Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
PHILADELPHIA -- During a closed-door meeting on Monday afternoon in the visitors clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park, Jacob deGrom volunteered to address the media on the team's behalf, allowing teammates to focus on preparing for the game.
It was a moment of true leadership, reminiscent of David Wright -- and it was the last time that a person in a Mets uniform showed any maturity in dealing with a mess of their own creation.
On Sunday afternoon in Chicago, manager Mickey Callaway, 44, cursed out Newsday reporter Tim Healey for saying that he would see Callaway tomorrow. Then Jason Vargas, 36, threatened to assault Healey.
The Mets organization made clear that it did not consider either action acceptable. COO Jeff Wilpon called Healey to apologize. The team issued a contrite statement, then fined both Callaway and Vargas.
GM Brodie Van Wagenen, who had to divert to Philadelphia late Sunday night to deal with the manager's mistake, stood in Callaway's office at 4pm Monday and reiterated the organization's stance. His statement, like the team's, was strong and clear.
Then Callaway walked in, went rogue, and extended the unflattering story.
Twice, I asked if he had apologized to Healey for cursing at him at Wrigley Field the day before. Twice, Callaway refused to say that he did.
"Are you sorry?" another reporter asked, and Callaway again declined to offer that he was.
It couldn't have been more clear that the manager felt no remorse. This was a bad look, but seemed at least to be an honest reflection of how he felt.
It appeared honest, too, when Vargas delivered a passive-aggressive statement without an apology and sprinted away without taking questions. The effect was a grown man intimating that it was acceptable to bully another grown man trying to do his job. Hey, if that's Vargas' truth, he's living it.
Two hours later, Callaway asked for a do-over. Reporters standing in the dugout were summoned back into the office -- a highly unusual development -- so the manager could claim that he had in fact apologized to Healey (Healey, not wanting to become more of a story, declined comment to SNY).
It was too late for Callaway to seem authentic. He had already gone off-message, already angered his superiors, already presented further confirmation that the job is more than he can handle.
"It was a failure of leadership," one Mets person said of the initial incident at Wrigley Field.
"I don't know what he was doing," added another, referring to Callaway's first, defiant news conference.
Mets brass, from ownership to communications to the GM, had hoped Callaway would realize that a leader cannot lose control. They wanted him to wake up Monday morning and realize that his behavior had been inappropriate.
Instead, they watched, disappointed, as Callaway flailed again. It was a new low for a skipper who won the job after talking to Sandy Alderson in the interview process about "culture" -- specifically, how he wanted to build a winning, positive and sustainable one in New York.
He then proceeded to make poor decisions on his coaching hires (Gary DiScarcina, an ineffective bench coach, was there because he was Callaway's buddy; popular hitting coach Pat Roessler was ousted because he was not).
Callaway's in-game moves were often questionable, or worse. He once answered a question in a news conference with a condescending "Yeah, so how it works in baseball …"
This season had actually brought signs of growth. Callaway was more relaxed with his players and the media, and his moves -- while still leaving much to question -- were typically better than in his rookie year.
Clearly, those were baby steps only, and proved reversible. It's not that what Callaway (or Vargas) did was evil, or a fireable offense on its own. As one player explained, "If we have a problem with each other in here, we might fight; that's all this was."
It's that Callaway's actions, in two cities across two days, showed a lack of composure, professionalism and perspective -- and reminded his bosses why they expect to be searching for a new manager this fall.