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Cleveland Knew About Mickey Callaway, And What They Could Get Away With

Amed Rosario of Cleveland can't get to a ground ball during a spring training game.
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Cleveland’s baseball team is the new worst franchise in North American professional sports, an honor that can be explained by two exhaustive and exhausting pieces by The Athletics Katie Strang, who recently dug a pickaxe into the Arizona Coyotes, and MLB reporter Brittany Ghiroli about the many ways in which both the team and Major League Baseball ignored, dismissed, and tacitly accepted former pitching coach Mickey Callaway’s prodigiously revolting proclivities with women dating back at least to 2010.

Callaway’s behavior was well known within the organization, but he went on to manage the New York Mets and then this off-season to be hired by the Los Angeles Angels as their pitching coach. He is now suspended pending an investigation by Major League Baseball that, like most such things, doubtless will be exactly as thorough as it needs to be to fit the needs of the investigators. “While we don’t believe the reporting to date reflects who we are as an organization,” the team said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon, “we will not comment further on the specifics of this matter.”

But Cleveland clearly knew or should have known about how uneasy and unsafe their prized employee made every woman in sight. They did nothing, for years, which is why they are today’s worst franchise. A previous titleholder, the Washington Football Snyders, were actually worse in their treatment of their cheerleaders because that was in fact team-sanctioned, but Cleveland’s responsibility here is only incrementally less damning, and given the way the underground rumor railroad works in Major League Baseball, the Mets and Angels have some further explaining to do and amends to make as well. I mean, Callaway can’t be such a great pitching coach that his repeated creepy behavior can actually be overlooked, can it?

Before you reach for the commenting stone, the question was entirely rhetorical. It has been for the last decade.

The point here is that today is the Cleveland Baseball Team’s day as the worst franchise there is, dethroning the former titleholder, the Houston Easterbys, who haven’t even done the stupidest thing people expect them to do, which is banish Deshaun Watson from its cult. Because this particular crown changes heads so often, the teams that hold it usually take consultants’ advice, which is generally to let the outrage die down while doing as little as possible to remedy the cause. This is because, as those PR professionals like to tell their clients, something worse will invariably come along to hijack the news cycle soon enough. This is how bad behavior is dealt with—not with curative and enduring actions for the good, but by waiting for a quick respray job and the inevitability that someone else will do something worse.

Lots of teams have had their place in the bog over the past year, for plenty of different reasons. Powerhouse Spanish soccer team Barcelona FC is speeding toward insolvency and just had four of its top officials arrested on corruption charges. The German team Schalke 04 just fired its fourth coach of the season in only 23 games. Jack Easterby is a household name for all the wrong reasons. The WFT (WTF to you) has been an enduring ziggurat of revolting behaviors going back to the team’s origins, and are now in the middle of a huge ownership fight between several people who are detestable on their own. The Atlanta Dream of the WNBA was hijacked for former co-owner Kelly Loeffler’s since-mangled political ambitions. You may add your own candidates below in our popular Stuff The Idiot Author Forgot section.

Right now, though, is Cleveland’s turn. They had a responsibility to deal with Callaway, or at the very least not to plead ignorance when other teams inquired about him. There’s no polite way around, “Yes you knew, because it’s your job to know, so either you supported years of horrendous off-field behavior in devotion to the proper teaching of a curveball, or you’re unconscionably terrible at the basic job of vetting employees.” And the Clevelands will stay in this place until the news says something else is worse, or weirder, or just different. The well-trod process of waiting until things blow over helps dysfunctional organizations like this one prevent valuable and necessary change from happening, and there only so many Strangs and Ghirolis to go around.

Save some massive sudden onset of shame in America’s front offices, maybe that’s the surefire solution to bad behavior: “It’s Katie Strang from The Athletic on line one. Whatever we’re doing that she wants to know about, we should probably stop doing it.” It’s also known as fearless, thorough investigative journalism, and there are plenty of people who are out there doing it for less reward than is their due, and so maybe an owner who doesn’t want to be in charge of the next new worst franchise in sports has an incentive not to let people like Mickey Callaway go unchecked. It only sort of works, and only after the egregious behavior has already been committed and permitted, but it sure comes closer than anything else the people in charge have tried on their own, which is almost nothing.

Meanwhile, over at LSU …