When the Mets’ Woes Are More Insidious Than Just the Jokes

The news of acting GM Zack Scott’s DWI arrest is the latest example of a franchise with very real workplace culture problems. Does it actually want to fix them?

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There is an understandable tendency to take everything bad that happens to the Mets and group it together as, well, Metsiness.

It’s often hard to break it down more than that: It’s not simply a matter of bad decisions (though sometimes it is) or bad luck (though, again, sometimes it is) or bad play (though, of course, you get it). The unifying factor is not what happens with the team so much as how it happens. It might be on the field or off it, player- or management-related, silly or a little sad or just flat-out weird. But it will come together with a sort of absurdity so particular to the club that it will be clear: These are the Mets, and this spirit, this essence, is their Metsiness.

Yet there are limits to what can be grouped under this heading. It is not simply a home for every bad headline about the team. There are some things that are more serious—a step removed from the farce that typically characterizes Metsiness. There is a break, in other words, between what seems like a bad joke and what seems straight-up bad. This week has been a perfect example.

Acting Mets GM Zack Scott was arrested on a charge of driving while intoxicated early Tuesday morning.

Acting Mets GM Zack Scott was arrested on a charge of driving while intoxicated early Tuesday morning.

The leading Mets story Monday was classic Metsiness: fans’ boos that led to players’ thumbs-down that led to a curiously passionate missive from team president Sandy Alderson. It was weird, it was kind of funny, and it was so, so, so stupid. There you have it—the essential ingredients for something like this. But the leading Mets story on Wednesday was different. The New York Post was the first to report that in the early hours of Tuesday, Mets acting general manager Zack Scott had been arrested on a charge of driving while intoxicated in White Plains, N.Y. He had reportedly started the evening at a fundraiser for the Amazin’ Mets Foundation at team owner Steve Cohen’s house in Connecticut and left the event by 9 p.m. He was found by police asleep at the wheel of his car shortly after 4 a.m. and was arrested after he failed a field sobriety test.

Shortly after news of Scott’s arrest broke Wednesday afternoon, the Mets said in a statement: “We were surprised and deeply disappointed to learn this morning about an alleged DUI involving Zack Scott. We take this matter very seriously. Zack will not be traveling with the team for our upcoming road trip while we learn more and determine next steps.”

In White Plains City Court on Thursday, Scott pleaded not guilty to the DWI charge, as well as three other charges against him, including "stopped/standing/parked on a highway, failure to obey traffic device, and failure to notify DMV of address change," according to Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News

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Then, the Mets announced they had placed Scott on administrative leave until further notice. Alderson is going to be taking over Scott's responsibilities, essentially working as the acting GM for the acting GM, in addition to fulfilling his role as team president.

This is an ongoing Mets story that has crossed the line from bad joke to straight-up bad. And it’s not the first one this year. Scott has the title of “acting” GM because the previous man in the position, Jared Porter, sent uninvited, explicit messages to a female reporter, which led to his firing in January and placement on baseball’s ineligible list in June. (Another employee, hitting coordinator Ryan Ellis, was fired after several accounts of sexual harassment received renewed attention with the focus on Porter.) Finally, shortly after the initial reports about Porter, an investigation by The Athletic's Brittany Ghiroli and Katie Strang into the behavior of former Mets manager Mickey Callaway found multiple women describing lewd and inappropriate behavior from his time in New York.

Maybe the number and pace of these incidents makes it easy to lump them together, to write them off as the cost of doing business in a franchise as cosmically disjointed as this one, to dismiss it all as just The Mets. But that’s not right. The examples of Scott, Porter and Callaway are far different from the examples of, say, the thumbs down, the rat-coon and the imaginary hitting coach. There is something more insidious here—a very real question about the team’s ability to vet its hires and build a decent workplace culture. 

That comes through not just in the fact that these incidents have happened at all but also in the way that the club responds to them. This is a front office where Alderson quickly came out with a public dressing-down of the players in the thumb war, and one where Scott chose to discuss a slew of injuries this summer by condemning the players for “compliance issues.” There’s clearly no shying away from public critique for comparatively tiny issues. So what does that look like here?

The Mets’ 2021 season has been an exercise in proving that the franchise ethos is bigger than any one person. If there was ever a time to believe that the team was starting fresh, with as much as possible ripped out at the roots, it should have been this winter—a new owner, a promise of an infusion of cash, a new general manager, a blockbuster trade. Yet it’s seemed very much like nothing has changed. Plenty of little things have gone wrong or looked bad or been handled poorly—the silly, bizarre, noncontroversy controversies that have historically defined the franchise have stuck around. There have also been these bigger things, which push at questions that are not about how the team looks so much as they are about what the franchise is and what it wants to be.

Unlike some of the bad luck and bad calls that can define Metsiness, however, these questions have a more direct line of responsibility. That’s a good thing: Ownership and leadership have the power to change it. They just have to show that they actually want to do so.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include the news that has Scott pleaded not guilty to the charges and that the Mets have placed him on administrative leave.

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