The Mets have been apologizing for most of their 58-season existence. You’d think they’d be good at it by now. But no.
Apparently, in their minds, cursing out Newsday’s Tim Healey, wanting him forcibly removed from the clubhouse and threatening to punch him unconscious — unprovoked, mind you — means never having to say you’re sorry.
Or at least on the first try. Until somebody tells you do it again. The way everyone supposedly practiced.
What do I mean by that? Mickey Callaway so royally botched what was set up to be his public apology that he needed a do-over — another hastily called presser roughly an hour before first pitch — to get anywhere close to something that fit that definition.
I’ve seen plenty while chronicling the Mets for the past two decades, but Monday’s double-shot of ineptitude left me stunned. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening.
While Callaway did have a private conversation with Healey to clear the air, the Mets needed him to basically stand up, say he was sorry for public consumption, and move on. It’s not hard. We’ve all done it, in some form or another, since grade school.
You don’t get to spit expletives at a reporter, then make a show of trying to bounce him from the clubhouse without apologizing later. Expressing remorse for bullying conduct is how a professional workplace operates, and that’s what a major-league clubhouse is, for everyone in there.
COO Jeff Wilpon recognized that immediately in calling Healey to apologize within hours of Sunday’s altercation between the reporter and Callaway and Jason Vargas. The Mets also issued a statement later that night, and Brodie Van Wagenen, first to step to the conciliatory plate Monday, was smart enough to follow the script.
The GM, however, did not see Callaway’s jarring inability to stay in control, after heavy grilling by reporters, as a reason for concern going forward.
“My confidence remains the same in Mickey’s ability to do his job,” Van Wagenen said.
But is this really the way the GM wants the job to be done? As if Sunday’s postgame profanity-fest wasn’t enough, Callaway came off as defiant during the cleanup effort, saying such outbursts are “part of the game.” He actually cited Billy Martin punching a reporter as an example.
No kidding. As if in his brain, something Martin did in a bar in Reno, Nevada, in 1978 was an acceptable comp for what happened Sunday at Wrigley Field in a cramped clubhouse.
When asked if he was sorry, he refused to budge. “I can control my reactions better, absolutely,” Callaway said. He also declined to explain why he did what he did, other than say he was pretty heated after a brutal loss.
As for what he might have done differently?
“Not walk to the food room to eat,” Callaway said. “I would have eaten at the hotel.”
It was during that sandwich run that Healey offered up the “See you tomorrow, Mickey,” thinking the manager, in street clothes, was headed for the exit. The pleasantry set Callaway off on the regrettable expletive-paved course he had to answer for — twice — on Monday.
Based on the whole insincere production, you could tell Callaway didn’t think his actions were entirely unjustified. And here’s the problem: When the presumptive leader of a team acts like a thug in front of his players, that essentially green-lights Vargas to threaten to “knock out” Healey before being restrained by Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Gomez.. Is that the example Van Wagenen wants in the manager’s chair?
Vargas showed what that lack of accountability leads to when he stood in front of reporters Monday for a total of 34 seconds, then dashed away without taking a question. “I think it’s unfortunate for all parties,” he said. “An unfortunate distraction.”
Where was the distraction for him? People spend more time brushing their teeth than Vargas did in answering for his inexcusable behavior. The Mets fined him $10K, but for a guy making $8 million, that barely got his attention, either.
Monday should have been so simple for the Mets. An on-camera apology tour is something they’ve done hundreds of times. But rather than devote their focus to preparing for Monday night’s game against the Phillies, they had to frantically double-book Callaway for a response suitable for a manager wearing the Mets’ uniform.
This was the second try. It took 36 seconds. “Just real quick,” he said. “I understand that I got some feedback, and I wanted you guys to know that in my meeting with Tim, I apologized for my reaction. I shouldn’t have done that. I’m not proud of what I did to Tim. And for that I’m definitely sorry.”
And this time he meant it? We’re sorry, too. For anybody still putting their faith in this manager.