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Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins Need to Explain Themselves

Mickey Callaway’s behavior was unacceptable. Everybody reading this understands that fact. In The Athletic’s latest article about Callaway, Katie Strang, Britt Ghiroli, and Ken Rosenthal detail Callaway’s harassment and uncomfortable actions while he was employed by the Cleveland baseball team.

For context, Callaway was hired by Cleveland in 2010, and he served with them in four different roles until 2017. Mark Shapiro, the Blue Jays’ current President, was Cleveland’s President from 2010 until he left to come to Canada in 2015. Ross Atkins, the Blue Jays current GM, was Cleveland’s Director of Player of Development from 2006 through 2014, and served as the club’s Vice President of Player Personnel until he too came to the Blue Jays after the 2015 season.

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What this means is that while Mark Shapiro was in charge of Cleveland’s entire organization and Ross Atkins was in charge of their minor league system, Mickey Callaway was hired and then promoted three different times. There were at least four different opportunities for Shapiro or Atkins to evaluate the performance of Callaway and check with others on how people felt about Callaway, and yet he continued to advance in the organization.

It’s difficult to believe that they didn’t know about his behavior that has been detailed in The Athletic’s investigations, because the Cleveland employees are telling us that everybody knew…

“I laughed out loud when I saw the quote (in The Athletic’s original report) that said it was the worst-kept secret in baseball, because it was,” said one Indians employee. “It was the worst-kept secret in the organization.”

Clearly, the organization under Shapiro was aware of Callaway’s behavior. If they weren’t, that too does not excuse how he kept on rising through the ranks, because ignorance is not bliss in this case. As people in positions of power, it was Shapiro and Atkins’ duty to do thorough checks on their employees to avoid situations in which their other employees would be harassed or uncomfortable. If they knew and did nothing, it’s terrible and inexcusable. If they didn’t know, it’s also awful, as that means the culture of the organization they set was one in which women were scared to approach the men in power with their concerns in fear of retribution or that nothing would be done to fix the issues.

Currently, there are at least four women working in the Blue Jays baseball ops department, and countless others in various other roles throughout the team. If you were one of those women and somebody in the organization did something objectionable towards you, would you come forward, knowing that in the past, Shapiro and Atkins have, at best, done nothing, and at worse, covered up the issues? Probably not.

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That’s why it is so important that Shapiro and Atkins hold a press conference as soon as possible on this issue and tell the world what they knew and what they did about it. If they knew and did nothing or covered it up, people are going to want them to step down from their current roles, and you cannot blame them. That’s active malfeasance from the two most important and public facing people in the Blue Jays organization. If they didn’t know, they need to clearly explain why they didn’t, and how they are changing the culture of their current organization to make it so those who are subject to harassment in the future will feel comfortable stepping forward. They need to explain why they missed what was so obvious to so many others when it comes to Callaway, and why Ross Atkins was still singing his praises as recently as 2017. They need to detail MLB’s systemic issues when it comes to treating women like people (crazy, I know), and what they are doing to change that everyday.

A press conference from those two isn’t going to happen. That’s a pipe dream. So the onus now falls on the Blue Jays beat reporters to ask these tough questions. They all have access to Shapiro and Atkins. They can text them whenever they feel like it, and they can request media availability through the team. It’s now up to them if we are ever to know Shapiro and Atkins’ role in all of this and how they plan on being different in the future.

Unfortunately, the majority of the Blue Jays beat is composed of people under the Sportsnet or MLB umbrella, and we are unlikely to get tough questions that could expose people’s jobs from them. That means it is up to the likes of Gregor Chisholm and Laura Armstong of the Toronto Star, Kaitlyn McGrath from The Athletic, and Scott Mitchell of TSN to do the necessary work. They shouldn’t be afraid to ask these questions even if means risking their relationships with Shapiro, Atkins, and the team going forward. These questions need answers, and moving on with this baseball season without getting them will be a disservice to Callaway’s victims and any other future women who will be exposed to this type of situation.

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Baseball’s issues run deep and are pretty clearly intertwined with the Blue Jays right now. All the inspirational quotes on the walls in Dunedin won’t create a culture that values people’s safety above all else; owning up to past wrongs and facing consequences will, and that’s what we need to see from Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins right now.