Wednesday, February 17, 2021

More Baseball, Less Drama Please

I woke up this morning with a smile on my face. For a baseball nerd, the first day of training camp is always special. Sure, after a couple of weeks, spring training gets boring. You find yourself pining for the regular season to start. But this year, with so many new faces around, even the spring games will be more fun than usual. In any case, it's not just about baseball coming back. As I get older, I find myself with drastically diminishing patience for winter to pack up and ship out. The start of spring training offers an early promise that warm weather will eventually return to the icy northeast. With another crappy weather forecast for tomorrow, you take all of the hope you can find.

I have to confess that I had originally intended to take today off from blogging. I had a lot on my plate today, and I figured it was too early on in camp for anything of significance to happen. Then I saw the article on The Athletic about the firing last month of Ryan Ellis, who had worked as a hitting coordinator for the Mets. That definitely stole some of the joy and lightness I was feeling. While this was undeniably an important story, I have to admit that I was a little ticked at The Athletic for choosing to publish this on the first day of camp. Was the reporting really just completed, or did they purposely wait for the start of camp to grab a little extra attention?

Even the title of the piece felt a bit disingenuous to me. They used the quote "This is a pattern," which made it sound like they were accusing the club of an ongoing pattern, linking the previous stories. It was actually a quote from one of the complainants against Ellis, speaking about his pattern of behavior. I'm not trying to nitpick here, but the timing of the piece and that liberty with the title felt a bit like piling on.

Either way, it's an important story and has to be dealt with. Tim Britton, the Mets beat writer at The Athletic, wrote a piece about the necessity of changing the reality around the team. He included the Ellis situation with Jared Porter's firing and the recent revelations about former manager Mickey Callaway as part of the off-the-field perception that the Mets have to address. Britton is exactly right. The primary reason that bad behavior towards women should no longer be tolerated is, so these women don't have to work in a toxic environment any longer, and I don't want to minimize that. But it's also important to stop the bleeding of the negative stories if the club hopes to change its culture and the perception of the organization from the outside.

What's especially disturbing about this is that the Mets apparently investigated allegations against Ellis and Calloway during the same period in 2018 and tried to basically sweep them under the rug with some sort of mild discipline and "counseling." That's a time-honored approach for an organization to look like it's being proactive and dealing with an issue when they're really just covering its corporate ass. It's still fair to note that this all happened under previous ownership and their former GM.

According to the story, the Mets "quietly" terminated Ellis last month after "new information" about the former hitting coordinator came to light. My strong suspicion is that the new information was Alderson asking the HR department if any other potential embarrassments were still working for the team after Jared Porter received the old heave-ho. My firm hope is that there isn't another one of these stories waiting to be published on opening day.

The story quotes from an email Sandy Alderson sent out to Mets employees about the steps the club was taking to combat sleazy behavior towards women:

"We are expanding our reporting to provide additional outlets for employees who wish to report behavior inconsistent with our policies and values. In addition to the HR Department and the Legal Department, employees can call an externally hosted hotline. If you choose the hotline, you can decide whether to identify yourself. It is critical that those who observe inappropriate behavior bring it to the Company’s attention. The information brought to our attention through any of these outlets will be taken seriously and will be investigated by the Company."

That sounds like a good start toward ensuring that men who can't resist the temptation to use their power to harass women do not remain employed by the Mets. It's important that women who make their living in jobs that require contact with Mets players, coaches, and other employees can do their jobs free of this type of nonsense. It's important that women who love baseball and root for this team can enjoy that without worrying that they are supporting an organization that doesn't respect women. It's important to the perception of the Mets around the game that they aren't seen as tolerant of a hostile working environment for women.

It would also be great if, as fans of the club, we don't have to have to read about this every two weeks ad infinitum. I want to be writing about the on-the-field exploits of Jacob deGrom, Michael Conforto, Francisco Lindor, Dom Smith, Pete Alonso, and the rest. I want to argue in favor of my choice for who gets the bulk of playing time at third base this season and who should be the primary setup men in the bullpen. As for men who can't seem to outgrow adolescent bad behavior, the unemployment line seems like the best place for them.

Please stay safe, be well, and take care. Tomorrow we talk baseball.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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