PHILADELPHIA — The Mets fined manager Mickey Callaway and pitcher Jason Vargas after Sunday’s clubhouse altercation with a Newsday reporter, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said Monday. According to a source, each was fined $10,000.
Though the Mets apologized for the incident in a statement, Callaway originally did not apologize publicly for his expletive-laden tirade, nor did Vargas, who had threatened violence against Mets beat writer Tim Healey. Two hours after his news conference, though, Callaway called the media back to his office to offer a clear apology. Speaking to reporters so close to first pitch — about an hour away — is highly unusual.
“I understand that — I got some feedback that — I wanted you guys to know that in my meeting with Tim, I apologized for my reaction,” Callaway said. “I regret it, I regret the distraction it’s caused to the team and, like I said earlier, it’s something that we’ll learn from. It’s something I’m not proud of. I’m not proud of the distraction. I’m not proud of what I did to Tim, so for that, I’m definitely sorry.”
Vargas did not apologize.
Major League Baseball is investigating the incident, but Van Wagenen said he does not anticipate further discipline. He and Callaway met with Healey before the game at Citizens Bank Ballpark, with Callaway saying that he and Healey are “fine.” Vargas also addressed the media very briefly but did not field questions.
“Billy Martin punched a reporter one time,” Callaway said in his earlier news conference, invoking the former Yankees manager, who punched a newspaper reporter in a bar in November 1978. “It’s just part of this game. I’m a passionate guy about baseball and I’m a tough competitor and sometimes you’ll see it with the umpires, sometimes you’ll see it with the players, and the thing is you guys don’t need to see it directed toward you guys [the media]. You guys have a job to do.”
Healey said he had “productive conversations today with Mickey and Brodie and am looking forward to moving forward.”
He declined to comment on the public statements by Callaway or Vargas.
The incident occurred after a tough loss at Wrigley Field, where the Mets lost a lead in the eighth inning, and then the game, because of their troubled bullpen. After being roundly questioned about why he did not bring in closer Edwin Diaz with five outs remaining, Callaway snapped at another reporter, Yahoo Sports’ Matt Ehalt. After Healey and the rest of the media moved to Wrigley’s cramped visitors’ clubhouse, Callaway emerged in street clothes.
“See you tomorrow, Mickey,” Healey said, which set off Callaway, who used an obscenity and asked Mets PR staff to remove him from the clubhouse. After Vargas physically threatened Healey and took steps toward him before being physically restrained, Healey left.
The Mets sent out a statement apologizing for the altercation Sunday evening, and COO Jeff Wilpon contacted Healey to apologize.
“The altercation was disappointing,” said Van Wagenen, who altered his plans so he could do damage control in Philadelphia. “It was regrettable on many levels and we hope that moving forward that we can ensure it’s a respectful environment for both players and media, as well as everybody else.”
Van Wagenen met with Callaway and Vargas before the news conference, and then the Mets had a team meeting. The meeting stressed putting the incident behind them, said Jacob deGrom, whom the team elected to be spokesman. DeGrom said he was not in the clubhouse when Vargas threatened Healey. “We don’t anticipate that happening again,” deGrom said.
Vargas came in, spoke for 30 seconds and did not take questions. “I think everybody’s aware of the situation that happened yesterday,” he said. “I think it’s unfortunate for all parties, an unfortunate distraction. But tonight we’ve got the Phillies to play. The team addressed the situation. The organization has made a statement and that’s really all there is to it. Thanks for taking the time and we’ll see you guys after the game.”
Callaway said Vargas is a “tough competitor” — the reason both of them were agitated. He called it a misunderstanding, but would not say if he misunderstood Healey’s words or his tone.
“[It shows] that I’m a tough competitor and I don’t like losing,” Callaway said when asked if Sunday’s outburst will lead to a negative perception of his leadership style.
“That’s the bottom line. Nobody in that room likes losing. I don’t think anybody who plays that game and dedicates their life and their time away from their family and kids likes to lose. I don’t come here and don’t get to see my kids for two months to lose games. So I’m going to be passionate about it. That passion will show through sometimes. But like I said, I can control the way I react to things.”
“Playing for Mickey, I never saw that,’’ former Met and current Phillie Jay Bruce said. “He wasn’t a confrontational guy. He was a professional when I was there. He obviously came out and obviously said that it wasn’t the most ideal outcome. He’s passionate about the game and his team, and while that’s a good thing, you have to channel and be able to navigate those waters. I feel like that’s kind of an outlier for him, and for Vargas, too. He’s a good guy . . . It was an emotional, human accident. It wasn’t personal. I’m sure if they could do it again, they would do it differently. I wish those guys the best over there.”
This incident is the latest in an increasingly tense situation. Pitching coach Dave Eiland and bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez were fired last week. It’s believed that Callaway also is on the hot seat, but Van Wagenen said the incident has not compromised his belief in his manager.
“My confidence remains the same in Mickey’s ability to do his job,” Van Wagenen said. “[They] recognize their role in the events. They understand where their behavior should have and could have been different. They accepted their fines.”
Added Callaway: “For things like that to happen, it’s always a misunderstanding. I’m sure there was no malintent by either. It’s just something that happened, and we have to move forward.”
Callaway chalked it up to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Asked if he would change anything, he said he would “not walk to the food room to eat. I would have eaten at the hotel.”