strang:

Mickey Callaway, the former New York Mets manager and current pitching coach for the Los Angeles Angels, aggressively pursued at least five women who work in sports media, sending three of them inappropriate photographs and asking one of them to send nude photos in return. He sent them unsolicited electronic messages and regularly commented on their appearance in a manner that made them uncomfortable. In one instance, he thrust his crotch near the face of a reporter as she interviewed him. In another, he told one of the women that if she got drunk with him he’d share information about the Mets.

* * *

“It was the worst-kept secret in sports,” said one of the women.

Shortly thereafter, Ghiroli and Strang published a second article with even more damning evidence against Callaway.

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.

The Angels suspended Callaway, but didn’t initially terminate him.

Then, on May 26, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the investigation was complete, and Callaway would be placed on the league’s ineligible list through 2022, with the ability to apply for reinstatement thereafter. The Angels terminated him immediately thereafter. Though Manfred praised the cooperation from the Mets, Cleveland, and Angels, it was also notable that he also specifically mentioned the “emails” which teams had turned over the investigators, thus buttressing further the reporting of Ghiroli and Strang. If teams had emails relevant to Callaway’s behavior, it beggars belief that they didn’t know something was going on.

Callaway, meanwhile, went from denying the allegations outright and calling the harassment “consensual” to issuing this “apology”:

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s dig in. As an initial matter, Callaway’s post-suspension mea culpa is obviously intended to pave the way for a reinstatement at the end of next year, and in that vein can’t be considered anything close to genuine. The statement that he did not understand how those “interactions” would “violate MLB policies” is perhaps the key here, however: Callaway had gotten away with his harassing behavior for so long, he almost certainly never expected to face accountability for them.

And of course, in the firestorm around Callaway’s repugnant actions, teams and front offices alike have rushed to condemn him and vow that they would never be a party to sexual harassment. The owner of Cleveland’s MLB team, Chris Antonetti, opted to outright lie, falsely saying that the team received no complaints about Callaway. As for the Angels, this is the same organization whose erstwhile Director of Communications is facing criminal charges in connection with the death of a young pitcher, so their employee oversight can safely be described as “lacking.”

On the other hand, new Mets owner Steve Cohen, for example, “called Callaway’s alleged actions “unacceptable” and that they “would never be tolerated under my ownership.” But is that really the case? Take, for example, this report about Cohen from January:

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen is accused of using vulgar, abusive language toward female employees and fostering a culture of sexism at his hedge fund, according to a gender discrimination complaint unsealed and revealed to the New York Times.

The Times reported on the complaint on Tuesday in the latest of a pattern of allegations of sexism against his Point72 Asset Management hedge fund. Cohen purchased the Mets in September in the shadow of separate complaints of hostility toward women at Point72.

Then there’s Sandy Alderson. In November, Alderson rehired David Newman to the team’s front office.

Newman had been previously terminated from the Mets for “ma[king] inappropriate comments to female employees during his first stint with the team from 2005-2018.” When asked about Callaway, Alderson said this to Strang and Ghiroli:

Let me try to make a point as strongly as I can, OK? Not every instance involving men, women in the workplace is a capital offense, OK? Every time something happens, it doesn’t mean somebody has to be fired. There are a lot of intermediate steps that can be taken and we’ve done that in a variety of different cases. And have included capital punishment as a consequence in some cases, but not every case rises to the level of execution. And that’s what honestly I think is happening with these articles (in The Athletic). People are getting executed, including women, by the way, for reasons that are unjustifiable.

In other words, the Mets are presently an organization being run by an owner facing multiple sexual harassment lawsuits and a president of baseball operations who thinks sexual harassment is no biggie, and at the same time they want us to know that they take conduct like Callaway’s very seriously. Cohen points to the review being done by law firm Wilmer Hale of the Mets’ workplace, but it’s honestly difficult to take that seriously when he Wilmer Hale is already representing Cohen in other matters, including performing the same function right now in response to the sexual harassment lawsuits against Cohen’s hedge fund. And Cohen’s general counsel is Kevin O’Connor, a former member of the Trump transition team who after joining Cohen’s employ reportedly said “the reality is that this is just a really tough place for women, and that’s not going to change.

Given the nearly four full months which elapsed between Callaway’s initial suspension and the conclusion of the investigation, one can draw from these facts two conclusions. You could conclude that MLB was merely being thorough and gathering all the facts. On the other hand, you could also conclude that MLB was attempting to maneuver through this scandal in such a way as to avoid implicating the many front office personnel who already knew about Callaway’s actions and decided to do nothing about it. The latter theory is buttressed by the fact that in past investigations, Manfred has provided the names of the investigators and the evidence they uncovered. He did not do so here. Also interesting is the fact that Callaway ends up with almost exactly the same punishment as former Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, who was also suspended through the next full season. It seems, then, that the going rate for sexual harassment punishments in MLB has been set.

And is that accountability? No, not really, at least not in any real sense of the term. Taubman failed upwards, after all; he’s now the Chief Information Officer at Stablewood Properties, a real estate investment firm. Callaway didn’t accept responsibility even after his suspension was issued. So Sandy Alderson need not worry about “capital punishment” for sexual harassers; at the end of the day, Callaway will wait until 2022 and apply for reinstatement, and his “redemption tour” will be written. He, like Taubman, will fail upwards. Because until MLB starts handing out lifetime bans for sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace, this will continue. People like Callaway and Alderson and Cohen will continue to act with impunity, and justify it as just being a “tough place for women.” If MLB’s investigation showed nothing else, it was certainly that.


Sheryl Ring is a consumer rights and civil rights attorney practicing in the Chicago, Illinois area. You can reach her on Twitter @Ring_Sheryl. This post is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice, and does not create any attorney-client relationship.